The main institution of society is the family or household that is broken up into thousands of units. Secondly, it will discuss the economical institution and its ties to the family. The use of labor power and how that affects 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 all the labor power in society originates. The make up of the family is not as cut and dries 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 seventy percent of households today there is no single breadwinner. Womens position in the family has been changed radically from that of one hundred years ago. Three important issues have been raised about womens 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 economical development and instead becomes a more social issue. 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 economical labor power has not significantly increased.
The role of housewife in the post industrial age was just important to women as todays dual earning household. The house wife was the counter part to the husbands role as 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. With the evolution of the labor market and capitalist economy with the ever increasing consumption of the family unit the homemaker was called to enter the work force. In 1901 only twelve percent of Canadian women were economically active, however in 1961 there were twenty – nine percent economically active. This percentage has gotten exponentially bigger with time.
In 1981, fifty – four percent of women with dependent children were economically active. Another facet of the economical family unit is reproduction. The goal of the family until is to produce children, which in turn expands the labor force, which creates a larger economy base. In Canadian families the emphasis is on quality not quantity and because of this there are gaps in the unskilled labor force. It is only through immigration that the capitalist economy has been able to keep up with the demand for cheap unskilled labor. So the value of labor power is determined outside capitalism, in non- capitalist units that maintain and reproduce labor power… families. Corporations produce wealth as goods and services and can last well beyond and 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. 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. 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 labor power, as children. It is the children that will outlive the family and become the new labor power. Working for wages allows those with economical 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. The economy and household are separated easily in the modern era. As already stated above, the family of today is primarily a consumption unit, while the economical state is filled with units of production and consumption as well, It produces wages and employment. Other creations of economy are: capitalist welfare programs, corporate taxes, and employer contributions.
The families main tie to the economical state is through labor power. It is the wage that ties the economical state and family together and allows the corporations or as Marx calls them capitalists to harness the labor power for their own needs. There is only one form of labor not totally governed by the capitalist market and that is domestic labor. Domestic labor is characterized by a very low level division of labor. The same person does a range of activities that, in the social spheres are carried out by specialists. Some examples of this are catering, education and health business. Secondly the products of domestic labor do not have to be sold on he market for the labor to be recognized as useful. This makes domestic labor a non-market production.
Lastly, the labor-power is not offered on a market and therefore makes s up non-waged labor. Closely tied in with the economical state is the political state. The taxes from the economical market feed the collective consumption of the government and legislation and boards from the government provide occupational health and safety standards. The government also provides a stabling influence on the changing economy. As far as the family is concerned the States provides redistribution of transfer payments and substitute wage programs.
The government also strengthens the social welfare net and provides charity and philanthropy to those in need. Labor market regulation allows the regulation of child labor laws and gives more bargaining power to families and wage earners, One major form of this is the ability to strike and discuss minimum wage legislation. Saskatchewan, under the first socialist government in North America the CCF, was the first to give wage earners the right to go on strike in 1944.
It took Ontario twenty years to give its provincial residents the same rights. Households and families units of individual consumption use this increase in labor power to provide more taxes, if not out of their hearts then for government stability, to the political state. Thus, the family unit helps balance the powers struggle the government has with the ever increasing economical sphere in a symbolic relationship. The government uses its control to regulate and perpetuate the status quo and the family is a part of that.
However, Jane Ursel does not believe that the patriarchal system is all bad. She writes: Patriarchy is important because the state cannot legislate procreation. It must instead set up a system via family, property and marriage laws that will serve to translate social and economical requirements into compelling household imperatives. The characteristic feature of familial patriarchy is its pronatalist dynamic. This results from the nature of the interaction between class and patriarchy that creates a detriment relation between productivity and procreation at the household level.
The family can change these regulations as well. According to what has been discussed so far the definition of a family would be a non capitalist unit in which the maintenance and reproduction of labor power take place. The Websters Dictionary describes a family as a group of related things or people.” However, the Canadian government defines the family as now-married couple, a couple living common law, or alone parent of any marital status, with at least one never- married son or daughter living in the same dwelling. Because the governments definition of family lets several groups that may still be considered families slip through the cracks, this gives bargaining power to the family unit yet again to change government regulation.
The Canadian government still does not recognize same sex couples, three generations living in the same household and individuals living apart from spouses and children. In 1991, 424,950 individuals age eighteen to twenty-five lived with non relatives, in institutions, or by themselves. This represents over twenty percent of the age group. One aspect of the political sphere that the family continually challenges is gender equality. Starting with the latter part of the nineteenth century where waves of feminist protest began throughout the western world. Women organized in groups starting at the family level and gaining support from other womens groups.
One of the first cases early feminists argued before the government was the collective right to vote. As early as 1916 in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba women were given the right o vote, this increased the families power with swaying the political sphere… it essentially doubled it. The womens movement appeared to lose its momentum after women gained the right to vote. But although womens groups were no longer held together by a single goal. They continued to fight for womens rights on several fronts.
The YMCA and Canadian Business and Professional Women remained active in support of womens issues. However, it wasnt until the 1960s that the movement regained its previous strength. Women in families are not the only ones who have argued with the political sphere and won some political rights. Some gay families or same sex couples have won the right to adopt children and in some American states are married. The modern family depends heavily on all the institutions of society for support. Where in the past the family was independent, now it needs the bonds created through the long access to each sphere either political or economical.
The labor power generated by the family unit gives it the bargaining power to compete head to head with the ever growing and dominant labor market and governmental bureaucracy. But because the family is the smallest grouped and is based on individual consumption it can seem over-taxed when dealing with mighty corporations and large political states. However, in global market-place the power lies in the hands of those that control the labor and the consumption.
Currently, the family institution relies on the economy and political state, but as the bargaining for labor power continues the family is emerging as the dominant force. As new evaluations of families are being allowed to participate in our culture, more power will create more labor and more production. It is a fact that history repeats itself, maybe the family will gain the dominant role it had before the industrial revolution and mercantilism.