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Social Structure

Social Structure Social Structure This essay will begin by describing the three spheres that tie society together. The main institution of society is the family or household which is broken up into thousands of units. Secondly, it will discuss the economic institution and its ties to the family. The use of labour power and how that effects the power struggle with the capitalist marketplace will also be discussed. Lastly, the political institution of government will be shown along with its relationships to the family and the families ability to create reform and change regulation. One of the main institutions in society in the household or family. It is here that almost all the consumption in society takes place.

It is also here that almost all the labour power in society originates. The make-up of the family is not as “cut and dry” as it once was. The nuclear family is dead and what has replaced it has put all old theories about the family to the test. One major change has been the rise of the dual-earner family. In 70% of households today there is no single breadwinner.

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(Burggraf, 1997:54) Women’s position in the family has been changed radically from that of one-hundred years ago. Three important issues have been raised about women’s position in the family. One is that the development of gender inequality within the family is a result of the changing economy. This being the extra accumulation of property in private households. The second issue is that capitalism being the only form of economy we are familiar with pushes for the working of every family member to create a strong economy.

Lastly, the evolution of the family dispersed from economic development and instead become a more social issue. (Wilson, 1982:37) Because the position of women in the family has been so altered from past history, projections made, even forty years ago, are increasingly wrong. Though, even with the changing structure of the family the economic labour power has not significantly increased. The role of housewife in the post-industrial age was just as important to women as today’s dual earning household. The housewife was the counter-part to the husbands role of breadwinner.

It was the wife who cleaned the husbands clothes, prepared his food and provided emotional support, without which he could not fulfill his role as breadwinner. (Burggraf, 1997:174) With the evolution of the labour market and capitalist economy with the ever increasing consumption of the family unit the homemaker was called to enter the workforce. In 1901 only 12% of Canadian women were economically active, however, in 1961 there were 29.5% economically active. (Wilson, 1982:71). This percentage has gotten exponentially bigger with time. In 1981, 54% of women with dependent children were economically active.(Purdy, 1988:203) Another facet of the economic family unit is reproduction.

The goal of the family unit is to produce children, which in turn expands the labour force, which creates a larger economic base. In Canadian families the emphasis is on quality not quantity and because of this there are gaps in the unskilled labour force. It is only through immigration that the capitalist economy has been able to keep up with the demand for cheap unskilled labour. (Purdy, 1988:229) So the value of labour power is determined outside capitalism, in non-capitalist units that maintain and reproduce labour power..families. Corporations produce wealth in the form of goods and services and a can last well beyond an individuals life span.

Capitalism is a powerful institution with holds on the economy, political state and family as well. The payment of wages allows the corporations to grow and continue to produce goods and exploit workers. (Bailey, 1974:127) Families consume. In the modern era, most families are not units of production and consumption, mainly just consumption. They do not accumulate wealth, but simply take the wage and spend it on commodities that satisfy their needs.

As Karl Marx put it, “if I exchange a commodity [labour power] for money, buy a commodity for it and satisfy my need, then the act is at an end.” (Smith, 1982:29) Families have a limited life span, related to the cycle of growth and decline of individual family members. The family, unless it has property, will inevitably decline to be replaced or reborn in new formations down the generations. Wages earned allow families to survive and reproduce labour power, in the form of children. It is the children that will outlive the family and become the new labour power. Working for wages allows those with economic activity to support the non-wage-earning members of the household, young and old, caring and dependent. In the spirit of support the family acts with altruism to aid reproduction and in turn this aids the reproduction of the capitalist enterprise.

(Smith, 1982: 105) Marx put it like this : The maintenance and reproduction of the working-class is, as must ever be, a necessary condition to the reproduction of capital. But the capitalist may safely leave its fulfillment to the labourer’s instincts of self-preservation and of propagation. (Smith, 1982:106) If Marx is correct in his ideology then the family will be forever in the service of the controllers of the economic and political states. Already the family is related to these two institutions in a number of ways. The economy and household/family are seperated easily in the modern era.

As already stated above, the family of today is primarily a consumption unit, while the economic state is filled with units of production and consumption as well, it produces wages and employment. Other creations of economy are; capitalist welfare programs (company housing, welfare, pension programs), corporate taxes and employer contributions. (Dickinson/Russell, 1986:13) The families main tie to the economic state is through labour power. Jack Wayne, in his essay “The function of Social Welfare in a Capitalist Economy” writes: The reproduction of labour power is, however, private; it generally takes place outside the jurisdiction of capital, in families and households, and is separated from the circuit of capital. The use value of labour power is, of course, of interest to the capitalist, but it is determined by processes and undertakings that occur behind ‘closed doors’.

The only point of intervention available to the capitalist is the wage. (Dickinson/Russell, 1986:79) It is the wage that ties the economic state and family together, and allows the corporations or as Marx calls them capitalists to harness the labour power for their own needs. There is only one form of labour that is not totally governed by the capitalist market and that is domestic labour. Domestic labour is characterized by a very low level of division of labour. The same person (usually the housewife) does a range of activities which, in the social spheres are carried out by specialists. Some examples of this are catering, education and health businesses.

Secondly the products of domestic labour do not have to be sold on the market for the labour to be recognized at useful. This makes domestic labour a non-market production. Lastly the labour-power is not offered on a market and therefor makes up non-waged labour (housework is non-paid). (Gouverneur, 1983:7) Closely tied in with the economic state is the political state. …


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