Critical theory and the work–family articulation

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    We are living in an era characterised by the repercussions of recession and austerity, and the fields of work and family are directly affected by historical changes, making the need for reformulating concepts used in the sociology of work and family quite apparent. In order to do so, this article proposes an approach inspired by Open Marxism and critical theory that will assess the contribution of specialised literature in the work–family articulation to advance original analyses and investigate relevant issues around social reproduction under capitalism. The tension between capitalism and contemporary forms of family will be framed through the concept of the dual nature of labour and family life, insofar as they entail both sensuous and abstract forms of human involvement – most notably abstract labour. Issues around the emotional patterns of family life and the mediation that families operate between ‘home’ and ‘work’ spheres will take centre stage. One of the main points is that the development of labour as abstract labour under capitalism marginalises family forms in terms of the mediation between the private and the public spheres, because it relies on a more direct social integration (or ‘synthesis’) of its subjects. However, members of families, as active subjects, create social forms and resist disruptions caused by socio-economic changes. In that sense, ‘subjectivity’ is thought to be a key concept to avoid thinking work and family as reified structures.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number41
    Pages (from-to)475-492
    Number of pages18
    JournalCapital and Class
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 16 Feb 2017


    • abstract labour
    • critical theory
    • social integration
    • subjectivity
    • work–family articulation


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