Market Forces vs the Extended Family — Capitalism’s Impact on Social Dynamics in “Developed Countries”
Throughout history, the family has been a fundamental social unit, evolving alongside societal changes. In pre-industrial societies, the extended family often served as the basic unit — pooling resources and ensuring mutual care for its members.
However, the onset of industrial capitalism, especially in Western contexts, witnessed the rise of the nuclear family at the expense of its extended counterpart.
As people migrated towards urban centres, driven by the allure of industrial jobs, physical distance began to separate family units.
This urban migration didn’t just reshape city demographics — it brought about an ideological shift that meant we began prioritising immediate family units and individual pursuits over the traditionally understood extended family unit.
Capitalism, with its underpinnings of individualism and consumption, reinforced this trend.
Now, not only were families physically apart, but traditional familial roles also began to be outsourced.
Eldercare, childcare, and even basic emotional support, once organically provided within the extended family framework, faced commodification.
The market saw an opportunity in these familial needs and swiftly moved to monetise them.
This transition has had profound implications.
Beyond the disintegration of the extended family structure, we’ve witnessed an intensification in consumption patterns and resource use.
Every person, now acting as a separate unit, has specific needs — from housing to transportation — leading to a surge in demand and, in many cases, a whole lot of waste.
This shift has also led to a significant rise in our ecological footprints.
Individualised living means more homes, more cars, and more appliances — amplifying our carbon footprint.
So, while on the surface, this fragmentation might appear as a simple evolution of societal norms, it’s also deeply intertwined with the economic forces at play and comes at a tangible environmental cost.