Chapter 2: The Family as an Economic Unit
Page 19 2. The family as an economic unit. 1 ECONOMIC ORGANIZATION AND THE FAMILY At the close of the twentieth century, family structure and the changes that have recently been taking place in the family in the western world have become very relevant for understanding developments in contemporary economic market systems. This statement may seem surprising because modern social organization has meant that the family is no longer carrying out many of its traditional activities. But it is precisely this new, more limited social role that has given the family its protagonism. The economic system in which we live is based on a specific family organization which, when altered, casts doubts on many of our longstanding assumptions. Many studies have been carried out on the adaptation of the family institution to the new methods of social organization for production. But not much attention has yet been paid to the reverse influence. And this is also very important because if family structure changes, the economic system will necessarily be affected. A simple example should clarify these ideas. Let us think of the effects of a high rate of unemployment over a long period, a wellknown phenomenon in many European economies. In a family in which only the father works in the market and in which the wife and children have no independent income, if the father were to be unemployed for a long period this would be likely to have serious effects. But in crisis situations there may be...
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