Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Capitalism Vs Family

As we 'modernize' more and more, I think we're coming closer to defining the family more so in terms of its technical, biological function rather than an integrated social unit where children are raised, values are inculcated, and parents, siblings and relatives love one another.

I put 'modernize' in inverted commas because I'm only using 'modernize' in terms of what is commonly accepted nowadays as positive development and progression. It says nothing about whether we are better off now than in the past, when we were not so 'modern'.

It is important to note that modernization is implicitly linked with economic development, which is the result of the adoption of capitalism at either high or moderate levels. Contemporary theories regard being economically developed and GDP-rich as modernized.

As a result of modernization in this sense, the traditional functions of the family are outsourced to various institutions external to the family. Education is served by schools, employment is served by corporations, community is served by social groups, welfare is served by the government and justice is served by the law.

The human connection that came about as relatives interacted within the traditional family system to help each other satisfy these needs get compromised, as institutions take over important roles that people once held in the traditional family system. It is really not surprising why people feel alienated and dissatisfied in modern times, because we are social creatures. Institutions may be more specialized and efficient, but at the end of the day nothing can substitute for the joy and deep human connection from interacting with another person. We evolved to be that way for thousands of years.

Additionally, externalizing the duties of the family to institutions simply makes the family more dysfunctional as a purposeful social unit.

Next, the great emphasis on money, especially money maximization in our modern liberal/capitalist context, strongly undermined the importance of the woman's role in the family. I actually don't think that feminists would be so worked up about how discontented they are about being 'relegated' to domestic roles if these domestic roles were regarded as respectable. Money-making has become such a preoccupation that domestic jobs are considered for the 'lesser' of the sexes to carry out. In fact, in Singapore where females have relatively favourable access to employment and salary, women have increasingly abandoned the role of being domestic wives, juggling wage-earning and child-bearing at the same time. When it comes to the crunch of choosing between these two responsibilities, women are even increasingly prioritizing wage-earning. So, we get the extremely low birth rate of Singapore.

As families increasingly lose their traditions to a liberal system that sees human connection as unimportant and inefficient, to the point where traditions are completely obsolete, can we really still call that a family?

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