Now we proceed to pass in survey the economic facts connected with family life in Australia. As we are dealing with the individual family, the first question that naturally presents itself is: How far in Australia is the individual family an economic unit? In other words, in what way is the individuality of the single family determined by the economic facts?
To answer this general question we are led to examine various sets of facts. In the first place, we know that in primitive societies there is already a rudimentary division of labour, or rather a division of economic functions, within the household. It is usually called the sexual division of labour; obviously it makes the household an economic unit; for it is just the division of labour which establishes the unity of a social group from the economic point of view. We must ask, therefore: Which, respectively, are the chief functions of the husband and of the wife? Who provides the food and performs the labours of the camp?
The economic unity of the family may also be constituted by other facts. It is necessary in this connection to say a few words again of individual land ownership, discussed above in connection with the mode of living; several statements must be adduced referring to the well-known features of communism and general liberality among the Australian blacks. These features throw considerable light upon native economics with reference to the constitution of the family. Let us begin by examining the evidence on the sexual division of labour.
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Publication information: Book title: The Family among the Australian Aborigines:A Sociological Study. Contributors: B. Malinowski - Author. Publisher: Schocken Books. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1963. Page number: 274.
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