Are Nuclear Families Natural?

My partner sent me this good article in The Independent about the myth (albeit a persistent one) of the nuclear family:

No matter how far society moves from the “traditional” family, we still seem determined to impose it on all history. I went to the Viking museum in York a while ago, in which there were models of a supposedly typical Viking family, in which Viking dad was working while Viking mum was making dinner in a pot and the Viking kids played with a Viking dog and cat. They should have had a commentary, with the dad saying “Hello darling, I’ve had such a hard day at the pillaging office, that darned South-West division missed their target yet again, they’ve barely massacred more than three villages since the new tax year.”

The family unit is of course so bandied about in our society because it serves the productive forces that best bolster industrial capitalism: the family is a factory writ-small (and corporations aren’t democracies). Engels says it with much more historical detail in Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State.

This connection between nuclear-family units and private production is perhaps why alternatives, such as large groups of communal participants from multiple generations, or homosexual families that are not set up with built-in patriarchy to manage inter-family divisions of labor, are deemed so dangerous by conservative reactionaries. They probably don’t even fully realize the deep connections along the chain from family production to factory production (at the end of which, we find hoarding by the super elite—a well-fed father-head), but instead just feel almost intuitively the power they lose if they can’t control women, children, and/or people otherwise below them in the organizational chart. Losing power makes people lash out in anger, which is what we see manifested in retrograde social policies, financial incentives for marriage and procreation (or did you think those were just for love?), and dutifully enforced cultural norms, like “obey your parents.”

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