[Note: this question was previously closed under the reason "needs to be more focused". I subsequently edited the question to make it more focused and then hoped it would be reopened, but no luck after weeks. I take it to be uncontrovertial that that criticism does not apply to this question in its present form, so I am reposting.]

Background: The nuclear family is an important structural part of most human societies. There are many good things about the nuclear family as a feature of society, but it is also an important source of inequality of opportunity, a value held to be important by many theorists across different positions.

My question is: is there modern work in the political philosophy literature that considers the question of whether children should be raised in nuclear families as opposed to some alternative system alternative systems like communal child-rearing or children being raised by the government.

One example I know of is Plato's Republic, but I am interested in modern work. I am also aware of some work about the internal organization of the family, but I am interested in work that engages the question of whether there should be families at all.

  • 1
    The question does not seem like a philosophy question. The question [is there modern work in the political philosophy..], sounds like you need empirical evidence of communal child-rearing or government raised children results when compared to the nuclear family. ..I feel like you will receive better answers within the philosophy stack exchange if you ask a question on ethics rather than a question about where to research. Most likely an ethical question will not answer your question but lead you towards the research you want. ..You can maybe ask in the "Parenting" stack exchange too
    – Noah
    Commented Jul 8, 2020 at 8:48
  • 1
    Although it is a reference request question, it is very much an ethics question. The family is one of the most influential institutions in human society. Whether it should exist is most certainly a philosophical and ethical question.
    – Smithey
    Commented Jul 21, 2020 at 2:19
  • I think what I am caught up on is that I don't understand why someone would ethically oppose the nuclear family, oppose communal child-rearing or oppose children being raised by the government unless they had empirical data to support opposing or flawed reasoning to support opposing. The burden is on those that oppose peoples freedom. ...The same goes for the positive claim that one method is better than the other, they need to show evidence as to why it is better. ..I came off harsher than intended when i read my first comment back, my bad.
    – Noah
    Commented Jul 21, 2020 at 4:48
  • 1
    No worries. I want to try to respond to your comment but now apparently people are trying to close the question because I tried to answer you, so I cannot answer :(
    – Smithey
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 4:51

2 Answers 2


Some reflections, starting with definitions taken from Thomas Piketty's Capital and Ideology (2019) What Is an Ideology?, page 3-on:

I use “ideology” in a positive and constructive sense to refer to a set of a priori plausible ideas and discourses describing how society should be structured. An ideology has social, economic, and political dimensions. It is an attempt to respond to a broad set of questions concerning the desirable or ideal organization of society. [...] every society must attempt to answer questions about how it should be organized, usually on the basis of its own historical experience but sometimes also on the experiences of other societies. Individuals will usually also feel called on to form opinions of their own on these fundamental existential issues, however vague or unsatisfactory they may be.

What are these fundamental issues? [...] Another fundamental issue has to do with the property regime, by which I mean the set of rules describing the different possible forms of ownership as well as the legal and practical procedures for regulating property relations between different social groups. Such rules may pertain to private or public property, real estate, financial assets, land or mineral resources, slaves or serfs, intellectual and other immaterial forms of property, and relations between landlords and tenants, nobles and peasants, masters and slaves, or shareholders and wage earners.

Except for some extreme forms of utopia, like e.g. Plato's Republic and some form of communist societies, like e.g. Khmer Rouge's "project" in 1975–1993 timeframe, children are not considered a "property" that can be "owned".

They are integral part of the family.

For some sources regarding communist's theories about family you can see:

as well as:

  • Thank you for the references to communist perspectives on the family. That being said I am ideally hoping for contemporary literature.
    – Smithey
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 5:19

I think it is crucial to understand that:

  1. Transition to the nuclear family is a very recent development.
  2. It constitutes a radical departure from the way of life humans had been evolving, both in and for, for over millions of years prior.

That drastically different way of life was, of course, that of a tribe1. 30 to about 100 people in it, cooperative breeding, which, apparently, is the only way to avoid Early Childhood Development trauma. Finally, both in hunter-gatherer societies and in many Bronze Age civilizations, Maternal kinship was, in all likelihood, due to not knowing one's father, rather than "matriarchal society" if there even was such a thing.2

The most important point tho that every human child, in order to successfully develop their own humanity, must rely on the encouragement and proper guidance from the adults and older siblings around.3

1 Being nomadic, hunter-gatherer, "communal", fond of camping/living "close to nature" is all true, of course, but of little relevance.

2 Bronze Age palaces where communal centers. The Indus Valley palaces had a swimming pool as their central feature:

  enter image description here

3 In every human's prefrontal cortex sits, usually idle, our prized possession, a piece of the most advanced computational hardware ever conceived. Yet for all its brilliance, this new shiny toy is still, basically, a prototype. Its loose integration with the rest, the reactive/"animal"/subconscious/neural net/autopilot of the brain, means for the rational mind it's all-manual operation. What makes the whole setup so precarious, is that it comes as a blank slate. Its initial configuration takes 5-7 ears, and it's a deadweight for the first 2-3 years before the first light. That's why humans spend extra 5-7 years in their childhood -- which doesn't matter as none of us, none of our children gets the all important support.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .