“Creating a Caring Society“
Evelyn Nakano Glenn
Contemporary Sociology, Vol. 29, No. 1, Utopian Visions: Engaged Sociologies for the 21st Century (Jan., 2000), pp. 84-94 [PDF]
Why is it important to achieve a society that values caring and caring relationships? The answer might appear obvious: It seems inherent in the definition of a good society that those who cannot care for themselves are cared for; that those who can care for themselves can trust that, should they become dependent, they will be cared for; and that people will be supported in their efforts to care for those they care about. But even more is at stake. Currently we are caught in a nasty circle. To the extent that caring is devalued, invisible, underpaid, and penalized, it is relegated to those who lack economic, political, and social power and status. And to the extent that those who engage in caring are drawn disproportionately from among disadvantaged groups (women, people of color, and immigrants), their activity-that of caring-is further degraded. In short, the devaluing of caring contributes to the marginalization, exploitation, and dependency of care givers. Conversely, valuing and recognizing caring would raise the status and rewards of those who engage in it and also increase the incentives for other groups to engage in caring. Thus, a society that values care and caring relationships would be not only nicer and kinder, but also more egalitarian and just. Read more…
Provisional European lexicon for free copy, modification, and distribution by the jugglers of life by some precarias a la deriva
Translated by Franco Ingrassia and Nate Holdren.
April, 2005 [Link]
Precarization of existence
In order to overcome the dichotomies of public/private and production/reproduction, and to recognize and give visibility to the interconnections between the social and the economic that make it impossible to think precariety from an exclusively laboral and salarial point of view, we define precarity as the set of material and symbolic conditions that determine a vital uncertainty with respect to the sustained access to the essential resources for the full development of the life of a subject. Read more…
“First Stutterings of ‘Precarias a la Deriva’”
Precarias a la Deriva
April, 2003 [Link]
Trabajo flexible ¿Es que somos invisibles?
Trabajo inmaterial ¡Ay que estrés mental!
Trabajo de jornalera ¡Eso es la repera!
(Little song by Precarias a la Deriva in the General Strike of 20 June 2002)
Precarias a la deriva (Precarious women workers adrift) is a collective project of investigation and action. The concerns of the participants in this open project converged the 20th of June 2002, the day of the general strike called by the major unions in Spain. Some of us had already initiated a trajectory of reflection and intervention in questions of the transformations of labor (in groups such as ‘ZeroWork’ and Sex, Lies and Precariousness, or individually), others wished to begin to think through these themes. In the days before the strike we came together to brainstorm an intervention which would reflect our times, aware that the labor strike, as the culminating expression of a process of struggle, was unsatisfactory for us for three reasons: (1) for not taking up –and this is no novelty- the experience and the unjust division of domestic work and care, almost entirely done by women in the ‘non-productive’ sphere, (2) for the marginalization to which both the forms of action and the proposals of the strike condemn those in types of work –ever more common- which are generally lumped together as ‘precarious’ and (3) for not taking into consideration precarious, flexible, invisible or undervalued work, specifically that of women and/or migrants (sexual, domestic, assistance, etc.). As a friend recently pointed out in the context of the more recent ‘political’ strike against the war (April 10, 2003), “How do we invent new forms of striking when production fragments and dislocates itself, when it is organized in such a way that to stop working for a few hours (or even 24) does not necessarily effect the production process, and when our contract situation is so fragile that striking today means risking the possibility of working tomorrow?” Read more…
Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodríguez, “The ‘Hidden Side’ of the New Economy: On Transnational Migration, Domestic Work, and Unprecedented Intimacy”
“The ‘Hidden Side’ of the New Economy: On Transnational Migration, Domestic Work, and Unprecedented Intimacy“
Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodríguez
Frontiers, vol. 28, no. 3, 2007
Migration is a topic that occupies the front page of every newspaper in Europe today. As one of the constantly reiterated items in television news, it engages politicians as well as scholars. In times of globalization, migration is viewed both as a cause and a consequence of the intensive exchange of commodities, goods, and capital across national borders. This phenomenon is, however, not new. After all, during colonial times,1 migratory movements occurred that were, as Kien Nghi Ha stresses, at least “bidirectional” and tied to complex relations of power.2 Today, traces of colonialism inform the patterns, modes, and cultural narratives of migration. Transnational migration has evolved in a global setting marked by postcolonial cultural, economic, and political relationships, as well as by new forms of imperial power. Within this historical context and global conjuncture I would like to discuss the “hidden side” of the new economy: care and domestic work. As Eleonore Kofman and Parvati Raghuram3 note with reference to Arlie Russell Hochschild,4 care and domestic work (and I also would suggest sex work) form part of global-gendered inequalities which “are transferred along chains of care, with care provided by Third World women in households in affluent societies.”5 Read more…
“The Construction of Global City: Invisible Work and Disposable Labor”
Li-Fang Liang [PDF]
Ph. D Candidate, Sociology Department Maxwell of Public Affair School, Syracuse University
In 1992, in order to satisfy demographic necessities and increasing double-salary families, the Taiwanese government allowed the immigration of domestic workers and caregivers as part of the short-term contract labor force to shoulder the responsibilities of caring for patients, the elderly and younger children. The number of domestic workers and caregivers has reached 151,747 in 2006, more than one-third of the population of migrant workers. Around one third of migrant domestic workers and caregivers are concentrated in the metropolitan area of Taipei, the largest city in Taiwan. In this essay, I situate Taipei as an emerging “global city” that is the theoretical concept proposed by Saskia Sassen to explain the relationships between global capital mobility and the flows of labor migration. On the one hand, I elucidate the increasing availability of domestic and care work in order to satisfy the physical and emotional needs of white-collar and professional class workers in global cities through the gendered-racialized division of labor. On the other hand, I emphasize the role of state in terms of facilitating to create the gendered-racialized market that serves the economic interests of receiving state and the specific class privileged group. I explore how the coordination of state’s migrant labor policy, regulations and bureaucratic procedures that marginalizes these female workers’ lives and treats them as disposable labor in the context of improving economic development. Read more…
“Rustic and Ethical”
Mariarosa Dalla Costa
translated by Giuseppina Mecchia
ephemera volume 7(1): 107-116, 2007 [PDF]
The organisational and communicative effort which has blossomed in Italy in the first few years of the new millennium around the issue of a peasant-based agriculture brings to the fore agricultural realities – old and new alike, but all endowed with an extraordinary wealth of propositions – which afford us not only the pleasure of an intelligent discussion, but also the joy of emotional investment. We experience the thrill of witnessing growth, the exultancy of spring, the opportunity to perceive colours and to enjoy silence. This is the humanity of a different agriculture, coming out of its hills to reveal new paths to all those who want to reclaim their lives starting from a different relationship with the earth. Here I am alluding not only to the individuals or the associations engaged in organic agriculture, but also to the initiatives in favour of preserving animal biodiversity which are engaged in the recuperation of little known rustic breeds presenting rare characteristics. These are hardy and productive local breeds of horses, cattle and fowl, extremely resistant even in harsh conditions. But since capitalist productivity, unlike nature, is hostile to diversity and requires uniformity, the rustic breeds would risk becoming extinct if it weren’t for the efforts of those who love them. Humanity faces a similar problem. We too have to salvage our rusticity, which makes us strong and diverse. If we don’t recognise it, if we don’t love it, it will be crushed by increasingly homogenizing mutations.
The peasant voice, even through other subjects, has now created a rich and diverse debate, ranging from practical issues on the techniques involved in a different kind of agriculture, to efforts in delineating a different social project. It now starts to intersect other issues in our movement, new and old, such as poverty or instability, which actually started with the expulsion of people from the agricultural lands. Some critics (Hardt and Negri, 2004: 151) have said that, after having been considered backward, passive and conservative, also by the Marxist tradition, the figure of the peasant will no longer be seen as part of a separate world and will fully become part of the multitude thanks to the new forms of communication. Nonetheless, this can only be possible if the peasants are to construct forms of struggle aimed at the transformation of the totality of life. The conditional character of this assessment is surprising. If, in fact, there is a common aspect to the whole peasant movement, which in the last decades has built networks from the South to the North of the world in 65 different countries, it is precisely the opening of a discourse about the transformation of all aspects of life. This transformation is not a simple and empty demand, but a necessity. Because the will to rethink our relationship with the earth, whose negation (as expropriation and dramatic alteration) has always constituted the foundation of capitalist development, it implies a break with the whole process and the subversion of its conditions, while laying the ground for another development. This development will be ‘other’ because, first of all, it no longer considers the spread of death and hunger as the inevitable precondition for the creation of wealth as value. We are faced with an alternative: either this peasant understanding of development – which considers the earth from the perspective of ‘food sovereignty’ since it is the only guarantor of life at the planetary level – will prevail, or we will be confronted with infinite variations on the constant of hunger. Therefore, the struggle of the peasant movement is the exemplary biopolitical struggle. The opening up of what some people call biopolitical struggles is not a problem for the peasants, as it might be for others. What might be missing, on the other hand, is the will, on the part of these other political subjects, to start from the same basic concerns. Read more…
“The Global Kitchen: A Speech on the Value of Housework Debate”
Judith Ramirez, 1981 [PDF]
It’s 1981, and I think we can safely assume that all over the world this afternoon there are women who are cooking, and cleaning, and standing over washing machines or by streams, women who are gathering firewood and fetching water, looking after children, sick people and old people, and that in all the countries in which they are carrying out these activities they are not regarded as productive members of society.
They are working alongside men who are building roads and driving tractors, but they are not rewarded economically like their brothers. We live in a world which views women’s work in the home as a merely private activity which occurs outside the marketplace; women’s lives are shaped by this fact, development theories are based on it and national economies both capitalist and socialist – have it at their foundation. The position is succinctly expressed in the observation that ‘a male worker laying a pipe to a house in the city is considered to be economically active; a woman carrying a 40 kilo water jar for one or two hours a day is just doing a household task. (Impact 11/79).
Until recently, the only acknowledgment of housework in discussions of development and economic productivity worldwide has been its lack of acknowledgment. In the United Nations’ ‘State of the World’s Women Report’, 1979 it states: ‘The long busy hours spent in the home where the new generation of workers is reproduced, fed, clothed and cared for are not quantified as work whether in the developed or developing countries. And in many parts of the developing world, women’s work in caring for the family extends beyond the home into other productive activities, particularly subsistence agriculture, which are not considered statistically because national statistics cover only the commercial sector, omitting the subsistence economy where the bulk of women’s work is carried out. ‘ Read more…
Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (1999)
Article 88: The State guarantees the equality and equitable treatment of men and women in the exercise of the right to work. The state recognizes work at home as an economic activity that creates added value and produces social welfare and wealth. Housewives are entitled to Social Security in accordance with law.
“Trapped Workers: The Case of Domestic Workers in South Africa”
excerpt from Patriarchy and Class: African Women in the Home and Workforce, Sharon B. Stichter and Jane L. Parpart, eds. Boulder & London: Westview Press, pp. 205-219, 
In addition to lessening their employer’s sense of social isolation at the cost of exacerbating their own, many domestic servants take considerable responsibility for the care of their employer’s children.
She gets the children up in the morning, gives them their breakfast, walks the youngest to nursery school, has our lunch ready for us when we return.
This responsibility for child care involves one of the central contradictions in the institution of domestic servants. Several servants interviewed stressed that they had to look after two families and neglect their own in the process.
We leave our children early in the morning to look after other women’s families and still they don’t appreciate us.
We have to leave our children and look after our madam’s children. We have not time to look after them when they are sick.
It is black women who suffer most from the neglect of creches by the state. Furthermore, black women generally and domestic servants specifically are most vulnerable to dismissal on the grounds of pregnancy (Cook et al, 1983). One respondent said that the employment of domestic servants explained “why white people’s children don’t grow up criminals. It is not from having everything they need, but having nannies who watch them every minute of the day and instill discipline.” Often the person looking after the servant’s children is a daughter who is kept out of school to do so. This perpetuates a vicious circle of povety, inadequate child care and interrupted education among blacks’ children (especially females) while white children benefit from the attention of two mothers.
Molyneux has emphasized that it is the work of child care which “is of the most benefit to the capitalist state” (Molyneux 1979, p. 25). Child care is expensive if it emphasizes child development rather than custodial care. Therefore in advanced capitalist societies “the only large scale possibility that could bring about the socialization of child care would be for the state to expand its provision” (CSE 1975, p. 14). But state organized institutions for the reproduction of labor power are financed by state expropriation of surplus value. Thus since the state provision of childcare centers, kindergartens and creches would add to capital’s costs for reproducing the labor force, this would only be likely to occur in a period of rapid capital accumulation and consequent increased productivity. In such a situation capital would gain from releasing women for wage labor, because that would expand the labor force producing surplus value. But in South Africa the availability of cheap, black domestic labor creates this flexibility, and women can easily be incorporated or expelled from the labor force according to the pace of capital accumulation. Hence this is not a demand likely to be made on the state by the white working class.
“Taking Care: Migration and the Political Economy of Affective Labor”
Sandro Mezzadra (Dipartimento di Politica, Istituzioni, Storia – Università di Bologna)
Goldsmiths University of London – Center for the Study of Invention and Social Process (CSISP) March 16th 2005 [PDF]
a) As a starting point for my presentation I would like to take a very particular figure, that is the caretaker (badante). It seems that this neologism, which has been recently introduced in the Italian public discourse and legislation (with the creation of privileged paths of regularization for caretakers themselves), expresses the awareness of the fact that there is a particular sector of the labor market – the care labor market – which is becoming increasingly important in European and Western societies, and that this sector is dominantly, if not exclusively, occupied by migrants. I think that the semantic shift from domestic work to caretaking labor is significant from many points of view. On the one hand, it refers to structural transformations in our societies, such as change in family structure and gender roles, and aging; on the other hand, it can open up a more general discussion on the fact that “care”, in the meaning of an attention which is rooted in a certain kind of sociability and is therefore given for free, is increasingly becoming something rare, unusual. Only something rare, indeed, needs to be purchased on the market and is therefore bound to be commoditized. “Caretakers” are in this sense indeed very specific and peculiar figures within the contemporary composition of living labor, but they share at the same time – on a very abstract level of analysis, of course – a set of characteristics which are increasingly becoming constitutive of labor. On the one hand, this is a point which can be made in regard to other subject positions within labor market, which are themselves increasingly occupied by migrants (and predominantly migrant women) in Europe and in the West: I think of sex workers, but also of the women who sell a very particular kind of “services” – that is, the services of being good wives. On the other hand, if we take a look at the discussion on postfordism, one cannot escape the impression that the affective supplement which seems to be implied by the concept of caretaker is going to become a key feature of labor in general, with the consequence that the boundary itself between labor and life, but also between commodity and not-commodity is being blurred. Read more…
Housewives’ trade union Santa Fe, Argentina
Off Our Backs, Mar/Apr 2002
The people of Argentina have undergone severe economic and political shocks in the past few months. The government has frozen all bank accounts and people cannot withdraw their money. This is particularly severe in Argentina because people don’t tend to use credit cards.
There have been popular protests in response. Two governments resigned because of the protests and Argentina had three presidents within one week. However, bank accounts are still frozen. In addition, the government has said that the money in the accounts, when people can withdraw it, will be available only in pesos, which are worth less than dollars, even though many people had saved the money in dollars.
In the face of the increasingly serious situation of our people, we feel we have the responsibility and also the renewed hope for our voices to be heard. Here is our proposal.
-Sindicato de Amas de Casa Read more…