More than a decade ago Friedmann argued that the project of explaining the survival of the family farm and of analysing the processes and relations through which it is reproduced ‘… requires a sociology of the family as a productive organisation’ (1978a, p. 576). But she concluded then that the ‘conceptual tools’ necessary to the task were not available. While agrarian political economy has since developed on a number of fronts, ‘the family’ has remained conceptually and theoretically elusive. Traditional Marxist analysis has generally paid scant attention to the family because it was seen to be marginalised from the production process as capitalism developed (McDonough and Harrison, 1978). From this position the family came to represent a vehicle for reproducing the capitalist relations of production (Kuhn and Wolpe, 1978).1
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