The institution of the family has come under attack from several perspectives. We have already seen Friedrich Engels's criticism of marriage in the bourgeois family. Even though the social and economic situation in the Uni ted States is very different from conditions in Europe during Engels' s life, some of Engels' s criticism may still be relevant to an understanding of contemporary family life. Marxist feminists certainly take it seriously. They see the oppression ofwomen as part of a larger c1ass struggle. Socialist feminists do not think the Marxist account adequate, but they accept so me of its insights. I

The family is unavoidably affected by various aspects of the economic system of the society of which it is apart. Juliet Mitchelllooks at the relationship between family life and capitalistic production and changes that capitalism has made in the family. 1t has created a contradiction between the concept of the family in our society and the reality of the family. She says that the family has changed, but it still remains "a crucial ideological and economic unit." Under capitalistic industrialism, the family lost its role in economic production, but ideologically the family is now the focal point of "the idea of individual private property." What the family actually does is provide a labor force and support massive consumption. "The family thus embodies the most conservative concepts available; it rigidifies the past ideals and presents them as the present pleasures."2