“Human Capital or Toxic Asset: After the Wage”
Reartikulacija, 2010. [link]
This is a sequence of reflections on affirmation and negation, on identification and severance: determinate negation as strategic affirmation, the identification of concrete universals and severance from a defunct relation. These lines will be explored with reference to the current situation of the waged and unwaged working class, most proximately in Britain, as “debt” becomes the ideological white noise and the practical horizon of all social and political imagination. Household indebtedness is confused with the state deficit in the spontaneous ideology of the Conservative austerity agenda, as what remains of the crisis-riddled economy is sacrificed to the “debt” – as poor people to loan sharks, so Britain to the bond investors. The nationalist narrative of “we’re all in this together” eliminates any space for discussion as to who might bear greater responsibility for the crisis, and who should be paying for it. The announced cuts make it all too clear – it’s the bloated public sector and welfare payments which are responsible, and those that have the least shall have even that taken away, as the Biblical parable goes. Yet a fatalistic consensus prevails for now, transfixed by a menace beyond dispute: the “debt.” Read more…
“Just Do It! Bodies and Images of Women in the New Division of Labor”
“Representation needs to be contextualized from several points. The representation of texts and images does not reflect the world as a mirror, mere translation of its sources, but is rather remodeled, coded in rhetorical terms. (…) Representation may be understood as a visible formal ‘articulation’ of social order “.
Griselda Pollock, Vision and Difference, 1994
WORK> NON WORK: REDEFINITIONS FROM FEMINISM
“What do you do? What is your occupation?” Although every day we all reply quite easily to this apparently simple question, if we stop and carefully think what is our interlocutor demanding, we conclude that, in fact, what he/she really wants to know is the job we have or the activity or activities we make for a living and does not expect us at all to enumerate the wide range of actions, relations and productions that we unfold throughout the day.
Defining work and its limits in abstract terms at the present time, where the times and locations of production became blurred and extended, is not an easy task. However, experiencing its consequences on our bodies seems to be less complicated, especially if we consider a definition of work that goes beyond the economistic view (whether neoclassical or Marxist) and, especially, if we understand our sustainment of a daily life and our daily incorporation of personalities and social actions as spaces and (re)productive efforts. Everything that tires, that occupies, that disciplines and stresses our body, but also everything that constructs it, that takes care of it, that gives it pleasure and maintains it, is work. Read more…
“The Battle of all* Mothers (or: No Unauthorised Reproduction)”
Well Jeff, … the fact is that you have the luxury of knowing that you will never ever ever ever EVER be faced with the government bossing you around like a child, simply because you have a parasite living in your body.
– The Law Fairy, Feministing.com
By now people have forgotten what history has proven: that ‘raising’ a child is tantamount to retarding his development. The best way to raise a child is to LAY OFF.
– Shulamith Firestone, The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution, 1970
In what follows I wish to consider the effects of recent UK health and social policies on women and their children who are labelled ‘at risk’. Read more…
“Colonization and Housewifization”
Chapter Three, Patriarchy and Capital Accumulation on a World Scale: Women in the International Division of Labour, 1986. [PDF]
The Dialectics of ‘Progress and Retrogression’
On the basis of the foregoing analysis, it is possible to formulate a tentative thesis which will guide my further discussion.
The historical development of the division of labour in general, and the sexual division of labour in particular, was/is not an evolutionary and peaceful process, based on the ever-progressing development of productive forces (mainly technology) and specialization, but a violent one by which first certain categories of men, later certain peoples, were able mainly by virtue of arms and warfare to establish an exploitative relationship between themselves and women, and other peoples and classes.
Within such a predatory mode of production, which is intrinsically patriarchal, warfare and conquest become the most ‘productive’ modes of production. The quick accumulation of material wealth – not based on regular subsistence work in one’s own community, but on looting and robbery – facilitates the faster development of technology in those societies which are based on conquest and warfare. This technological development, however, again is not oriented principally towards the satisfaction of subsistence needs of the community as a whole, but towards further warfare, conquest and accumulation. The development of arms and transport technology has been a driving force for technological innovation in all patriarchal societies, but particularly in the modem capitalist European one which has conquered and subjected the whole world since the fifteenth century. The concept of ‘progress’ which emerged in this particular patriarchal civilization is historically unthinkable without the one-sided development of the technology of warfare and conquest. All subsistence technology (for conservation and production of food, clothes and shelter, etc.) henceforth appears to be ‘backward’ in comparison to the ‘wonders’ of the modern technology of warfare and conquest (navigation, the compass, gunpowder, etc.). Read more…
from Chapter Two, When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America. 1996 edition; first published 1984. [PDF]
In its infancy, slavery was particularly harsh. Physical abuse, dismemberment, and torture were common to an institution that was far from peculiar to its victims. Partly as a result, in the eighteenth century, slave masters did not underestimate the will of their slaves to rebel, even their female slaves. Black women proved especially adept at poisoning their masters, a skill undoubtedly imported from Africa. Incendiarism was another favorite method; it required neither brute physical strength nor direct confrontation. But Black women used every means available to resist slavery—as men did—and if caught were punished as harshly. Read more…
Maya Gonzalez and Caitlin Manning, “Political Work with Women and as Women in the Present Conditions: Interview with Silvia Federici”
“Political Work with Women and as Women in the Present Conditions: Interview with Silvia Federici”
Maya Gonzalez and Caitlin Manning
Reclamations #3, Dec. 2010. [link]
Maya Gonzalez and Caitlin Manning: You have written about university struggles in the context of neo-liberal restructuring. Those struggles responded to attempts to enclose the knowledge commons. Do you see the university struggles of the last years as a continuation of the struggles against the enclosure of knowledge? Or as something new? Has the economic crisis altered in some fundamental way the context of university struggles?
Silvia Federici: I see the students’ mobilization that has been mounting on the North American campuses, especially in California, as part of a long cycle of struggle against the neo-liberal restructuring of the global economy and the dismantling of public education that began in the mid-1980s in Africa and Latin America, and is now spreading to Europe—as the recent student revolt in London demonstrated. At stake, in each case, has been more than resistance to the “enclosure of knowledge.” The struggles of African students in the 1980s and 1990s were particularly intense because students realized that the drastic university budget cuts the World Bank demanded signaled the end of the “social contract” that had shaped their relation with the state in the post-independence period, making education the key to social advancement and participatory citizenship. They also realized, especially on hearing World Bankers argue that “Africa has no need for universities,” that behind the cuts a new international division of work was rearticulated that re-colonized African economies and devalued African workers’ labor.
In the US as well, the gutting of public higher education over the last decade must be placed in a social context where in the aftermath of globalization companies can draw workers from across the world, instituting precarity as a permanent condition of employment, and enforcing constant re-qualifications. The financial crisis compounds the university crisis, projecting economic trends in the accumulation process and the organization of work that confront students with a state of permanent subordination and continuous destruction of the knowledge acquired as the only prospect for the future. In this sense, today’s students’ struggles are less aimed at defending public education than at changing the power relations with capital and the state and re-appropriating their lives. Read more…
“Health and Hospitals”
Chapter 9, The Young Lords: A Reader. Edited by Darrel Enck-Wanzer, NYU Press, 2010.
Adequate health care for the poor was one of the chief demands of the Young Lords. Faced with a health-care crisis on various fronts, the Young Lords (together with the Health Revolutionary Unity Movement) started lead poisoning and tuberculosis testing programs, took over Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx, and demanded equal treatment of all Third World peoples. Articles in this chapter cover the principles of their health program, describe the theoretical and historical rationales used in advancing their arguments, and document specific health initiatives the Young Lords launched in their communities.
Ten Point Health Program
(From the newspaper Young Lords Organization, January 1970, volume 1, number 5)
We want total self-determination of all health service at East Harlem, (El Barrio) through an incorporated community-staff governing board for Metropolitan Hospital. (Staff is anyone and everyone working in Metropolitan, except administrators.)
We want immediate replacement of all Lindsay and Terenzio administrators by community and staff-appointed people whose practice has demonstrated their commitment to serve our poor community.
We demand an immediate end to construction of the new emergency room until the Metropolitan Hospital Community-Staff’ Governing Board inspects and approves them or authorizes new plans.
We want employment for our people. All jobs filled in El Barrio must be filled by residents first, using on-the-job training and other educational opportunities as bases for service and promotions.
We want free publicly supported health care for treatment and prevention
We want an end to all fees.
We want total decentralization of health — block health officers responsible to the Community-Staff Board should be instituted.
We want “door-to-door” preventative health services emphasizing environmental and sanitation control, nutrition, drug addiction, maternal and child care and senior citizen services.
We want total control by the Metropolitan Hospital Community-Staff Governing Board of budget allocations, medical policy, along the above points, hiring and firing and salaries of employees, construction and health code enforcement.
Any community, union, or workers organization must support all the points of this program and work and fight for them or be shown as what they are-enemies of the poor people of East Harlem
POWER TO THE PEOPLE!
QUE VIVA EL BARRIO! FREE PUERTO RICO NOW!
New York State Chapter
Young Lords Organization Read more…
Kevin Van Meter, “The Moment I Cannot Escape: Care, Death, Mourning, and the Struggle Against It All”
Riding the N train home to Brooklyn from a temp job in midtown Manhattan in early December, I find myself standing in a crowded car looking on at an elderly couple sitting before me. Exhausted from the day, I forego reading to people-watch and listen to a new album, deciding to give it another chance after seeing the band perform it live. I come across a lyric that intertwines with this scene: “Always reaching for her / Always breathing for her / Lifting his hand to the sky / Slow change might bring / Holy tears”.
Within a few moments it is clear to me that the gentleman is caring for the woman, who is quite ill. He holds her trembling hand, gives her sips of water as he touches her cheeks and brow to check for an elevated temperature. Towards the end of the ride, he coaxes her to take a few brightly colored pills, which she has trouble getting down.
Immediately, I can see the affect in his eyes and his movements, the pride joined with need in hers, and the relationship of care between them. I recognize this quite clearly because – from early May, when her condition worsened, until end of July, when she passed into the unknown – I was caring for my partner, best friend and constant companion in a similar way. As it was with this couple on the train, just a few months earlier, it was with her and I.
The Moment I Cannot Escape: Care, Death, Mourning and the Struggle Against It All explores three chronological periods in my life, and the life and passing of my partner, as it flows from caring for her into her passing, and then into the impossible grief and mourning that follows. While this is immensely personal[,] it intersects with a set of political realities – the imposition and discipline of capital and the state-apparatus, as well as forms of life and methods of struggle – that I will explore through my story, hers and the community that surrounds us both. But before all this there is a moment, one that I cannot escape, and it serves as the pivot in these periods I will describe. Read more…
“Women’s Autonomy and Remuneration for Care Work in the New Emergencies”
Mariarosa Dalla Costa
This paper has been presented at the international Conference on: “La
autonomia posible” (The Possible Autonomy). Universidad Autonoma de la
Ciudad de Mexico, October 24-25-26, 2006. It has been translated from Italian into
English by Silvia Federici.
Every construction of autonomy has its own history that evolves in a specific context
and must face specific obstacles and battles. Yesterday I mentioned the first stages of
this history through the initiatives of that feminist movement in which I directly
participated—initiatives necessary for women to regain the availability of their body.
I have also recalled how, on a planetary level, this battle is far from being concluded.
Here I would like to consider other aspects of this history, starting again from the
initial moments of that political experience, to assess what is the relation between
women and autonomy today with respect to some emergent problems, and also to
ask, in relation to the latter, what has happened to both the demand that housework
(or care work) be remunerated and to women’s economic autonomy. Read more…
“Sonogram of a Potential” [echographie d'une puissance]
Tiqqun #2 [PDF]
What hinges on something defends it.
When I was born, my mother still didn’t know what gender her child was.
A nurse came into the room she was lying in, half asleep after a long labor, and said to her:
“Madam, you have suffered a disgrace. It’s a girl.”
That’s how she was told of my birth.
F., born in Naples, 1975 Read more…
“The Megalosaurus” (excerpt)
Excerpt from Karl Marx: A Life, p. 169-177
His living conditions might have been expressly designed to keep him from lapsing into contentment. The furniture and fittings in the two-room apartment were all broken, tattered or torn, with a half-inch of dust over everything. In the middle of the front living room, overlooking Dean Street, was a big table covered with an oil cloth, on which lay Marx’s manuscripts, books and newspapers, as well as the children’s toys, rags and scraps from his wife’s sewing basket, several cups with broken rims, knives, forks, lamps, an inkpot, tumblers, Dutch clay pipes and a thick veneer of tobacco ash. Even finding somewhere to sit was fraught with peril. ‘Here is a chair with only three legs, on another chair the children have been playing at cooking – this chair happens to have four legs,’ a guest reported. ‘This is the one which is offered to the visitor, but the children’s cooking has not been wiped away; and if you sit down, you risk a pair of trousers.’
One of the few Prussian police spies who gained admission to this smoke-filled cavern was shocked by Marx’s chaotic habits:
He leads the existence of a real bohemian intellectual. Washing, grooming and changing his linen are things he does rarely, and he likes to get drunk. Though he is often idle for days on end, he will work day and night with tireless endurance when he has a great deal of work to do. He has no fixed times for going to sleep and waking up. He often stays up all night, and then lies down fully clothed on the sofa at midday and sleeps till evening, untroubled by the comings and goings of the whole world.
Marx’s reluctance to go to bed seems eminently reasonable, since his whole menage – including the housekeeper, Helene “Lenchen” Demuth – had to sleep in one small room in the back of the building. How Karl and Jenny ever found the time or privacy for procreation remains a mystery; one assumes that they seized their chances while Lenchen was out taking the children for a walk. With Jenny ill and Karl preoccupied, the task of preserving any semblance of domestic order fell entirely on their servant. ‘Oh, if you knew how much I am longing for you and the little ones,’ Jenny wrote to Karl during her fruitless expedition to Holland in 1850. ‘I know that you and Lenchen will take care of them. Without Lenchen I would not have peace of mind here.’ Read more…
Silvia Federici, “The reproduction of labour-power in the global economy, Marxist theory and the unfinished feminist revolution”
“The reproduction of labour-power in the global economy, Marxist theory and the unfinished feminist revolution”
Reading for Jan. 27, 2009 UC Santa Cruz seminar “The Crisis of Social Reproduction and Feminist Struggle”
Women’s work and women’s labor are buried deeply in the heart of the capitalist social and economic structure.
(David Staples, No Place Like Home, 2006)
It is clear that capitalism has led to the super-exploitation of women. This would not offer much consolation if it had only meant heightened misery and oppression, but fortunately it has also provoked resistance. And capitalism has become aware that if it completely ignores or suppresses this resistance it might become more and more radical, eventually turning into a movement for self-reliance and perhaps even the nucleus of a new social order. (Robert Biel, The New Imperialism, 2000)
The emerging liberative agent in the Third World is the unwaged force of women who are not yet disconnected from the life economy by their work. They serve life not commodity production. They are the hidden underpinning of the world economy and the wage equivalent of their life-serving work is estimate at &16 trillion.” (John McMurtry, The Cancer State of Capitalism, 1999)
The pestle has snapped because of so much pounding tomorrow I will go home.
Until tomorrow Until tomorrow… Because of so much pounding Tomorrow I will go home.
(Hausa Women’s Song, from Nigeria)
This essay is a political reading of the restructuring of the [re]production of labor-power in the global economy, but it is also a feminist critique of Marx that, in different ways, has been developing since the 1970s, first articulated by activists in the Campaign for Wages For Housework, especially Selma James, Mariarosa Dalla Costa, Leopoldina Fortunati, among others, and later by the feminists of the Bielefeld school, Maria Mies, Claudia Von Werlhof, Veronica Benholdt-Thomsen. (1) At the center of this critique is the argument that Marx’s analysis of capitalism has been hampered by its almost exclusive focus on commodity production and its blindness to the significance of women’s unpaid reproductive work and the sexual division of labor in capitalist accumulation. (2) For ignoring this work has limited Marx’s understanding of the mechanisms perpetuating the exploitation of labor, and led him to assume that capitalist development is both inevitable and progressive, on the assumption that scarcity is an obstacle to human selfdetermination, but capital’s expansion of the forces of production, through large scale industrialization, would in time lead to its transcendence. Marx had apparently second thoughts on this matter in the later years of his life. As for us, a century and a half after the publication of Capital, we must challenge this view for at least three reasons. Read more…
“Capitalism and Reproduction”
Mariarosa Dalla Costa
Chapter 2, Bonefeld, W., Holloway, J., Psychopedis, K. (ed.),Open Marxism – vol. 3: Emancipating Marx. 1995 [PDF]
This Chapter was presented at the seminar ‘Women’s Unpaid Labour and the
World System’, organised by the Japan Foundation, 8 April 1994, Tokyo, as
part of the Foundation’s ‘European Women’s Study Tour for Environmental
The sphere of reproduction today reveals all the original sins of the capitalist
mode of production. Reproduction must be viewed, of course, from a planetary
perspective, with special attention being paid to the changes that are taking
place in wide sectors of the lower social strata in advanced capitalism as well
as in an increasing proportion of the Third World population. We live in a
planetary economy, and capitalist accumulation still draws its life-blood for
its continuous valorisation from waged as well as unwaged labour, the latter
consisting first of all of the labour involved in social reproduction, 1 in the
advanced as well as the Third World countries.
We find that social ‘misery’ or ‘unhappiness’ which Marx2 considered to
be the ‘goal of the political economy’ has largely been realised everywhere.
But, setting aside the question of happiness for the time being – though
certainly not to encourage the myth of its impossibility – let me stress how
incredible it now seems, Marxist analysis apart, to claim that capitalist development
in some way brings a generalised wellbeing to the planet.
Social reproduction today is more beset and overwhelmed than ever by the
laws of capitalist accumulation: the continual and progressive expropriation
(from the ‘primitive’ expropriation of the land as a means of production, which
dates from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries in England, to the expropriation,
then as now, of all the individual and collective rights that ensure
subsistence); the continual division of society into conflictual hierarchies (of
class, sex, race and nationality, which pit the free waged worker against the
unfree unwaged worker, against the unemployed worker, and the slave
labourer); the constant production of inequality and uncertainty (with the
woman as reproducer facing an even more uncertain fate in comparison to
any waged worker and, if she is also member of a discriminated race or nation,
she suffers yet deeper discrimination); the continual polarisation of the
production of wealth (which is more and more concentrated) and the production
of poverty (which is increasingly widespread). Read more…
“Towards an Insurrectionary Transfeminism”
a note on gender This essay deals with the discursive and material histories of people I refer to as “trans women,” which I broadly define as anyone not assigned-female at birth who experiences their bodies as female, lives their gender in a way that could be taken as female, and/or identifies as woman/trans-female-spectrum/transfeminine. I rather begrudgingly use this term with a degree of hesitance as it certainly erases the complexities of my gender experience, but I aim to broadly relate to those who have been coercively assigned a gender category other than Woman but who still inherit much of the legacy of such a category.
Towards an Insurrectionary Transfeminism
Trans people remain strangers and outcasts within much of the contemporary discourses of insurrectionary feminism. Essays about “male-bodied” perpetrators of sexual assault and “socialized men and women” seem to leave much to be analyzed about the ways in which trans people have historically related the functioning of gender systems and the development of capitalism as a system. It is in this context that we discursively intervene with that which we might term insurrectionary trans-feminism, an analysis which distinctively analyzes the ways in which trans bodies relate to the legacy of capitalism and the possibilities of living communism and spreading anarchy. In order to imagine the possibilities of subversion, however, we must first recognize the historical relations of capitalism to the formulation of the trans subject.
The relation between capitalism and the trans subject is a contentious one. While many theorists such as Leslie Feinberg have sought to piece together a universal, ahistorical narrative of trans people throughout history across the world, we see such a task as ultimately failing to take into account the precise economic and social conditions which gave rise to each specific instance of gender variance. Gender nonconformity is not a stable or coherent phenomenon which appears in history due to the same conditions, rather it contextually can have a multiplicity of meanings.
While it could certainly be useful to analyze the ways in which capitalism has instituted binary-based gender systems as a means to organize reproductive labor in colonial contexts with different gender systems, for the purposes of this essay we will begin with the notion of the transsexual in context of the early 20th century United States, where the first narratives of transsexuality began to appear. These narratives are intimately tied to the rise of capitalist ventures in experimental medical procedures which gave rise to the the first forms of gender reassignment surgery. By the 1950s, transsexuality had gained public attention in the United States with gender reassignment surgery of Christine Jorgensen. Jorgensen’s narrative, as some narratives just twenty years before her, became a model for the transsexual identity narrative, in which the subject feels that she is in the “wrong body” and that surgery has made her feel whole and relieved the immense feeling of body dysphoria now that she is a real woman. It is in this narrative that we find the experiences of gender dysphoria taking shape to define a concrete subject position of “trans.” By this we do not mean to imply that trans identity is based upon a particular form of body modification or access to medical technology, but rather that these early narratives of trans experience are foundational in the ways in which trans identity has grown, whether in the broadening terms of constituting a political “trans community” on the basis of sharing a feeling of dysphoria or the emergence of genderqueer as a politicized subjectivity which has become delight of postmodernism.
At the same time, as capital has created the ability for trans individuals to modify their bodies in the ways that they see fit, it has also, with biomedical and psychological apparatuses, proliferated the means by which to discipline the trans body. Two of the most notable apparatuses to this effect are the Standards of Care, which enforced rigorous standards of femininity and passibility as a necessary first step towards access to medical technologies of transition, as well as the “charm schools” which accompanied many GID clinics which sought to properly resocialize trans women as “proper ladies” with manners, grace, and all of the feminine wiles of “natural women.” The trans subject’s desires are easily molded into that which can be profitable to capitalism, whether it is countless sessions of laser hair removal sessions, gender reassignment surgeries, or hormone therapy. That is, trans subjectivity is bound to the conditions of capitalism and disciplinary techniques which have given rise to it.
We deploy these words carefully, however, as we also recognize the ways in which “radicals” and “feminists” have deployed the very same as a means of constructing trans women as capitalist-created penetrators of vanity and artificial artifacts of femininity. Yet the constructedness of the trans subject is no more tied to the history of capitalism and domination than the constructedness of woman as an identity, or the constructedness of racialized identities. And as trans people, we feel this in the corporeality forcibly pushed onto us in an attempt to render us intelligible, to use the state of our bodies to comprehend our gender. We feel our bodies outweigh our chosen identities when we interact with others and do not pass. As trans *women*, as we experience the legacy of trans subjectivity within capitalism, we also feel the weight of the corporeality of women in capitalism crush our existences. We experience the gendered division of labor every time we are raped and beaten and condescended to and treated as a hot she-male sex toy. Yet it is in this experience that we might see the possibilities of human strike for the trans woman.
Trans women experience corporeality in a unique way. While capital hopes to continue to use the female body as proletarian machine to reproduce labor-power, trans women’s bodies cannot produce more workers. Perhaps in valorizing this inoperability in reproduction, and willfully extending it to all forms of reproductive labor, we see the potentiality of human strike. Ways of extending this remain to be seen, but in this affront to capitalist-produced nature and matrices of heteronormativity which are crucial to the functioning of capitalism, we see the kinship between the human strike of trans women and the creation of a non-reproductive, purely negative queer force. It seems that the trans woman too has no future, and thus through the building of this negative force might have a stake in wrecking everything and abolishing herself in the process. In any case, we do not have the answers that will render society inoperable, that will end the reproduction of this world. An insurrectionary transfeminist force has yet to be materialized, and it is up to us to make this a reality.
gender strike is human strike,
“The Restructuring of Social Reproduction in the United States in the 1970s”
the commoner N. 11 Spring 2006
The following is the text of a paper that Silvia Federici wrote in 1980 for a
Conference convened by the Centro Studi Americani in Roma on “The Economic
Policies of Female Labor in Italy and the United States.” The Conference was
held in Rome on December 9-11, 1980 and was co-sponsored by the German
Marshall Fund of the United States.
New York, (1980)
“If women wish the position of the wife to have the honor which they attach to
it, they will not talk about the value of their services and about stated incomes,
but they will live with their husbands in the spirit of the vow of the English
marriage service, taking them ‘for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in
sickness and in health, to love, honor, obey.’ This is to be a wife.” – New York
Times, August 10th, 1876: “Wives’ Wages”
“The most valuable of all social capital is that invested in human beings and of
that capital the most precious part is the result of the care and influence of the
mother, so long as she retains her tender and unselfish instincts.” – Alfred
Marshall, Principles of Economics (1890).
While it is generally recognized that the dramatic expansion of the female
labor force is possibly the most important social phenomenon of the 1970s,
uncertainty still prevails among economists as to its origins. Technological
advancement in the home, the reduction of family size and the growth of the service
sector are offered as likely causes of this trend. Yet, it is also argued that these factors
may be an effect of women’s entering the labor force and that looking for a cause
would lead us in a vicious circle, a “what comes first, the chicken or the egg”
problem. As this paper claims, the uncertainty among economists stems from their
failure to recognize that the dramatic increase of the female labor force in the 1970s
reflects women’s refusal to function as unwaged workers in the home, catering to the
reproduction of the national work force. In fact, what goes under the name of
“homemaking” is (to use Gary Becker’s expression) a “productive consumption”
process,1 producing and reproducing “human capital,” or in the words of Alfred
Marshall, the laborer’s “general ability” to work.2 Social planners have often
recognized the importance of this work for the economy. Yet, as Becker points out,
the productive consumption that takes place in the home has had a “bandit like
existence in economic thought.”3 For the fact that this work is not waged, in a
society where work and wages are synonyms, makes it invisible as work, to the point
that the services it provides are not included in the Gross National Product (GNP)
and the providers are absent from the calculations of the national labor force. Read more…
“Right of Death and Power over Life”
Part five, The History of Sexuality, Vol. I, 1978. [PDF]
For a long time, one of the characteristic privileges of sovereign power was the right to decide life and death. In a formal sense, it derived no doubt from the ancient patria potestas that granted the father of the Roman family the right to “dispose” of the life of his children and his slaves; just as he had given them life, so he could take it away. By the time the right of life and death was framed by the classical theoreticians, it was in a considerably diminished form. It was no longer considered that this power of the sovereign over his subjects could be exercised in an absolute and unconditional way, but only in cases where the sovereign’s very existence was in jeopardy: a sort of right of rejoinder. If he were threatened by external enemies who sought to overthrow him or contest his rights, he could then legitimately wage war, and require his subjects to take part in the defense of the state; without “directly proposing their death,” he was empowered to “expose their life”: in this sense, he wielded an “indirect” power over them of life and death. But if someone dared to rise up against him and transgress his laws, then he could exercise a direct power over the offender’s life: as punishment, the latter would be put to death. Viewed in this way, the power of life and death was not an absolute privilege: it was conditioned by the defense of the sovereign, and his own survival. Must we follow Hobbes in seeing it as the transfer to the prince of the natural right possessed by every individual to defend his life even if this meant the death of others? Or should it be regarded as a specific right that was manifested with the formation of that new juridical being, the sovereign? In any case, in its modern form-relative and limited-as in its ancient and absolute form, the right of life and death is a dis symmetrical one. The sovereign exercised his right of life only by exercising his right to kill, or by refraining from killing; he evidenced his power over life only through the death he was capable of requiring. The right which was formulated as the “power of life and death” was in reality the right to take life or let live. Its symbol, after all, was the sword. Perhaps this juridical form must be referred to a historical type of society in which power was exercised mainly as a means of deduction (prelevement), a subtraction mechanism, a right to appropriate a portion of the wealth, a tax of products, goods and services, labor and blood, levied on the subjects. Power in this instance was essentially a right of seizure: of things, time, bodies, and ultimately life itself; it culminated in the privilege to seize hold of life in order to suppress it. Read more…
“Life without father and Ford: the new gender order of post-Fordism”
Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, New Series, Vol. 16, No. 4, pp.
400-419. 1991. (PDF)
The coincidence of a set of economic changes in new industrial areas in advanced capitalist societies has initiated a tremendous debate about the features of post-Fordism, flexible accumulation and new industrial spaces. While the distinguishing features of the new production methods and the new industrial geography are widely debated, far less attention has been paid to gender divisions. This paper examines the assumptions made about gender relations in variants of restructuring theory, draws out the similarities and differences between these and socialist-feminist theory and argues that both sets of theories rely on a particular view about the relationship between the spheres of production and reproduction. Despite the assumed marginality of women’s labour in conventional approaches to restructuring and its centrality in the work influenced by feminist theory, it is argued here that both perspectives misconstrue current changes. A new gender order is emerging with post-Fordism. Read more…
“Precarious Labor and Reproductive Work”
excerpt from “Precarious labor: A feminist viewpoint” lecture 
Another criticism I have against the precarious labor theory is that it presents itself as gender neutral. It assumes that the reorganization of production is doing away with the power relations and hierarchies that exist within the working class on the basis of rage, gender and age, and therefore it is not concerned with addressing these power relations; it does not have the theoretical and political tools to think about how to tackle them. There is no discussion in Negri, Virno and Hardt of how the wage has been and continues to be used to organize these divisions and how therefore we must approach the wage struggle so that it does not become an instrument of further divisions, but instead can help us undermined them. To me this is one of the main issues we must address in the movement. Read more…
“Production and Reproduction”
Chapter Eight, Marx and Other Four-Letter Words (2005)
My starting point in this chapter is the classic Marxist theory of
historical materialism: the idea that the basis of human society,
the key to understanding its history and future potential, lies in
the production and reproduction of material life. While accepting
the value of this approach, I also use feminist theory to argue that
‘malestream’ theorists have interpreted production and reproduction
in unhelpfully narrow ways to produce an analysis which is not only
male based but also male biased. I argue in favour of an expanded
notion of (re)production that includes the socially necessary work
disproportionately performed by women; I conclude that without
such an expansion we can neither understand existing society nor
develop effective strategies for changing it. Read more…