Australian Left Review


Anna Yeatman


Some Introductory remarks are warranted. First, a rather uneasy integration in the paper of two critiques can be discerned': of, (1) the critique of the position of woman in modern societies: it is quite clear that her role as defined by the expectations of the marriage-family institution at present is a severely delimiting and, for the most part, oppressive one; and of (2) the critique of the marriage-family institution, both in terms of the functions it performs for a capitalist society and in terms of the proposition that institutionalisation of an intimate relationship between individuals is destructive to more or less degree. Secondly, then, it must be understood that the family is treated not as a universal idea but as an institution, a micro-system, that performs vital functions for the wider society or macro-system. It follows that if some kind of total questioning is being directed to the macro-system, it must be extended to this micro-system, particularly since the latter is usually the area of the most intensely-felt experience for the individual and the area in which the individual’s ‘being-in-the-world’ is first constituted. Thirdly, this paper can only lay pretension to being provocative hypothesis. What little empirical work has been done on the family has occurred almost entirely within a behaviouralist framework. That is, much empirical work has to be done in respect of these critical questions before they can be formulated with some certainty. Fourthly, in this paper, an ideal-type will be employed: that of the conjugal, middle-class, urban family in an industrialised society — the type that is being rapidly universalised in these societies.



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