The stuff inside of parentheses are the notes the teacher provided

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Question 10:. Summarize Engels’ argument regarding the positions of, and relations between, men and women in patriarchal (male supremacist) ‘monogamous’ (i.e. indissoluble) marriages. Critically evaluate his analogizing of the relations between men and women in such marriages to the relation between capitalists and proletarians. How does it strengthen or weaken his analysis of gender, marriage and families?

The society has never been egalitarian, and male dominance has been in existence since time immemorial. [Engels does not accept your premise. Male dominance/supremacy, for Engels, was not the ‘natural’ condition of humankind. Moreover, when it developed, and ever since, it was not as a result of ‘natural’ or biological or natural environmental imperatives] Women are considered to play second fiddle to the menfolk, and any attempt of a woman to rise above men is quickly shot down [Are you asserting that this is and has been the case in all human societies?] . Patriarchal society gives the male an upper hand and a voice and says, as women are made voiceless. [You need to revise the preceding sentence] Critically, women and men still build relations in their monogamous marriages. There is a substantial relation been [did you mean “between”?] monogamous marriages to capitalists and proletarians [I do not understand what you’re saying here. Are monogamous (male supremacist and indissoluble monogamous marriages, that is) “substantively related to” the capitalist-proletarian relationship? Is that what you’re arguing?]. Therefore, the argument of Engel deepens the understanding of the actual state of affairs in the relationships between men and women in the capitalist and proletarian sense. [I don’t what “in the capitalist and proletarian sense” means]

Engels on Monogamous Marriage

In his publication of “The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State,” Engels argues that the oppression of women arises from the development of classes. The argument being mooted by Engels is that the differences that exist between men and women [the differences? Are you talking about inequalities?] began when social classes were formed. In the formation of classes, men became superior to women, and they are decision-making authority in their homes. [What does Engels’ mean by “the formation” or “the development” of classes?] Since the woman is believed to play second fiddle to the men; men amassed wealth and subjected women to dependence on them [As written, this makes “beliefs” determine the economic structure of society, its class structure, etc. According to the ‘materialist conception of history’, this is not the case. Beliefs about the relative value/worth of men and women, etc are themselves to be ultimately explained by the economic structure of society, the ‘real foundation’ upon which arise political, legal, and ideological superstructures . . .]. In monogamous marriages, women have to respect the decisions that come from the men. As a decision-maker in the family, their decisions are final, and all the family members will have to follow what the father says. [In male-supremacist, indissoluble monogamous marriages, right? The whole point is to account for the necessary preconditions for such marriages to exist and the ‘purposes’ for which both those who benefit from them more and those who benefit from them less enter them]

Engels argues that the pairing family [how does the “pairing family” differ from “monogamous and indissoluble marriage”?] started during the higher stage of barbarism (Engels, 2010). During this stage man [Men or humans?] slowly began going through some level of civilization and adopted some methods that enabled them to improve productivity. The higher stage of barbarism is grounded on male supremacy, in which men bred children that made the paternal lineage (Engels, 2010) [Men bred children? I don’t follow. The whole question is how the pairing family, which in and of itself is not male-supremacist becomes male-supremacist and indissoluble monogamous marriage]. The children, in this case, belong to the father and inherit their father’s property. Also, due to male supremacy, it was just a man who could dissolve a marriage. That is to mean that the stay of a woman [the what of a woman?] in a monogamous marriage is reliant on a man, who sometimes can decide to cast off the woman

Relations of Men and Women to Proletarian and capitalist

Before getting into how monogamous marriage is related to capitalist and proletarian, it is essential to understand what these two terms mean. Capitalist are manufacturers who exploit the working class to create wealth, while the proletarians are just employees who rely on wages. [How does Engels himself define the bourgeoisie or the bourgeois in a footnote of the Communist Manifesto? Likewise, for the proletariat.] The capitalist bourgeoisie uses their employees by overworking them to soar their profits as they keep their salaries low (Engels, 2010). In essence, the capitalist exploits proletarians, the same way a man exploits a woman in their monogamous marriage in a patriarchal society. [How does a husband in a bourgeois male-supremacist marriage “exploit” his wife? Be specific. How does that alleged exploitation compare to the exploitation of the proletarians by capitalist employers?]

The first relation between the men and women in association with capitalist and proletarians is subjugation. In the above description, the man sees a woman as a slave [THUS, not as a proletarian; the relationship between slaveholder/owner and slave is not the same as that between capitalist employer and proletarian employee? Does the bourgeois husband purchase the working capacity of his wife in exchange for money wages to put to work on and with the conditions and means of production in order to produce COMMODITIES, merchandise, vendible items, to sell in markets for money at a profit? Can he ‘fire’ her ‘at will’? Does SHE have the right to quit THIS husband and sell the use of her working capacity to another “husband”?], where opinions or thoughts have do not matter at all. The man enslaves a woman to get his children, which can use perhaps to create him more wealth [How do you figure? How can a bourgeois husband use his children, the legitimate ones which his wife ‘produces’ for him, to create more wealth for him? In fact, he is responsible for providing for them economically AND they are entitled to inherit his accumulated property upon his death.] The subjugation of women is a show of a patriarchal society where a woman is powerless and forced to respect a man to stay in marriage lest she is cast off (Engels, 2010). Similarly, the capitalist exploits and subjugate the proletarians, who are powerless, but have to respect and follow instructions given to them by a capitalist lest they miss wages or get sacked. The proletarians being powerless but with needs will have to accept overexploitation and subjugation to continue earning wages and salaries to fend for their families. [In male-supremacist marriages, the husband dominates the wife and children whilst providing for them. In the capitalist employer-capitalist employee relationship, the employer dominates the employees whilst THEY create wealth for him/her, and he’s under no obligation to ensure their economic survival and well-being, but only to pay them the agreed-upon wages for the use of their capacity to work.]

A man and woman relations are related to capitalist-proletarian relations from the perspective of decision-making. In a monogamous marriage in patriarchy, the man is the decision-maker, and a woman cannot overturn his decision; equally, in capitalist-proletarian relation, the capitalist is the decision-making authority, whose choices cannot be opposed but only implemented (Sweezy, Mage, & Foster, 2018). Ideally, a man and capitalists are figureheads whose decisions cannot be resisted by their inferiors. The inferiors-women and proletarians have to follow decisions made by the respective heads, as a sign of respect and obedience. [So, there is NOTHING specific about the capitalist-proletarian relationship of domination and exploitation which is shared with the husband-wife relationship in a male-supremacist marriage. Engels is focusing on the fact that the bourgeois are propertied while the proletarians are propertyless and *because of that* the bourgeois are the dominators and the proletarian the dominated; on that basis he argues that the wife in a male-supremacist marriage is ‘effectively’ propertyless and, he claims, *because of that* the husband is dominant and she is dominated. Thus, he illegitimately concludes that in ‘monogamous marriage’ the husband is the capitalist/bourgeois and the wife is the proletarian. The problem is that the “dominator/dominated” relationship based on the “propertied/propertyless” condition is NOT specific to the capitalist/proletariat relationship. The “master-servant”, “slaveowner-slave”, “feudal lord-serf” relationship are equally relationships between oppressors and oppressed, dominators and dominated, based on the propertied vs propertyless distinction; in fact, they ‘fit’ the relationship between husband and wife in male-supremacist and indissoluble monogamous marriages much better than the relationship between bourgeoisie and proletariat. Engels is intent on ‘demonstrating’ that relationships of domination are always premised, first and foremost, on economic inequality, be it property-based or income-earning-based. Since the male-female relationship in male-supremacist indissoluble marriages are relations of domination (of females by males), he *must* (he thought) demonstrate that ‘behind’ male domination is male economic advantage in property and income (monetary or non-monetary) earning over women.]

In the monogamous marriage, the woman stands to lose if the man decides to terminate the marriage. In the same breath, in the capitalist-proletarian relation, the proletarian stands to lose in case a capitalist makes a radical decision like employee layoff. The proletarians will suffer and will not be able to meet their daily needs. Generally, the point is that a fundamental decision made by the capitalist or men has far-reaching consequences on their inferiors.

Generally, the men and capitalists are similar, because it’s material wealth that pushes them to control their inferiors for their benefits. The men will exploit women and use them to sire children, who will inherit their property to keep the paternal lineage (Sweezy, Mage, & Foster, 2018). The men will use the women to create wealth for them [how so? How does a bourgeois husband use his wife to create wealth for him?], but deny them any property inheritance [That is simply not true; The wife of a man in a male supremacist monogamous marriage was both morally and legally entitled to economic support during his lifetime and to inherit from him upon his death]. Capitalists also [There is no “also”; Bourgeois husbands do not exploit their wives, by any definition of exploitation put forth and used by Marx and Engels] exploit the proletarians to amass wealth, which they keep to themselves (Engels, & Marx, 2004). The proletarian is not entitled to inherit any wealth of the capitalist but is required to create wealth with the low wage for their bosses (capitalists). [That is precisely why the relationship between the capitalist employer and the proletarian employee is dissimilar, qualitatively different to that between the husband and the wife in a male-supremacist monogamous marriage. The bourgeois employer owes the proletarian employer NOTHING MORE than the agreed-upon price for the latter’s capacity to work. The proletarian employee is on his/her proverbial own as to whether and how to secure his/her (and his/her dependents’) subsistence. The wife is not her husband’s paid employee, she does not use the money wages paid to her by her husband for the use of her capacities to work, have sex, bear children etc to procure her and her dependents’ subsistence by purchasing commodities in markets. The wife does not produce commodities for her husband using his tools and materials for him to sell at a profit in markets. And so on]

Communism Manifesto

Engels believes that patriarchy and capitalism are equally going to class [I do not follow; as written, the preceding does not make sense to me], as the oppressed will also rise and demand equality and freedom. Engels argues that patriarchy and capitalism contain the seeds of self-destruction because the exploitation of the underclass would provoke resentment (Engels, & Marx, 2004) [Don’t cite Marx and Engels whilst using terms which they never used. “Underclass” is not a category/concept used by Marx and Engels. Neither Marx and Engels, nor Engels on his own, ever claim that male-supremacy and patriarchy contain the seeds of their own destruction. There is no such argument in any of their single-authored or co-authored texts.] The resentment will cause a revolution against the capitalist bourgeoisie and oppressive men [Incorrect. The “and oppressive men” part is non-existent in even Engels’ text]. Engels believes that it is the material conditions that have been keeping women under oppression by men, but since women no longer rely on men as breadwinners oppression shall be overcome [CORRECT!]. The push for women liberation [The push by whom for women’s liberation?] aims at giving women power and independence, and the result is that women will overcome abuse and become free agents (Blackledge, 2018). Similarly, the proletarians will lead a revolution that will end capitalism to resent capitalists. Thus, capitalism is unstable and so is patriarchy [You have provided no argument as to why patriarchy/male-supremacy is unstable, and neither did Engels. This does not mean that no such argument could be made, of course] Ultimately, a patriarchal society will diminish [Engels’ argument is that patriarchy/male supremacy will subside if and only if men and women become more nearly economically equal; reduced economic inequality between men and women is a necessary (but insufficient) condition for reduced male supremacy]; both women and men will become free. Also, the society will be classless ending capitalism, and enhancing communism. [Not “also”. For Engels, the latter is a precondition for the former. There’s no “also”]

In conclusion, the argument of Engels strengthens [his analysis of] gender, marriage, and families because women who are oppressed shall equally do paid work and become independent. Also, the family property shall be shared, and a woman will have a say about family property (Blackledge, 2018). The making of decisions shall not be unilateral but will incorporate the opinions of women too. In the end, the oppressed sex, which is female, shall become free and the marriage shall not stop acting as concentration or expressional camps for women. The families shall be more prosperous because the woman will work like a man to provide for her family. [The whole idea is that people will not have to, nor will they, work to provide for their family exclusively. A sex-egalitarian capitalism is not what Marx and Engels have in mind. More ‘prosperous’ proletarian families, as a result of both husband and wife working for pay for capitalists, is not what Marx and Engels had in mind] Engels argument strengthens gender equality because the woman will be viewed as co-equal to a man. [His argument strengthens gender equality? I do not follow. To the extent that, despite the poor and misleading analogy, Engels identified a crucial basis for male supremacy in families and marriages in persistent, patterned male economic advantage over women, then his argument allows us better to comprehend male to female relations, including in families and marriages.]


Blackledge, P. (2018). Frederick Engels, Social Reproduction, and the Problem of a Unitary

Theory of Women’s Oppression. Social Theory and Practice.

Engels, F. (2010). The origin of the family, private property and the state. Penguin UK.

Retrieved from:

Engels, F., & Marx, K. (2004). The communist manifesto. Penguin UK. Retrieved from:

Sweezy, P. M., Mage, J., & Foster, J. B. (2018). The Communist Manifesto in the Twenty-First

Century. Monthly Review, 70(1), 25-28.

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