Does Family Promote or Limit Mobility?

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When it comes to economic, social, and cultural issues, the family is a powerful force to be reckoned with. It plays a vital role in both the advancement of the family and the restriction of the mobility of its members. This is according to Lilian Rubin's analysis, who spent over a thousand hours doing in-depth interviews with children, wives, and husbands from fifty working-class households. She then compared her findings to those from interviews with 20 such individuals from professional middle-class homes. This paper seeks to find out whether families influence mobility and assesses the arguments based of Lillian Rubin’s book, Worlds Of Pain/ Life In The Working Class Family.

Culture and Women

For starters, a few decades ago, women had a hard time finding employment, primarily due to the cultural restrictions of the time. The laws in place at the time ignored the need for women to get jobs, believing they were to stay back at home and take care of the children and chores in the house. It was unheard of for women to work. Men on the other hand were the sole providers in the family, men who could not provide for their families were often stressed out by their short comings and viewed as less in the society (Gordon 350).

However, there has been a shift over time, and the government has come up with policies that are more favorable to women seeking jobs, providing equal chances for these women to seek employment and work competitively alongside men in the labor market. A new breed of women have risen in the recent years, bold women who have soared beyond the expectations of their cultures. Currently the job market has seen highly skilled women rise and surpass the men in terms of innovation, skill and qualifications. It is no secret that there are many self-made women millionaires in today’s economy.

Culture demands that the men be the head and the women be the number two. From Rubin’s interviews, most men especially in the working class appear to worry more about the risk of their wives wanting to seek employment and contribute to the families’ income in a way the men could not match, the women not only want to be considered as house wives but want develop a means for them to feel more useful and needed in the family and perhaps lower the burden from their husbands. However, this is not as easy as the men tend to see this as disrespected and an insult to their abilities to provide. Pride is the primary reason for this feeling in men.

From this observation above, we can clearly see how mobility or progress is undermined or limited by the family, supposing the lady had not gotten married and focused perhaps in furthering her education with the aim of getting desired skills for a job. The woman would have no hindrance to this as the only limiting factor would be her state of mind and perhaps finances. She could study and attain the desired skills and possibly secure that dream job she wanted.

In another instance, the issue of inheritance pops up. This is a sensitive factor and can prove to be both a promoter and a limiter to mobility. Once a child is aware of a huge inheritance the chances of him or her working hard in other aspects of life may dwindle, it is common to find heirs to larges estates or wealth indulging in drug abuse among other degenerate behaviors. This may lead them to squander their inheritance instead of growing it so as to leave a good amount of the wealth to the generations that follows them.

In some cases, the, this may however not be the case, some children take advantage of the ease starting off in life from their inheritance and develop investments or new innovations from the funds they have. This may depend on a number of things but in most cases how the child was raised would prove to be the sole contributor. In such a case, the family unite would have provided a stepping stone for their child, thus would have contributed to their level of productivity (Halttunen 412).

Young families

In America, families are started for many reasons some of them financial reasons. Young couples, especially those who marry while still in high school or just a few years after high school tend to incur financial difficulties especially because the young family lacks experience in handling problems of the modern day. It is common for such families to squander the small amount of money they get on unnecessary luxuries instead of investing the money or getting the basic necessities. Therefore, these families often suffer more as time passes, primarily because the two will find it difficult to secure jobs that will pay enough to handle their ever-growing needs (Rubin 94).

In addition to this, if the family gets children it will only prove to be difficult for them as life will just be more expensive as the child grows. Finances that these couples cannot afford. In this case Rubin’s work points out that the production level of these two individuals is severely limited. Preventing them from functioning members of society. In a different scenario, if the couple had waited and developed their knowledge and skill sets to the point that they could secure stable jobs, escaping the working-class wage for a middle class or a higher class in their skill sets or wage bracket. The couple would be set for life, their production level would be off on a good start and maybe their marriage at a later age would serve to increase their capabilities to be more active and productive in the economy. This goes to show the impact of family on the aspect of production economically.

Remarriage as a result of tough financial times

Rubin asks some young couples the reasons as to why they got married, her interviewees’ response are mixed but one that stands out is the response of seeking financial stability. Especially for young single mothers (Rubin 51). These are young women who probably got married after high school but somewhere in the years that followed got divorced for one reason or the other including financial difficulties. Due to the ever-increasing cost of living, these mothers are faced with tough financial difficulties. Therefore, these mothers get married so that they can find some kind of financial security at the hands of their husbands. For some of these women, financial difficulties are the major cause or contributor to them getting married as it would mean a more stable life, better food, housing among other basic necessities for her and her children. From an economic point of view, this act alone will have reduced the productivity of the household, by raising the number of dependents in the family to two or more. In that, husband’s wage will now have to be divided to provide for the family. Right here we see that there is a reduction in the level of productivity on the husband’s point side (Shaywitz 1201).

However, in the case where the wife takes this opportunity to better herself in terms of skills and education, so that she can seek employment and leave the working-class bracket for a high bracket where she is likely to earn more and contribute to the family income, it would be okay to say that family, in this case has developed in terms of economic production

Marxist view

From Marxism point of view, family’s play a regulatory role in the economic world, the Marxism structural conflict perspective states that the society is seen or approached along class lines, where there exists institutions that work to achieve the interest of a small class of elite individuals who have economic power, this are referred to as the Bourgeoisie and the much larger working class group known as the Proletariat are exploited by the Bourgeoisie to generate or achieve their goals or wealth. The family on the other hand provides an ideological control which restricts the conflict from boiling over and attempts to convince the larger working class group that their state is good, natural and that the system is inevitable (Block 6).

Of course, from the above argument we can see that family plays the part of adding comfort to the pathetic state of being exploited of the working class by the Bourgeoisie. Therefore, the rich will continue getting rich and the poor continue being poor, thanks to the family advocating against rising and demanding for fairness in the division of wealth. Family in this case is being seen as a force that is obstructing mobility and restricting progress in terms of production by encouraging the existence of this state. The Marxists advocate to the disbandment of this ideology and encourages the working class to stand up for themselves and demand their fair share.

Societal view

The society in most of the world have different meanings to what a good husband is or what the desirable qualities of a good husband are. Rubin’s work was able to identify the definitions of good husbands and their desired traits from women, classified in accordance to their social-economic status, i.e. the working class, and middle class etc. From her findings the working-class woman, and the house wives view a good husband based on three qualifications, alcoholism, violence and employment status. In that, to them a good husband is one who doesn’t drink, one who is not violent towards her and one who is employed and is able to provide for his family. The working-class women are objectified or more aligned with the desire for material things.

On the other hand, the middle-class women are more conserved with the emotional capabilities in a husband. In Rubin’s interview, the middle-class women skewed towards husbands that are intimate, sharing and able to communicate well with their wives (Randive 148). The measure for good husbands for the middle-class women are men who are able to provide emotional sustainment

The difference in the preferences on the traits of husbands between the two classes is largely to be blamed on the societal standings of the women or the way their economic capabilities limits and provide for their lifestyles (Rubin 166). According to Rubin once material things become an issue or a problem in the marriage then then the dominant issues will revolve around material things, this explains why housewives or working class women are concerned with a husband’s ability to provide. Whereas the middle class are more aligned with a man’s ability to be emotionally sufficient in a marriage.

Work Cited

Block, Fred. "The ruling class does not rule: Notes on the Marxist theory of the state." Socialist Revolution 33.7 (1977): 6-28.

Gordon, Judith R., Karen S. Whelan-Berry, and Elizabeth A. Hamilton. "The relationship among work-family conflict and enhancement, organizational work-family culture, and work outcomes for older working women." Journal of occupational health psychology 12.4 (2007): 350.

Halttunen, Karen. Confidence men and painted women: A study of middle-class culture in America, 1830-1870. No. 129. Yale University Press, 1982.

Randive, Vimla. "Working-Class Women." Social Scientist (1975): 146-154.

Rubin, Lillian B. Worlds of pain: Life in the working-class family. Basic Books, 1976.1-69

Shaywitz, Sally E., et al. "Effect of estrogen on brain activation patterns in

postmenopausal women during working memory tasks." Jama 281.13 (1999): 1197-1202

March 23, 2023

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