The Approaches To The Concept Of Family In Society Sample College Essay


This paper is about the concept of family as defined by the functionalist, Marxist and feminist approaches. The modern era gave rise to the concept of the “nuclear family” with its attendant benefits and problems. While traditionally, family meant an extended gathering of people including all the siblings, parents, and close relatives, the nuclear family restricts itself to parents and children as the unit of a family. While this concept has largely served the purpose of providing and consuming in the market-driven economy, there have been criticisms of this model. This paper explores some of the assumptions and criticisms of the modern concept of family.

Functionalist approaches

This approach holds that the concept of the nuclear family is “good” from the point of view of society and it views the family primarily about society and the functional aspects of the family as opposed to the idealistic mores of the traditional family. This approach holds that the parents provide for their children and turn them into responsible citizens of society and make them productive from the point of view of the market economy. However, this approach has been criticized by many because the break-up of the family into nuclear units has also meant single-parent families that are being blamed for the rise in crime and general lawlessness that corrodes the fabric of society.

Marxist approaches

One of the main criticisms of the functional approach comes from the Marxist school of thought that holds the family as being tools of the capitalist class ready to be exploited for its purchasing abilities and serving the interests of the capitalists in providing ready-made workers who would willingly participate in the economic system with no costs to the employers. This approach holds that the family provides obedient and conformist workers to the capitalists to exploit them for their productive abilities and the cost of raising children is something that the employers need not worry about.

Feminist approaches

The feminist approach holds that the structure of the family is repressive towards women and the concept of family is something that the patriarchal society has imposed on women as a means to subjugate them. This approach further holds that the work done by the women in the family is productive and needs to be accounted for. This gives rise to the alternative systems of GDP calculation.


Apart from these three approaches, there is the new right approach that holds the family as a unit of equality with both parents working and sharing in the responsibilities in the household. This approach is most suitable because the current economic paradigm favors men and women in equal measure. Hence, if we critically evaluate the three approaches, we find that this approach towards treating the unit of family and the members in it as equal gains much ground, and variations of this are dysfunctional. Prominent social scientists like Francis Fukuyama have called the destabilization of the family the “The Great Disruption” and have called on the state to play a more proactive role in providing support to dysfunctional families and better, ensure that the family retains its unique character in society. In conclusion, it is the position of this writer that there should be scope for choice in determining the structure of the family and the ideal version would be a combination of state support and individual choice


Fukuyama, Francis. (2001). The Great Disruption. Viking: New York.

Free Will In Hard Determinism, Soft Determinism And Libertarianism

The questions of free will were always agitating the minds of philosophers. This could be explained by people’s tendency to acknowledge the responsibility of one’s actions. The questions that might arise ask whether there were other options in doing certain options or it was already predetermined. As a purpose of clarifying the different movements explaining free will, this paper compares hard determinism, soft determinism and libertarianism, stating that it is the closest to explaining free will.

In describing hard determinism it could be said that the followers of such course eliminate free will as a factor in making decisions. Hard determinism is a theory that explains the process of making a decision as following a predetermined path caused by the past. Hard determinists explain this theory by pointing to causality, stating that every action or decision has a cause that happens prior to the effect. If following such a theory which has a valid explanation in pointing to causality, as long as certain events in the past already happened, the decision was already triggered in the past and there is no free will to choose another option. This theory is not supported much as usually “philosophers are defenders of free will and personal responsibility and prefer to reject the arguments for hard determinism” (Rauhut, p. 93). The opposite of determinism is hard determinism, which is the acknowledgment that actions are based more on random events.

Soft determinism accepts the concept of causality of hard determinism combining it with free will, which is why it is sometimes called compatibilism. Based on the definitions of the causes that are compatible with free will, two different versions of soft determinism exist. Traditional compatibilism defines the cause compatible with free will as an action that is caused by the will and is not forced. Deep self-compatibilism differs from traditional compatibilism in that “it holds that our will is genuinely free only if we act on desires that we have chosen and that we identify with.” (Rauhut 101) As both hard and soft determinism are based on prior causes, they nevertheless are incompatible with free will. The argument for such incompatibility can be represented as” if determinism is true, then our acts are the consequences of the laws of nature and events in the remote past. But it is not up to us what went on before we were born, and neither is it up to us what the laws of nature are. Therefore the consequences of these things (including our present acts) are not up to us”(Rauhut and Smith).

This leads to another theory which is the theory of libertarianism. Taking determinism and indeterminism as two radical opposites, libertarianism is a theory that almost lies between the two. This theory accepts that everything has its cause. However, the difference is that humans are agents that can cause actions, and at the same time they were not caused to make these actions. Such analysis eliminates the effect of the past on implementing free will. This fact can make this theory the closest to explaining free will, but at the same time leaves some answers unsolved in the case of total disconnection from the past and the origin of the ability to cause and not be caused.

It can be seen that among these three theories, libertarianism although having some critique comes close to pointing out the role of free will. The advantage of libertarianism is in his acknowledgment of causality, and at the same time, this causality did not affect in making the decision. Nevertheless, this issue will have many considerations as it cannot answer all the questions.

Works Cited

  1. Rauhut, Nils Ch. Ultimate Questions: Thinking About Philosophy. New York: Pearson, 2007.
  2. Rauhut, Nils CH., and Renee Smith. Readings on the Ultimate Questions: An Introduction to Philosophy. New York: Pearson, 2007.

American Politics History: Main Issues


In 1981, Ronald Reagan said: “Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem”. This particular view has been echoed and elaborated by various politicians as well as observers in the American political history. Bill Clinton proclaimed in 1996 that “the era of big government is over” (Zukin 106). However, despite all the proclamations, the successive governments have continued to expand in scope and functionality since Gilded Age Politics (1877-1900). This paper looks at the events that led to the expansions and why the phenomenon has persisted.

The Changing politics and Institutions

The changes in political and institutional conditions since American Revolution have considerably contributed to the expansion of the American governments. These political events can be dated back to the Gilded Age Politics. Many have described the Gilded Age as the period of rampant corruption, leading to mistrust that will later persist for ages to come (Ware 21). In fact, this period exposed weakness of even the greatest presidents, from Abraham Lincoln to Teddy Roosevelt, as none of them could stamp out the growing corruption (Ware 21). There was distrust as the even courts gave backings to big business, which the politicians had become accustomed to (Ware 22). However, this period had the two political parties disagree on very few issues. For example, the two political wings, Republicans and Democrats avoided taking strong political stand on issue of Gold and Silver, for fear of going against the public opinion that would be detrimental to their party (Ware 21).

This post Civil War corruption cases would be experienced unabatedly by the end of the 20th century with numerous scandals such as Watergate, whitewater, raising the Congressmen pay and scandalous check writing, and the sexual scandals (notably the Clinton/ Lewinsky saga) (Zukin 105).

These conditions increased and emphasized the policy-oriented approach to politics, changed or interacted in ways that elevated the expected benefits of pursuing policy goals in the historical period. According to Zukin (107), the five conditions can be highlighted as partisan polarization, institutional individualization, and interest group proliferation. In fact, Jacobs states categorically, “one situational factor- the close proximity of national elections-remained in pace to increase intermittently the influence of centrist opinion” (38).

The rise of strong partisan politics

The party vote and strategic shirking models emphasize the influence of voters who routinely support each political party as well as party activists and leaders (Jacobs 38). This subsequently influenced the strong partisans in political associations since independence, putting a lot of pressure on candidates and officeholders to pursue policy positions that would be favorable to the voters (Jacobs 39). For instance, the most recent political history can be observed in the relentless partisan warfare between Democrats and Republicans in the time of Clinton’s inauguration in January 1993 to the fitful and of Gingrich Congress in 1996, events that clearly illustrates the fundamental difference between politicians to the left and right over the role of government, particularly in matters in relation to the redistribution of income (Zukin 108). The widening divisions were perpetuated by the declining number of moderates within the respective parties. Again, the partisan polarization was as a result of the growing ideological difference between each party (Zukin 108). These kinds of differences created suspicions between the parties and thus individual leaders themselves. It is thus through lack of trust within the different wings of the political parties that led to each party’s attempt to go into politics with larger group to win, hence the unprecedented expanded government. These particular forces are strong that individual efforts from the likes of Reagan could not go against them.

The Rise of Individual Independence in Congress

The empowerment of individual members of Congress increased their discretion to pursue their own preferred policy goals as well as those of party activists and others. In the past, parties exercised substantial political influence over debate and legislation; the vehicle for party influence was the House and the Senate leadership during the 19th century and the system committee during the first two-thirds or so of the 20th century (Freeman 195). This influence of parties was based on their control over the selection of candidates, election campaigns, and, and during the 19th and early 20th centuries, the disposition of jobs, contracts, and other forms of patronage (Freeman 198). The political significance was the increased interest in marshalling bigger troop to counter the opponents.

Later after 1970s, the parties control was theoretically replaced by individual power in both the House and Senate. This was as a result of reforms in party rules and congressional institutions which empowered individual legislators to take policy initiatives on their own and to challenge leaders (Freeman 198). The new independence was especially apparent in the House; the norms and procedures of the Senate had already afforded wide latitude to its members. This new power of rank-and-file House members was starkly illustrated by their decisions to vote out once-powerful committee chairs and to vote in new chairs who lacked seniority (Freeman 198). In addition, the House expanded the personal staff for members and created staff agencies like the Congressional Budget Office, which equipped individual members with the analysis and capacity to pursue their own legislative interests (Freeman 198).

The Growth of Interest Groups

The Gilded Age was followed by the progressive era (1900-1914). The major theme for this period was to change the politics of the United States. Majority of the middle class Americans backed the reforms, which included issues like introduction of literacy test to reduce immigration (Ware 12). Such reforms extended to the national level, thus the increase in the elitists in government; elitists comprised of teachers, lawyers and business people (Ware 12). This same period saw many states adopting primary elections as the way to reduce the powers of the bosses and machines, and increasing the rights of the minority groups, notably women (Ware 12). This was the beginning of interest groups.

It is critical to observe that there have been growing numbers of interest groups in the United States. Such special interest groups were mainly divided along such identities as minority and special concern to the national concerns such as environmental and welfare issues. These groups could mobilize particularistic groups within a legislator’s constituency and use national political action committees to provide campaign contributions to supporters (Zukin 108). Interestingly, these groups were relatively few before 1960. However, these groups were later clustered in1960s under the umbrella of associations, e.g. the American Medical Association (AMA), which ended up dominating health policy (Zukin 108). Such groupings indented the political class to act with caution so as to maintain political mileage. While these interest groups pursued and continue to pursue their own interest, the pressure arises on the incumbent governments to satisfy their needs at all costs for political survival. Freeman (198) says that the incumbent government was forced to weigh over long periods ahead of the relative influence of opposing political and ideological forces to accurately appraise public sentiment or events that shape it.

After the 1960s, a number of indicators- from a number of registered lobbyists to the number of corporations operating offices in Washington- revealed a dramatic growth in the number and variety of organizations engaged in pursuing their interests in Washington (Zukin 108). New groups and new coalitions on social, economic, and political issues formed continually.

The result was that a relatively small number of powerful interest groups no longer dominated government decision making in particular policy areas like health care. The proliferation of narrowly based interest groups increased the pressure on the government and politicians to pursue specific policy to satisfy each of them, hence leading to an expanded government.


The expansion of the government may have occurred continuously over the years since American Revolution. However, leaders like President Reagan and Clinton may have predicted that such an expansion should be brought to a halt. Despite their proclamation, the leaders have been the victims of growth in historical events such as interest groups and policy changes that have forced them to accommodate large groups in government for political survival. As Freeman observed, “the decisions to increase the size of the government may have not been anticipated, but the government activities in social field and on the magnitude of government as such will depend on the basic philosophical attitude of the American people and their representatives in Congress and in the other branches and levels of government (191).

Works Cited

Freeman, Roger. The Growth of American government: A Morphology of the Welfare States. New York: Hoover, 1975. Print.

Jacobs, Lawrence & Shapiro, Robert. Politicians Don’t Pander: Political Manipulation and the Loss of Democratic Responsiveness. Chicago: Chicago Press, 2000. Print

Zukin, Cliff. A New Engagement?: Political Participation, Civic Life, and the Changing American Citizen. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. Print.

Ware, Alan. “The American direct primary: party institutionalization and Transformation”, 2002.

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