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SOC244H5 Lecture Notes - Harriet Taylor Mill, The Feminine Mystique, Marxist Feminism

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Lina Samuel

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SOC244H4: Sociology of Families
September 19th, 2012
Review Lecture #1:
Structure Functionalist stress integration, shared values and social
oMain definitions of the family which stem from this
oChange in one social institution leads to change in another
social institution
Symbolic interactionism
oPeople’s subjective experience
oHow people feel with they enter or exist relationships
oWhat motivates people to enter or exist relationships
The “Enlightenment” / “Age of Reason”
The Enlightenment is characterized as a period of reason,
knowledge, science and freedom. A period focused on human
happiness and human self-actualization (McDonald, 1993: 9-10)
Rational, scientific, universal civilization was at the heart of the
Women were at the center of the enlightenment- but they were
not intended to be at the center
Challenging authority
Major shift in how people saw themselves
The enlightenment was also the age of colonialism- questioning
the rights of the indigenous
Some groups of people (European) were allowed with greater
freedoms and greater authority however this was not translated to
all groups
Marxist/Conflict Perspective
Karl Marx (1818-1883)
oWitnessed the Industrial Revolution
oRoots of human misery and suffering lay in the conflict
between two classes:
oThe family is seen as the “original site for an inequitable
division of labour” (German Ideology, 1846).
oSociety progresses forward through the conflict of groups
(those who control the means of production and those who
do not)
oConflict propels society forward
oInequitable distribution

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oWives and children constitute the first property of men
Dependency- especially on male wages
Under capitalism, rather than consuming what they produced,
mechanization and industrial production made it easier for
families to purchase their needs for survival in the market place
(Mandell and Duffy, 2005: 9).
“According to the materialist conception, the determining factor
in history is, in the final instance, the production and reproduction
of the immediate essentials of life. This, again, is of a twofold
character. On the one side, the production of the means of
existence, of articles of food and clothing, dwellings, and
of the tools necessary for that production; on the other
side, the production of human beings themselves
(reproduction), the propagation of the species. The social
organization under which the people of a particular historical
epoch and a particular country live is determined by both kinds of
production: by the stage of development of labor on the on hand
and of the family on the other” (Engels, 1942: 5).
Accumulation of private property
From: The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State
According to Engels: The nuclear, patriarchal family “was the first
form of the family based not on natural but on economic
conditions, namely on the victory of private property over original
naturally developed, common ownership (Marx, Engels, 1976:
His main thesis: inequalities which exist in the modern family is a
result of the development of private property
oWomen as subordinate- doing all the work (activities which
subordinate and make them the domestic servants)
The Feminist Perspective
Varied, ambivalent, contradictory (at times)
Mary Wollstonecraft in the Vindication of the Rights of Women
(1792) advocated for equality rights in areas such as education,
within marriage, and in the political arena (through voting).
oHowever she did not challenge women’s position in the
o**it was the second wave of feminists that challenged the
role of women in the household**
oMyth of the happy housewife
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