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Why Rupert hates unions and Gina loves 457 visas

Image from theconversation.com

Image from theconversation.com

While attempting to clean up my computer, I came across an essay that my daughter wrote earlier this year. I would like to share an excerpt from it.

Marxists see the conflict between the bourgeoisie (those that own the means of production) and the proletariat (those who sell their labour) as crucial to the maintenance of capitalism. Its function is to create an obedient, docile, uncritical workforce who will work to support the upper-class’s lifestyle and the economy. Keeping wages low, or debt pressure high, means workers will be less likely to complain or make demands. As workers struggle to provide their families with all the temptations that a capitalist society offers, they become far less likely to risk their employment, and less able to improve their situation. Even in the unlikely event that an opportunity for advancement should arise, it would often mean abandoning family and friends in order to pursue it. These factors, along with a tendency to marry within one’s own circle, combine to make movement between social classes difficult.

The current political debate surrounding the power of unions, work choices, and the importation of workers on 457 visas, could be regarded as an attempt to disempower employees thus maintaining a compliant workforce. It is difficult for an individual to risk complaining about wages or working conditions, so removing the collective voice and protection of unions means people are unlikely to make waves if, by so doing, they risk unemployment or deportation.

The process of industrialisation in the 19th century led to major changes in family life. Many things that had formerly been produced at home were now produced more cheaply in factories and families eventually became units of shared income and consumption rather than production, private and separate from the public world of business and politics. Men’s place of work was removed from the home and women’s and children’s unpaid domestic labour kept wages low allowing companies to increase profits. Women were increasingly isolated from society and children learned to obey.

Max Horkheimer regarded the family as an essential part of the social order in that it adapted every individual to conformity to authority. He argued that if men are the sole breadwinners, this ‘makes wife, sons and daughters “his”, puts their lives in large measure into his hands, and forces them to submit to his order and guidance’. Marx felt the same way stating that “Marriage is…incontestably a form of private property”. The economic dependence of the family on the father made men more conservative about radical social change which might undermine their ability to provide for their families, while the development of obedience to the authority of one’s own father was a preparation for obedience to the authority of the state and one’s employer.

During the 1960s and 70s the Western world saw a rapid period of social change in which the traditional understanding of the family began to be questioned. Feminist writers such as Christine Delphy, argued that in a capitalist society there are two modes of production: an industrial mode which is the site of capitalist exploitation; and the domestic mode which is the site of patriarchal exploitation. Marxist writers such as Juliet Mitchell examined the exploitation of workers under capitalism, pointing out that women, as they slowly entered the workforce, were doubly exploited through lower wages and unpaid labour at home. Contemporary Marxist writing argues that the family structure socialises children ‘into capitalist ideology’, which ‘prepares them to accept their place in the class structure, provides an emotionally supportive retreat for the alienated worker and so dissipates the frustration of the workplace, and impedes working class solidarity by privatising the household and generating financial commitments which discourage militant activity’ .

The role of the nuclear family in providing, perpetuating and indoctrinating a docile workforce is summarised by the following quotes. Meighan suggests that “For men, the denial of opportunities for excellence under capitalism leads…to a search for power and self-esteem in the sexual arena” Ainsley goes on to explain that “When wives play their traditional roles as takers of shit they often absorb their husband’s legitimate anger and frustration in a way which poses no challenge to the system”, and Cooper states that “The child is, in fact, primarily taught not how to survive in society, but how to submit to it”.

Changes in society have blurred these stereotypical roles. Many more women now are entering the workforce and are far less likely to marry for economic security. The availability of quality education and the explosion of information provided by the internet have made people more informed and less willing to blindly accept what they are told, and for some, it has also provided the opportunity to move from the social class into which they were born. The traditional structure of the nuclear family is also changing with much more diversity in family groups due to such factors as divorce, same sex couples, extended families, and many women choosing not to have children.

There have been other criticisms of the materialist perspective in that its focus was too limited to economic aspects, neglecting the value of and support provided in a loving intimate union, instead concentrating on the oppressive and controlling aspects of families and relationships. It tends to portray people as capitalist dupes without freedom of thought assessing them purely from a labour perspective.

While many of the bourgeoisie would still prefer, and in fact depend on, a malleable, uncomplaining workforce, family power structures are becoming less a factor in achieving this. However, our seemingly endless desire to consume and update means that economic pressures still play a large role. Even with, in many cases, both parents working, employment security usually takes precedence over job satisfaction or working conditions. Children are better informed and largely better educated and therefore have more opportunity to achieve economic independence and possibly change their social class but the rising cost of tertiary education, possible reductions in funding, and competition from overseas students limits the number who can attempt this. The burden is perhaps better shared but the outcome is in most cases the same – be happy with your lot.

Engel’s spoke of the evolution of the family as being both a catalyst for and result of the growth of capitalism. As mankind’s standard of living has improved, our desire to accumulate possessions and wealth to pass on to our families has only increased, as has our willingness to go into debt to satisfy it. Power and control is still exerted by those that own the means of production and they readily use this power to manipulate public opinion. Concentration of the media in the hands of a few like-minded individuals has led to misinformation campaigns that have amazingly ignited the workers to fight for the rights of the rich to get richer at their own expense. Family dynamics may have changed but the willingness of the proletariat to support the bourgeoisie seems alive and well.



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  1. trishcorry

    Excellent Article Kaye. You are spot on. Thank you for including the domain of women as well.

  2. Kaye Lee

    trish my daughter wrote it. I will pass on your comment. 🙂

  3. Stuart Dean

    Kaye, you say that your daughter wrote it, but at the start you say you will share an excerpt. Regardless of who wrote it, (well written) can I steal parts, in order to share with some of my friends who, regrettably, are of closed mind and indoctrinated by the system?
    “…have amazingly ignited the workers to fight for the rights of the rich to get richer at their own expense.”

  4. bighead1883

    I sent this along to my eldest daughter Kaye,I thank your daughter for such a well approached piece :lol:::

  5. nickthiwerspoon

    What a remarkably insightful piece. I am going to share this as widely as I can.

  6. johnlord2013

    Really enjoyed that. Your daughter is blessed with great clarity in her writing.

  7. Kaye Lee

    Stuart it was part of an essay my daughter wrote for university which was titled “The Marxist (materialist) view of family”. There were footnotes and references in the essay but I checked and I think that line was her own so use it with impunity.

  8. Kaye Lee

    And thank you John, I agree. Though I think both she and I are more collators than creators.

  9. nickthiwerspoon

    A thesis rediscovered by the authors of Sex at Dawn, a fascinating relook at family and human sexuality.

  10. Kaye Lee

    For those who have found the essay interesting, here is another excerpt from it:

    “Friedrich Engels, an associate and close friend of Marx, is said to be the originator of Marxist theories of the family. He developed Marxist ideas by investigating the ways in which family life has been changed as we moved from hunting and gathering societies, to horticultural, pre-industrial and finally industrial societies. His study The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, first published in 1884, suggests that during early stages of human evolution there was no concept of private property and everything was owned collectively, thus ‘family’ did not exist. Engels states that during this era of ‘primitive communism’ provisions and possessions were shared by the entire tribe in a largely matriarchal society. There was a large amount of promiscuity, virtually making an entire society a family.

    The making of tools and the eventual domestication of animals contributed to the rise of the idea of private property and, as sexual relations became more restricted throughout time, the number of eligible mates of the individual dwindled, until the present idea of a monogamous relationship came to be the norm, guaranteeing the father’s paternity, so his private property can be passed on through his biological children from generation to generation. One issue with this idea, however, is that the development of less affluent families would be largely hindered because of their lack of assets to transfer between kin.

    Engels contended that the origin of private property first put economic power into men’s hands and resulted in “the overthrow of mother rights” or the “world historic defeat of the female sex”. A patriarchal society emerged in which women and children were dependent on the father who assumed the responsibility for providing and who also became the authority figure in the family.”

  11. David - Ayn Rand disciple

    Sad that people actually believe this sort of rubbish. There are so many holes in this fiction that I do not even know where to start. sad that your daughter has this outlook so young in life.

  12. JamieOBE (@JamieOBE)

    Your daughter has done a great job explaining some really tough ideas there Kaye. You must be proud.
    Other commenters seem interested, so I hope you don’t mind me sharing this link to some free introductory podcasts from one of the world’s foremost Marxist scholars http://davidharvey.org/reading-capital/
    Very accessible and perfect for those commenters above who want to learn more about these ideas that are so foundational to Western political thought (also recommended for those like David, who might benefit from expanding their repertoires 😉

  13. bighead1883

    @David – Ayn Rand disciple
    Yup,The Ayn Rand rampant capitalist think tank ideology speaks here.
    No discussion just passover because facts are not things neo-conservatives debate in.
    Add to the discussion or f$$k off because you are way in the minority of commenters here.
    Republicans,you`ve destroyed America and now you wish to do that here with your mental illness of creationism.

  14. Kaye Lee

    My daughter was quoting from scholarly peer-reviewed articles and putting them into a contemporary context. Take your time and discuss the points with which you disagree and why. I would be interested to hear your views.

  15. Joe Banks

    I believe recent prosperity in Australia has changed the way a lot of people view themselves. I call them The New Elite. They have qualifications, cars and houses and plasma televisions and all the gadgetry that modern society can offer them. They are comfortable and satisfied with their new status and a large percentage have lapsed into a type of modern complacency and indifference. We haven’t seen anything like it in Australia before… I believe this contributed in no small way to the election of the Abbott government. It will not be until The New Elite start to feel the painful impact of the Abbott/Murdoch/Reinhardt regime that things will change.

  16. diannaart

    Well said Biggie

    Would like to add that Ayn Rand was a writer of fiction, a novelist – not an economist.

  17. Joe Banks

    I forgot to mention (above) that The New Elite seem blissfully unaware, in these heady times of plenty, that it was Labor governments that initiated free education and low cost medical services and many other programs that led to their elevated status. They are also blissfully unaware that Abbott and his gang are about to take it back off them, bit by bit, until they resume their rightful place at the bottom of the social and economic ladder. Their self definition will have to change once again but not in the direction they are expecting.

  18. Anomander

    I’m reminded of a quote from Clive Hamilton’s book – Requiem for a Species: “People buy things they don’t need, with money they don’t have, to impress people they don’t like”.

    We’ve all been sold the lie of Libertarianism or Individualism – that we should compete ruthlessly against each other instead of acting co-operatively because as individuals we can do better for ourselves and buy more stuff that everyone else and that this stuff will make us happy. This premise conveniently ignores the fact that humanity’s greatest achievements have been made through our sharing of knowledge and working collectively toward a shared vision.

    So, we all strive to out-do each other, clambering over the top of our fellow man, so we can work longer and longer hours, which enables us to fill our lives with more and more pointless chaff, at the expense of our relationships and our families. Many of us work longer and longer hours, sacrificing personal time with our families and friends, just to we can accumulate more stuff than Mr and Mrs Jones next door, people we don’t even like.

    We need to stop and realise we are more powerful as a collective. Together we can ALL benefit from our combined efforts, instead of trying to out-do each other. because all we are doing is feeding our lives, and the lives of our children, into the meat-grinder of the Corporate Plutocracy.

  19. mcchookin

    Beautifully articulated piece of writing, your daughter is spot on! If only others were so awoken. I truly believe the our generation with the help of the enlightened next generation can put an end to the system if we so choose too!

  20. KateS

    Tim Winton wrote an interesting article for the Monthly recently which touched on similar themes of class. I was reminded of Warren Buffet’s comment re class warfare – that it’s the rich who are waging it and they’re winning!

  21. Kaye Lee

    And let’s not forget Tony’s reinstatement of the ABCC to shut down building unions. This article is from 2011 and reminds us of why they were shut down in the first place.

    “Under the ABCC’s draconian powers it can issue “Section 52” notices which allow the ABCC to question people in secret hearings. Those affected are not allowed to discuss the questioning publicly and do not have a choice of legal representation.

    “The ABCC has powers beyond those of ASIO or any other investigative agency. Yet it has now admitted it routinely overstepped those powers in its attempts to intimidate workers,” Mr Noonan said.

    “Effectively the ABCC has falsely imprisoned over 200 people in what were usually just fishing expeditions that serve solely to justify the ABCC’s existence.

    “It took the case of Ark Tribe, who in 2010 successfully beat a charge of failing to attend an interview, to show that the ABCC had been misusing its powers.

    “Workers who were wrongly subjected to the stress of a secret interrogation will be outraged to learn that the ABCC had used flawed notices to force them to answer questions.

    “It took the Parliamentary process to drag this information out of the ABCC, so I suspect those workers will be waiting a long time for an apology.

    “Construction workers just want the same rights as other workers. They do not deserve to be the subject of these unfair powers.”

    “All workers should be asking whether the shambolic ABCC represents value for their tax dollars or an attack on their rights.”


  22. bighead1883

    MAY 2, 1933
    Storm Troopers (SA) and police occupy the offices of trade unions. Trade union officials and activists are terrorized. The trade unions’ records are impounded and their assets seized. The unions are forcibly merged with the Nazi organization, the German Labor Front. Independent labor representation is thus abolished.
    The Holocaust: A Learning Site for Students
    So if you go to this site just how much of what is going on went on then only this time Nazism has been replaced by Corporatism
    Where will this end up,? what is the true goal?

  23. bighead1883

    Neo Conservatives are the new Nazis
    They have their propaganda Minister who they want to have the ABC`s Australia Network contract–Rupert Murdoch
    They are busy enacting laws that deprive people of civil liberties–Campbell Newman,George Brandis
    They are shutting down opposition to a broader media in order to facilitate propaganda–Malcolm Turnbull
    The military has been mobilised to act out border protection– Scott Morrison
    The Education system has been tampered with–Christopher Pyne
    They have a Party Directorate creating governance–The IPA
    They are letting Corporate power has take over social services [ prisons,detention centres ] which moves the government`s fiduciary responsibilities away from themselves and takes any citizens rights away including basic humanitarian rights
    They practice political persecution through the courts where those not in the accolade are either convicted of similar crimes done by the perpetrators or at best bankrupted [Slipper/Thomson]
    They have privatised government assets to corporations without plebiscite
    They have their simplistic sloganeering propaganda–Stop The Boats,now Hide The Boats
    Budget Emergency-Big Fat Tax- No Surprises- Direct Action Plan etc
    So when does propaganda actually turn into a lie,or was it one all along?

    What good fortune for governments that the people do not think.
    Adolf Hitler
    The great masses of the people will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one.
    Adolf Hitler
    Mein Kampf

  24. cornlegend

    David – Ayn Rand disciple
    And your objectivism is ?
    not much of a disciple.

  25. Concernedcitizen

    The proof is in the pudding. Over the past century, several nations have espoused the rubbish and propaganda presented in this article. The inhabitants of the former Soviet Union, East Germany, Cuba, North Korea, etc. might have a comment or two on the validity of this nonsense.

  26. Fed up

    Yes, new concepts of the role of the family had to evolve. We must not also forget, different concepts of religion were needed. There for the birth of Prostestant. Today we went further with churches like New Song, that glorifies the wealth man amasses.

    The traditional protestant churches, along with the RC, are now mostly empty.

    Sadly for the RC church, they kept preaching that the meek would inherit the earth. Does not fit in with Capitalism.

  27. Fed up

    Concerned citizen The USA is now a paradise for over half its population, including many middle class, living in poverty.

    Many said, when the Iron Curtain fell, how long was the fall of Capitalism behind it.

    Seems to be on track for many of the predictions made.

    Yes, both Communism and Capitalism can be seen as evil

    Well, in purest form at least.

    I believe a Pope Leo, condemned both centuries ago. Hope I have the right Pope.

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