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Alisa Del Re, “Women and Welfare: Where Is Jocasta?”

November 8, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

“Women and Welfare: Where Is Jocasta?”

Alisa Del Re

Chapter Seven, Radical Thought in Italy. Michael Hardt and Paolo Virno, eds.

In the Oedipus myth, Oedipus’s body and his desires significantly contribute to
the making of the individual’s free will, his autonomy as well as the relationship
between knowledge and will. Yet the other body at stake, that of his mother, Jocasta,
is hardly visible. We know nothing about her, neither her desires, nor her guilt,
nor whether she is self-aware.1 She is the Mother, unself-conscious and loving, and
nothing is said about her concerns, her aspirations, and her needs. She has no desire:
in Oedipus’s drama she endures and disappears. Not even Freud is interested in
Jocasta, and in his interpretation of the Oedipus myth he disingenuously disregards
the mother, who must have certainly suffered, as well as felt emotions and
desires. The relationship between mother and son is so asymmetrical, and the interpretation
of their desires so incommensurable, that in both the myth and contemporary
psychoanalytic interpretations of it, we are presented with a mutilated reading
of the situation. The Oedipus myth thus stands as the most blatant emblem of
the phallocentric bias of an interpretation that claims to be “scientific.” This type
of reading denies the question of sexual difference as it is inscribed in the story and
refuses to acknowledge Jocasta as a constitutive element of both reality and the formation
of thought.

As of today, things have not really changed. In a recent issue of
the French journal Sciences Humaines, a long series of articles proposed that the
human sciences are founded on a few constantly reformulated themes, questions,
and myths that continue to fuel research in the humanities.2 The articles do not
take into account, as a crucial fact, the question of sexual difference. None of the
pieces in the collection acknowledges that the object of analysis, the human being,
is gendered, that gender is instrumental for the human being’s social constitution,
or that gender concerns and informs the categories of race, class, and ethnicity. The
fact that sexual difference does not invest only one minority, to which fundamental
issues can be referred, but rather is per se a fundamental issue is never mentioned
at all. The question of sexual difference is thus emptied of meaning in the name of
a subject who, in the symbolic order of the researcher, is imagined as masculine
and in the name of a society whose power and organizational structures are founded
on this subject. To think the difference between man and woman as incommensurable
and asymmetrical implies an interpretation of reality and of the production
of discourse that acknowledges sexual difference as the foundation of social reality.
This difference constitutes a necessary value, capable of producing change; as such,
it represents a tool of analysis superior to the current paradigms of research. It is
worth stressing that we are not dealing with the mere task of “adding” women here
and there in our studies; such a move would only have the effect of assimilating a
new element within an unchanging symbolic order. Feminist discourse in the social
sciences has already offered suggestions and pointed to new directions for an analysis
that could confer meaning and human value upon the real.3

The inclusion of sexual difference in the scientific analysis of
social phenomena dramatically brings to the fore an often forgotten question, that
of the social and private, material, and psychological reproduction of individuals.
For women, the continual alternation between reproduction and productive labor,
between emancipation and traditional female roles, implies a change in their interpretation
of reality as well as in their way of organizing their lives. The unilateralism
of traditional parameters of interpretation (such as the exploitation of waged
labor, State control, and capitalist crisis and development) clashes with more complex
visions of transformation. If we accept (1) that to see oneself as gendered implies
the notion of a “social construction” founded on the relationship between gendered
subjects, (2) that such a relationship continually and inevitably changes through
time, and (3) that even a crystallized notion of biological difference carries within
itself the promise of at least a spark of social change,4 then the theoretical production
of the feminist movement becomes a cultural tool to show how scientific paradigms,
particularly in the social sciences, are an inadequate basis for an understanding of

It is crucial, therefore, that women’s lives—their existence, their
nature, as well as their activities—become an integral part of philosophical and intellectual
discourse, so that the acknowledgment of female subjectivity, constructed as
it is in multiple symbolic and material loci, can reveal the partiality of a vision of
the world that even today is considered universal.

Welfare, Women, and the State
After the wave of economic liberalism that during the 1980s brought to power in
the United States two Republican administrations (now substituted by Clinton’s
Democratic one), the phrase Welfare State, often uttered in a derogatory tone, came
to signify all public expenditures (for instance, public education and transportation,
public administration salaries, and public health and pensions).5 It should be
clear that the State produces a series of goods and services (such as public transportation)
that have nothing to do with the Welfare State; furthermore, public education
was not born within the sphere of the Welfare State, but as the necessary
means for the secular formation of the emerging industrial bourgeoisie of the capitalist
State.6 Several other public expenses (such as those for defense, public order,
and justice) concern the State in general, and not the Welfare State. Since the 1930s,
management techniques perfunctorily defined as “Keynesian policies” have found
wider and wider application: they have been deployed because of the inadequacy of
laissez-faire theory to provide tools for the management of complex industrial
economies. This is not the Welfare State either. The Welfare State is established
once the secular principle of solidarity is substituted for the religious principle of
charity. The idea is that all citizens have the right to live decently, even when the
events of their lives, starting from unfavorable initial chances, would not allow it.7
Assistance, social security, and public health thus pertain to the Welfare State, and
as such represent a form of income and social services distribution.8 Helga Maria
Hernes talks about two waves of welfare: the first is mainly concerned with the labor
market, and the second involves the sphere of reproduction.9 More clearly stated,
there is a shift from the sphere of the production of goods, where the producers
and the owners of the means of production are guaranteed that they will be able to
continue producing, to the sphere of reproduction, where what is guaranteed and
controlled (without direct links to production but nonetheless aimed at it) is the
reproduction of individuals.

Historically, the reproduction of individuals has been the task
of women. In the Welfare State, the labor of reproduction became the basis of a
specific relation between women and the State. The State is the institution that
historically has regulated the adjustment between the process of accumulation and
the process of social reproduction of the population. Modern States control the conflicts
inherent to the distribution of waged labor, the specific distribution of labor,
and the resources that it entails. In the systems founded on waged labor, the work
of reproduction consists mostly of unpaid domestic labor. Through it the system
can, by taking advantage of the social authority indirectly assured it by the endemic
insecurity of salaries, affirm its control over the perpetuation of the processes of
production and reproduction. The “right” balance between the two processes represents
the condition for the continuity of the process of capitalist accumulation.10
Many institutions and several administrative practices intervene in the social relations
between the sexes, which, in turn, are directly influenced by the interventions
of the Welfare State: for example, the sexual division of labor (which includes the
organization of the work of care and those who perform it), the access to waged
labor (as the access to a central form of regulation in our societies and a means of
survival), marriage, and family relations.

The insecurity of access to the means of survival for citizens has
led the State to assume some direct responsibilities toward the population, particularly
in the case of wage workers, the unemployed, and those who cannot directly
count on salaries.11 The State, however, which has never been neutral toward social
classes, is certainly not neutral in the case of gender. In fact, the State’s control
over women allows it to control the population, a key element in a world of production
in which labor is the most basic commodity. With the welfare system, the State
tolerates that women work more, and that they are poorer and less protected from
the point of view of social security than are men. Although the State has assumed
direct responsibility in relation to the issue of reproduction, its interventions in this
sphere have never meant to substitute but rather only to integrate the family. In
the formulation of any social policy, women are always implicitly expected to do
their domestic duties. The entire welfare system is principally addressed to male
waged workers: in fact, women receive a significantly inferior percentage of its financial
resources, so that the discriminations actually existing in the spheres of waged
labor and domestic labor are perpetuated.12 Even in those countries where the rates
of women’s working for wages are high and public services are widespread — as,
for instance, in the Scandinavian countries — the relation between women and the
State, centered on the domestic labor of reproduction, remains unresolved. The
case of Sweden, exactly because it is an advanced country, shows how difficult it is,
in the family, in the labor market, and in public institutions, to dislodge the conviction
that women are the primary means of social reproduction.13 This said, it is,
however, necessary to add that the terrain of the relationship with the State has, to
all effects, created for women a few possibilities of emancipation from the private
relationship of dependency on male waged labor.

The State has not always been considered an enemy in the strategy
of women’s struggles. Feminism’s “long march” through the institutions is historically
visible in all the European countries: it suffices to mention the long battle
for equal opportunity, which entailed not only the demand for nondiscrimination
in the workplace and in salaries, but also affirmative action (azioni positive), a system
that allowed for consideration of the compatibility of a given job with the work of
reproduction.14 The limit of these battles lies in their being the conditio sine qua non
for obtaining a waged job, and therefore in their aiding women, whose chief task is
the work of reproduction, to adapt to the conditions of waged labor.

The feminist critique of the liberal State and the empty formalism
of the notion of juridical equality, however, has never turned into a full endorsement
of the Welfare State. To its patronizing attitudes feminists have always counterposed
specific demands for raises in income or in the quantity and quality of
social services. In Europe, within the system of social security, these demands have
been accompanied by a pressing general proposal for a substantial system of welfare,
which few understand correctly: women have stopped having children in the
quantities required by demographic plans, thus imposing a life model for themselves
and for the entire society in which they live, so that to the reduced workload
of reproduction corresponds also an improved standard of life.15

An alternative project of welfare was drafted in Italy in 1990,
with a bill supported by popular demand, called “the bill on time.”16 The aim of
this bill was to overcome the sexual division of labor by redistributing equally productive
and domestic labor (not only between the two sexes, but also between society
and the individual subject) and allowing the individual to self-manage her or
his time. This would be an alternative model of development for the entire society:
by taking as its point of departure the question of time and scheduling, it would
also involve the structure of the city, because it would negotiate the functioning of
the spaces where we live. The model has actually been applied as an experiment in
several places.17 The interweaving of production and reproduction in women’s lives
has provoked, in the social sphere of reproduction, the demand for a reduction of
work time.18 In this initiative, which has attracted much interest among women of
all European countries, besides having been proposed by women (and perhaps for
this reason it has been little debated by political parties and not yet discussed in the
Italian Parliament), the most significant element is represented by the lack of any
separation of labor time for the production of goods and services from the time of
reproductive labor. In other words, the entire time of living is taken into account,
and not simply partial temporalities. What is taken into consideration is time to be
managed concretely in the spaces of the everyday. The centrality of the reproduction
of individuals, and therefore the subordination of the workplace and the market
to it, is the founding element of this “universality” proposed by women.

What is needed is more political and theoretical attention to the
situation of women, not only in socioeconomic terms (even though the economic
factor is an important element in the attempt to win autonomy), but also as the
principle of a critique that can help us fight and overcome the bourgeois State and its
mechanisms of exploitation, as well as the limitations of a distributive logic of justice
reproducing the same oppressive and exploitative relationship between men and
women. Explicit reference to women’s problematics could therefore provide new
ideas and new impulses for the analysis and the overcoming of the Welfare State.

Waged Labor, Women, and Welfare

In the film The Fountainhead, Gary Cooper, as an extremely upright architect, cries
out: “A man working for free for other men is a slave.” And what about women?
Women have always supplied their reproductive work to others for free, yet we do
not realize, or we do not want to realize, even when part of this labor is paid, how
much it would cost at full price to the national budget.

The socialization of reproduction operated by the Welfare State
is indeed one way of transforming traditional domestic tasks (such as health care,
hygiene, motherhood, and education). Instead of being organized in the private
sphere, these are now organized by State institutions or are controlled by the State
(aside from the general control of domestic labor within the family). In connection
with this socialization, the transformation of reproduction into a wage-earning activity
is realized with waged jobs concerning the control of the reproduction of individuals,
and explicitly created for women, such as social workers and nurses. This
“professionalization” of reproduction marks a deep transformation of the labor of
reproduction, as well as the entry into the labor market of the specific forms of
women’s work, that is, jobs historically assigned to women.

In all the European Community countries, the sectors of health,
teaching, and what are modestly referred to as “other services,” together with distribution
and food service jobs, in 1991 constituted more than half of the total female
employment (against 28 percent of male employment). In the same year, 94-100
percent of preschool teachers were women; this percentage decreases once we move
toward secondary school teaching, where only 25 percent of teachers were women
in most countries.19 Even though education is not strictly part of the welfare system
(preschool teaching, however, can be considered a social service), we can see that
this system has deepened the sexual division of labor, both vertically (among different
sectors) and horizontally (among different career levels). Yet we must consider
that the service sector was for a long time the only one to have shown a significant
development in terms of numbers of jobs offered to women: it has helped
women to become part of the waged working population. This sexual division of
labor on the one hand has protected women,20 but on the other it has exploited
them, tapping their unacknowledged and therefore underpaid laboring qualities,
expertise, and capabilities.

State intervention in the institution of the family has partially
transferred into the public sphere some of the family’s traditional tasks, such as the
socialization of children, education, health care, and the care of the elderly. As a
result, there has been a professionalization and expansion of these types of work,
which had formerly been organized by the extended family, the church, and the
local communities and performed by women in these social groups. Now women
become customers and employees of the welfare system, and, for free, compensate
its disfunctions both with their unpaid work of care and by feeding into it with competences
and needs that exceed strictly waged labor relations. This creates a reciprocal
dependence between women and the State.

Andre Gorz critiques, but only in a gender-blind perspective,
the formation of a wage society that perpetuates itself by continually monetizing,
professionalizing, and turning into waged labor even the everyday and most elemental
activities of life.21 Gorz forgets, like many other analysts of a welfare system
of the future, that it is not particularly pleasant to perform for oneself and for
others these everyday and elemental activities, for free and often side by side with a
paid job. I must thus propose a gendered reading of the “full employment” society
that he analyzes in order to clarify what the division of labor would be and to whom
the different tasks would be assigned; otherwise, the Utopia of a more equal society,
with the least degree of exploitation possible, would not be realized in the same measure
for the two sexes. On the contrary, such a Utopia would be founded on the
exploitation of women and their unpaid labor of reproduction.

With the loss of jobs produced by economic crisis (in industry,
and above all in the service sectors), women do not necessarily become unemployed.
They exit the labor market and increase the numbers of the inactive, nonworking
population. This process — obligatory layoffs of the female labor force — has never
been considered scandalous. Perhaps some foolish sociologist will say that it is an
individual choice, even though nobody believes so anymore. The other result of
the reduction of female employment manifests itself more explicitly in terms of
unemployment. The situation is difficult, because it does not seem to be likely that
there will be a large development of the services tied to the welfare system, services
that in general absorb this component of the labor force.

The conflict between provisions (the goods and services produced)
and entitlements (the attribution of the rights of access to their use)22 is now
at the core of a debate on the transformations of the welfare system, because it is
clear that to a larger and larger supply of goods corresponds a more and more evident
restriction of the rights of access (entitlements). One of the most recent and
most limited interpretations of the welfare system is the concept of “workfare,”
imported from the United States and now very fashionable in Europe also. Workfare
establishes a correspondence between social rights and assistance and the recipients’
availability to work.23 This method would exclude from the market all the
weak subjects, or those depending on others’ wages; last but not least, it would impose
the entire cost of this “reform” on the unpaid labor of reproduction.

Welfare, Women, and Social Rights

The history of the women’s movement has demonstrated an institutional effect of
the thesis used by feminism to try to make visible the exploitation of women: the private
is public. If this is the case, the legislative and administrative sphere can invade
the sphere of reproduction, the so-called private sphere, through State intervention.
Such intervention has very often assumed the eminent character of social and cultural
policy; that is to say, it has functioned to assimilate and appropriate forms of
experience that have been autonomously produced by the women’s movement. The
act of asking the State to intervene by legislating and administrating in the sphere
of reproduction, the family, and the protection of women as weak subjects in labor
relations has certainly assumed a character of bureaucratization and control.24

The welfare policies that seem to favor women most are those
concerning the protection of maternity. These have a long and complex history and
include the regulation of labor (reduced schedules, leaves of absence, and prohibition
of night work and hard jobs), the constitution of services (nursing rooms, maternity
clinics, institutions for the protection of mother and child), and the redistribution
of income (welfare subsidies).25 In fact, these policies do not constitute specific
social rights. Elizabeth Wolgast defines them as “false rights”; in the case of the
protection of maternity, for instance, it is the child or the fetus that is actually to
be protected.26 The foremost right of protection for women should be their ability
to decide autonomously whether or not to become mothers without risking their
lives — that is, the right to make decisions about their own bodies.27 In this context,
it is perhaps useful to remember that at the beginning of this century the broadening
of the laws for the protection of maternity was accompanied by the persistence
of laws against abortion and contraception.

Protesting by using the language of rights obviously means asking
the State’s permission for protection. “Rights” are invoked, contested, distributed,
and protected, but also limited and appointed by the law. Sexual difference is
thus reduced to the social roles protected by the State. Furthermore, even though
social rights are established within the sphere of reproduction, and as such concern
women in particular, it is not for this reason that such rights can be considered
favorable to women, because women paradoxically consume fewer social rights than
they produce. Their labor of reproduction (controlled by the State) functions as a
substitute for the welfare system.28

It is important, moreover, to study how differences among women
are articulated through the constitution and realization of social policies: these are
differences of representation, identity, social status, and political choice, both in
practice and in theory. In the book // genere delle politiche sociali in Europa (The gender
of social policies in Europe), by the research group Etat et rapports sociaux de
sexe, we see how the consumers and the employees of Gautier’s welfare, Spensky’s
“average mothers” and “unmarried mothers,” the assisting and the assisted ones, and
those taken care of according to their different ethnicity, as well as Jenson’s “radical,”
“unionist,” or “revolutionary” feminists, represent different models, groups,
and variables of aggregation and relationships among women.29 They all contribute
to establishing the terms of a political discourse in which the expression of
interests is the fruit of a mediation, when indeed there is a mediation or when a
mediation is possible. In the majority of cases, however, when they do not even
represent an obstacle, social policies merely tend to make waged labor and reproductive
labor compatible.30 Furthermore, they do not even cover entirely the costs
of the adjustment of the female labor force to the model of labor performance
demanded by the market (which calculates a full-time housewife for each male
worker). These costs are therefore passed on to the “private” resources of the concerned
subjects (substantially, the other women in the family, the younger and older
ones). When this happens, a process of redistribution of global social labor takes
place, which, founded as it is on strong differentiations within the female population,
becomes particularly discriminatory.

A Different Welfare System: Finding Jocasta

Acknowledgment of the gendered character of the Welfare State and its social policies
could represent an important corrective for the analytic literature on this topic,
which is too often blind in its general definitions of the concepts of class and citizenship.
31 In the many existing studies on welfare, each analysis calls up various
interpretive conceptions that are at times in conflict with each other: the commutative
conception, according to which the right to security is linked to the exercise
of waged labor, is juxtaposed to the distributive approach, according to which the
same right is founded on the individual’s needs; the functionalist approach, in
which the social policies would be functional to capitalist development, is counterposed
to the conflictualist approach, which defines the welfare system as the result
of the workers’ social gains and their struggles.32 The primary subjects of all these
analyses are in the first place the poor, the workers, and finally the citizens in
general. Even one of the most recent and substantially correct analyses of welfare,
according to which the Welfare State subjects the dynamics of reproduction to
that of production (thus establishing an extraordinary mechanism of control over
the entire life of individuals), disregards the subjects of reproduction as well as
the mechanisms through which women’s reproductive labor has contributed to the
development of the welfare system.33 In so doing, this analysis conceals its internal
contradictions, tied as they are to different proposed and practiced models.
Yet, within the welfare system women are paid workers, privileged customers,
and disciplined individuals, who not only have transferred their knowledge and
expertise from the private into the social sphere without retribution, but have also
transformed and standardized their own lives. The welfare system has imposed limitations
on the quality of life: women have always rebelled and struggled against
such limitations, asking for a better quality of social services and a higher level of

The welfare system has reproduced and socialized the capitalist
sexual division of labor: male = production, female = reproduction. It has also,
however, introduced internal mechanisms of adjustment (the work of care has been
transformed into a wage-earning activity, for instance), thus liberating the labor of
reproduction from its dependence on another person’s salary. Within the work of
reproduction there have been established many divisions among women: between
those who depend on welfare and those who administer it, and between those who
do the work of care (paid or unpaid) and those who, thanks to these, can work in
other areas. Another characteristic of the work of care performed as part of the wel-
fare system is that it has reproduced, even in typically “feminine” work, a gender
hierarchy: in the pyramidal structure of this work, the greater the distance from
the actual taking care of others, the more the work is connoted as masculine and
therefore more valorized and prestigious.

Now, with the European economic crisis, we also witness a
recessionary and repressive reorganization in both production and reproduction
processes. This move represents an attack on the material conditions of women’s
lives, and as such diminishes their social and political power. The mere defense of
the system of welfare in the way it is practiced by the unions and the traditional
Left in general reduces these agencies to mere means of preservation. They cannot
be considered a privileged political channel for women to make visible a conflict
that should call into question the deep structure of the system. In Italy, the confused
program of the Northern Leagues and what they call “the new advances” —
that is, the proposal to pay less in taxes, send women back into the home, and return
to a nonsocialized reproduction—has encountered strong resistance. For instance,
faced with the privatization and/or increase of day-care fees, women have reacted
by organizing and developing a system of baby-sitting. A defensive, intergenerational
network of women is coming into being; combined with the demographic
decrease, or the postponing of the birth of the first child, this network allows women
to resist the cuts imposed on the welfare system.34

Does this mean that women must struggle to preserve the current
system of welfare? There is a fundamental misunderstanding about the Welfare
State: even in its heyday it was not particularly satisfying—not because it was
too costly (as they want us to believe now), but because it was too meager in the
sense that the State spent too little to guarantee the quality and the quantity of the
services necessary for the reproduction of individuals. In fact, the welfare system,
even at the moment of its progressive birth, was founded on the labor of women,
without ever questioning it or including it among the costs of social reproduction.
With the crisis, these costs, which are not calculated but which weigh more heavily
on women’s shoulders, will increase.

There are a few things, however, that have become irreversible:
on the one hand, some services can no longer be substituted for by domestic labor;
on the other, men and women of our generation cannot afford to ignore the cost
of the work of care. For the first time in history, care is perceived as a right, and it
is evident to all those who work in this field (paid or unpaid) that it has become
extremely valuable. The women whose job is the professional care of people (in the
health care system as well as in social, psychological, and educational services) have
only recently discovered how valuable their work is. This discovery gives a new
sense and a new quality to the struggles in this field, and can produce innovations
in ways of managing the work itself and its future development. (I am thinking particularly
of the struggles of nurses and social workers in France.)35

The socialization of reproduction operated by the welfare system
can therefore be considered a perverse process, because part of the unpaid work
of women has been socialized as specifically “feminine.” At the same time, the models
of the centrality of the reproduction of goods and accumulation have remained
unchanged, while reproduction has not been made central for society. Welfare is
not part of a project of change exactly because it has always accepted, and even
worked to ensure, that reproduction would be compatible with the productive system
and its changes. One of the constitutive elements of welfare as a system is its
way of considering reproduction a social fact and the labor of reproduction by
women as controllable and capable of being disciplined. This means controlling and
disciplining socially women’s lives through a general standardizing and flattening
of the quality of those lives.

The problem today is thus to confront the radical question of
the conflict over social reproduction, without thinking that one can cut out for oneself
a niche of personal self-defense, and without accepting any compatibility with
the centrality of the current mode of production as well as with the market. Yet the
radical models of change experimented with until now (such as seizure of the State,
war, and even revolution) do not appear particularly useful. Confronted by a system
founded on the concealment of the actual costs of reproduction—which women
have paid for until now, and calculable in terms of money and labor, but also in
terms of quality of individual and social life—women must find a way to present
their bill. First of all, we must keep trying to make visible the labor of reproduction
in its totality and not only in the part made public by the welfare system; at the
same time, we must try to underline its centrality with respect to production and
the market. For this reason, women must become capable of intervening in the crucial
questions of our society and strongly imposing the new parameters for change.
These parameters, such as the proposal to go beyond welfare by taking as our goal
the improvement of the quality of life, starting from the reorganization of the time
of our lives, must be worked out and designed through a political mediation among

Translated by Maurizia Boscagli

1. See Christiane Olivier, Les enfants dejocaste (Paris: Denoel/Gonthier, 1980).
2. “Les defis des sciences humaines” (special issue), SciencesHumaines, no. 25 (February 1993).
3. See, for example, Cristina Marcuzzo and Anna Rossi Doria, eds.., La ricerca delle donne (Turin: Rosemberg and Sellier, 1987); Marina Addis Saba, Storia delle donne, una scienza possibile (Rome: Felina, 1986);
Ginevra Conti Odorisio, ed., Gli studi sulk donne nelle Universita: ricerca e trasformazione del sapere (Naples: Edizioni Scientifiche Italiane, 1988); “Savoir et difference des sexes” (special issue), Les Cabiers du Grif, no. 45 (Autumn 1990).
4. See Marie J. Dhavernas, “Bioetica: progressi scientiflci e arretramenti politici,” Antigone, no. I (1991); and Anne Marie Daune-Richard, Marie-Claude Hurtig, and Marie-France Pichevin, Categorisation de sexe et constructions scientifiques (Aix-en-Provence: Universite de Provence, CEFUP, 1989).
5. See Alessandra Nannei, “Stato sociale: I’acqua sporca e il bambino,” Via Dogana, nos. lO/ll (1993): 3-5.
6. Christopher Hill, in The Intellectual Origins of the English Revolution (Oxford: Clarendon, 1965), describes the process through which scientists and the professional class, through spontaneous initiatives, spread the new secular culture and technological knowledge in seventeenth-century England. In so doing, they prompted the formation of a large class of technicians, inventors, and specialized craftsmen, which sowed the seed of the industrial revolution. Instead, we can ascribe mass education and a free and widely spread level of literacy to the welfare system. However, we often forget how much effort is demanded at home by elementary and secondary education. Some scholars consider the whole education system to be part of Welfare State policies; see, for instance, P. Flora and A. Heidenheimer, eds., The Development of Welfare States in Europe and America (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction, 1981).
7. Francois Ewald, in L ‘Etat providence (Paris: Grasset, 1986), also confirms that there has been a shift from the notion of risk-used by insurance companies – to the idea of solidarity. The social security system establishes a solidarity on the basis of the classic social contract to cover the worker against the temporary and accidental loss of her or his source of sustenance. For Ewald, with the advent of social security-that is, the formalization of the insurance coverage of the worker, the centralization of the State, and the mass propagation of social policies – the questions of income and need come to the fore.
8. Ann Orloff s definition of Welfare State is much looser: she describes it as any State intervention into civil society that is capable of modifying social and market relations. See Ann S. Orloff, “Gender and Social Rights of Citizenship, “American Sociological Review 58 (June 1993).
9. See Helga Maria Hernes, “Women and the Welfare State: The Transition from Private to Public Dependence,” in Women and the State, ed. Anne Showstack Sassoon (London: Hutchinson, 1987).
10. Here I am following Antonella Picchio’s thesis in “II lavoro di riproduzione, questione centrale nelle analisi del mercato del lavoro,” Politiche del lavoro, no. 19 (December 1992). See also Antonella Picchio, Social Reproduction: The Political Economy of the Labor Market (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992).
11. See Mariarosa Dalla Costa, “Stato, lavoro, rapporti di sesso nel femminismo marxista,” in Stato e rapporti sociali disesso, ed. Alisa Del Re (Milan: Franco Angeli, 1989).
12. See Antonella Picchio, “II lavoro domestico: Reale meccanismo di aggiustamento fra riproduzione sociale e accumulazione capitalistica,” in Primo rapporto: II lavoro femminile in Italia tra produzione e riproduzione, ed. Anna Maria Nassisi (Rome: Fondazione Gramsci, 1990).
13. See Laura Balbo, “Crazy Quilts: Rethinking the Welfare State Debate from a Woman’s Point of View,” in Women and the State, ed. Anne Showstack Sassoon (London: Hutchinson, 1987).
14. The affirmative action system works both at the level of individual States and at the European Community level, with a series of specific programs and ad hoc institutions.
15. Population etsodetes, no. 282 (August-September 1993) reproduces the World Population Data Sheet, which the Population Reference Bureau assembles by using the most precise information on world population available.
In Europe, the synthetic fertility rate (number of children per woman) is 1.8 for France (one of the highest), 1.3 for Italy, 1.4 for Portugal, and 1.4 for Spain, with an average for Europe (Russia excluded) of 1.6. The United States has a rate of 2.0. In connection with these data we can notice that, once again in Europe, the employment rate of women who have no children or one child does not change, whereas the same rate is reduced for those who have more than one child. It is evident, almost banal, but worth saying: having or not having children does not change men’s employment rate. See Commission des Communautes Europeennes, L’Emploi en Europe (Luxembourg: Office des Publications OfBcielles des Communautes Europeennes, 1993
16. In October 1990 a bill prompted by popular demand (300,000 signatures of women) was presented to the Parliament by the president of the Senate, Nilde lotti, on the initiative of the women’s section of what was then the Italian Communist Party and is now the Democratic Party of the Left.
17. Bill 142 on local governments has offered the administrators of several municipalities the chance to determine, thanks to a plan regulating their schedules, the timetable of city services and the power to decree by law how citizens should take part in the operation. The city of Modena, whose mayor, Alfonsina Rinaldi, was a woman, was the first to try this in 1988. The experiment has spread to other Italian cities (Reggio Emilia, Terni, Siena, Venice, and Catania) thanks to the presence of large numbers of women in the local administrations. Clearly, the experiment does not cover all the different parts of the bill (which is a framework for legislation). A rationalization of the schedules of social and administrative services, of shops and transportation, implies not only a process of reorganization, but also the agreement of all social parties: the demands of the citizens must be measured in relation to the needs of the women working in public and private services, with those of the tradespeople, and so forth. Experiments have also been made with the reduction and flexibility of working time, in both public and private sectors.
18. The idea of reducing working time is not new. Paul Lafargue, in the famous Le Droit a la paresse (1879, 1890), and Bertrand Russell, in In Praise of Idleness (1935), have argued in favor of a possible reduction in working time. For Tommaso Campanella, four hours of work per day were enough; six hours for Thomas Moore; five hours for Claude Gilbert; three hours for Lenin; and, in our days, two hours for Andre Gorz. Yet none of these authors explicitly affirms that one is entitled to a free period of time for reproducing oneself and others – a period of time that is unpaid work for women.
19. These data are taken from Commission des Communautes Europeennes, L’Emploi en Europe. For Italy see also Dossier ambiente, no. 9 (March 1990); and L. Aburra, L’occupazione femminile dal decline alia crescita (Turin: Rosemberg and Sellier, 1989).
20. I am thinking of the ideology and legislative practice widespread in European countries during the 1930s. In response to the world crisis and growing unemployment, this ideology tended to send back into the home women who “stole” jobs. In the same period, without any scandal, many socially “feminine” jobs were created in Italy, including the formation of fascist job lists for women.
21. Andre Gorz, Capitalism, Socialism, Ecology (London: Verso, 1994).
22. See Ralf Dahrendorf, Reflections on the Revolution in Europe (London: Chatto, 1990).
23. See Lawrence Mead, Beyond Entitlements: The Social Obligations of Citizenship (New York: Free Press, 1991).
24. See Laura Boella, “Distinguere pubblico e private,” in Cultura e politica delk donne in Italia, Atti del Seminario Nazionale di Roma, May 4-5 1992, ed. Anna Maria Crispino and Francesca Izzo (Rome: Fondazione Institute Gramsci, 1992).
25. Alisa Del Re, “Transformations de 1’Etat capitaliste et constitution d’un sujet politique: les femmes (Europe Occidentale),” in Genese de VEtat moderne en Mediterranee, ed. C. Veauvy and H. Bresc (Rome: Ecole francaise de Rome, 1993).
26. See Elizabeth Wolgast, The Grammar of Justice (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1987).
27. The 1993 report of the Population Action International affirms that every year, 200,000 women die in the world during illegal abortions (cited by Vittorio Zucconi in Espresso, no. 38 [1993]).
28. See Givanna Zincone, Da sudditi a cittadini (Bologna: IlMulino, 1992).
29. Alisa Del Re, ed., IIgenere dellepolitiche sociali in Europa (Padua: CEDAM, 1993).
30. Because of the legislation “protecting” women’s work, many women in Italy and Germany have been forced to sign work contracts that obligate them to quit their jobs if they become pregnant. In this regard, there has been a notable increase in cases of female sterilization in the former East Germany; women are having themselves sterilized in order to avoid unwanted pregnancies while they are searching for jobs.
31. Important ongoing feminist research on the welfare system (particularly Anglophone) already exists. I will mention only a few works, besides the books already cited: Etat et rapports sociaux de sexe, / rapporti sociali di sesso in Europa (1930-1960): Uimpatto delle politiche sociali (Padua: CEDAM, 1989) and II genere delle politiche sociali in Europa (1960-1990) (Padua: CEDAM, 1993); L. Gordon, ed., Women, the State and Welfare (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990); H. Hernes, Welfare State and Woman Power (Oslo: Norwegian University Press, 1987); B. Hobson, “No Exit, No Voice: Women’s Economic Dependency and the Welfare State,”Acta Sociologica 33, no. 3 (1990); J. Jenson, “Gender and Reproduction: Or, Babies and the State,” Studies in Political Economy (Summer 1986); C. McKinnon, Toward a Feminist Theory of the State (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989); C. Pateman, The Disorder of Women: Democracy, Feminism and Political Theory (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1989); B. Siim, “Toward a Feminist Rethinking of the Welfare State,” in The Political Interests of Gender, ed. K. Jones and A. Jonasdottir (Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage, 1990); T. Skocpol, Protecting Soldiers and Mothers (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992); M. Weir, A. Orloff, and T. Skocpol, eds., Women and the Welfare State (London: Tavistock, 1977).
32. There is an interesting feminist functionalist current. Particularly worth mentioning is Mimi Abramowitz, Regulating the Lives of Women: Social Welfare Policy from Colonial Times to the Present (Boston:
South End, 1988). Abramowitz uses a method of analysis very similar to the Marxist functionalist approach, except that Marxists do not take gender into account. A typical example is Klaus Offe, The Contradictions of the Welfare State (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1984).
33. Giuseppe Cocco and Maurizio Lazzarato, “Au-dela du Welfare State,” Futur ante’rieur, no. 15 (1993).
34. See L. Aburra, Uoccupazione femminile daldeclino alia crescita (Turin: Rosenberg and Sellier, 1989).
35. See D. Kergoat, F. Imbert, H. Le Doare, and D. Senotier, Les Infirmieres et leur coordination (1988-89) (Paris: Lamane, 1992).

Categories: Feminisms, welfare
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  1. May 4, 2015 at 10:53 pm
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