Archive for the ‘affect/care’ Category

Evelyn Nakano Glenn, Forced to Care: Coercion and Caregiving in America [book]

May 9, 2012 Leave a comment

Forced to Care: Coercion and Caregiving in America

Evelyn Nakano Glenn

2010. PDF



This book is about the ideological and material foundations of the care crisis. It is grounded in the premise that the often untenable strains to which family caregivers are subject and the parlous situation of paid caregivers are closely intertwined and need to be examined together. The main thesis of the book is that the social organization of care has been rooted in diverse forms of coercion that have induced women to assume responsibility for caring for family members and that have tracked poor, racial minority, and immigrant women into positions entailing caring for others. The forms of coercion have varied in degree, directness, and explicitness but nonetheless have served to constrain and direct women’s choices; the net consequence of restricted choice has been to keep caring labor “cheap,” that is, free (in the case of family care labor) or low waged (in the case of paid care labor). Read more…

The Fargate Speaker [UK], “Crisis in Care: Interview with an anarchist support worker”

February 9, 2011 Leave a comment

“Crisis in Care: Interview with an anarchist support worker”

The Fargate Speaker

Jan. 31, 2011 [link]


The Fargate Speaker talks to a local support worker about the problems in social care as a result of the recession and the proposed austerity measures.

I work as a support worker for a private company that provides social care for people in Sheffield for people with learning disabilities and mental health issues. The company I work operates across the city. According to government officials, cuts to public spending will not harm front line services, workers, or service users. The reality of the situation is that working conditions are getting worse, day services are closing down, and those paying for the support services are being excluded from any of the decisions relating to care they supposedly direct and influence. Read more…

Categories: affect/care, news

Evelyn Nakano Glenn, “Creating a Caring Society”

January 25, 2011 2 comments

“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…

Categories: affect/care, migration, welfare

Precarias a la Deriva, “Close encounters in the second phase: The communication continuum: care-sex-attention”

December 14, 2010 Leave a comment

“Close encounters in the second phase: The communication continuum: care-sex-attention”

Precarias a la Deriva

Nov. 2003 [link]

Ya, desde el famoso 11 de setiembre

Ya, en una guerra global permanente

Yo, que vivo en guerra cotidianamente

Yo salgo a las calles y digo que NO!

(to strike in A major, to the tune of “Yo te amo con la fuerza de los mares”)


In the months that followed the “Grand Show” of December of 2002, we began to give shape to what all of us understood as a second phase in our exploration of women’s precarious work.  Some moved to other places and no longer shared the day to day of Precarias in Madrid, others joined the group or proposed particular initiatives: the publication of a text in a book or a web page, participation in a conference, collaboration in a video, or else accompanied us in organizing processes or in a mobilization.[1] This coming and going makes room for a mode of networked cooperation which is not so much about belonging, in this case to the group of Precarias, as it is about opening a field of communication and fluid action – sometimes perhaps too diffuse – which we hope will become a means of constructing a new space of aggregation: the Laboratory of Women Workers. Read more…

Precarias a la Deriva, “Bodies, Lies and Videotape: Between the Logic of Security and the Logic of Care”

December 14, 2010 Leave a comment

“Bodies, Lies and Videotape: Between the Logic of Security and the Logic of Care”

Precarias a la Deriva

Written for the magazine Diagonal in February, 2005

In the present context, the logic of security is the principal form of taking charge of bodies and organizing them around fear, contention, control, and management of unease. This article is a first approach and analysis of the concept of the body managed through securitarian logic, in order to see forms of regulation that are being used and to feed practices that take root in the politically radical character of care. The logic of care that we propose recognizes interdependence, wagers upon cooperation, and articulates itself as a social ecology.

The modern conception of the body is founded on the division and hierarchization of mind/body and on the construction of the body as an individual self-regulating machine. [1] This schema, though still in force, is not enough for us in order to understand how our bodies function nowadays, many of them urban bodies, rapid, and rather stressed. Today, the slogan ‘biology is not destiny’ is in effect; the body has become a place of construction where one can intervene, to make the body and negotiate with materiality itself. Read more…

Categories: affect/care

Precarias a la Deriva, “First Stutterings of ‘Precarias a la Deriva'”

December 14, 2010 1 comment

“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’[1] 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…

The Young Lords: A Reader, “Health and Hospitals”

December 4, 2010 1 comment

“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



New York State Chapter
Young Lords Organization Read more…

Eileen Boris and S. J. Kleinberg, “Mothers and Other Workers: (Re)Conceiving Labor, Maternalism, and the State”

December 2, 2010 Leave a comment

“Mothers and Other Workers: (Re)Conceiving Labor, Maternalism, and the State”

Eileen Boris and S. J. Kleinberg

Journal of Women’s History, 15:3 (Autumn, 2003), 90-117. [PDF]

This article interrogates the gendering of labor and welfare history as part of an examination into the meaning of work, its connection to social welfare policy, and definitions of what constitutes a “real” family in the United States. It examines the gendering of labor based upon the largely male model of waged labor and the exclusion of women of color from the early phases of women’s labor history. By integrating caregiving and domestic production into analyses of work and welfare, it analyzes how the troika of class, race, and gender (especially as complicated by marriage and motherhood) have become central issues in the history of labor. It explores the racialized and gendered construction of labor and welfare legislation and the redefinition of women’s “rights” in contemporary America as participation in the waged workforce, not the right to choose how to combine motherwork and economic survival. Read more…

Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodríguez, “The ‘Hidden Side’ of the New Economy: On Transnational Migration, Domestic Work, and Unprecedented Intimacy”

November 26, 2010 1 comment

“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…

María Isabel Casas-Cortés, “Towards a Theory of Care / Hacia una Teoria del Cuidado: Ethnographic Accounts of Changing Political Subjects and Strategies”

November 21, 2010 Leave a comment

“Towards a Theory of Care / Hacia una Teoria del Cuidado: Ethnographic Accounts of Changing Political Subjects and Strategies” 1

María Isabel Casas-Cortés

Chapter 7, Social Movements as Sites of Knowledge Production: Precarious Work, the Fate of Care and Activist Research in a Globalizing Spain. Dissertation, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2009. [PDF]


Shortly upon our arrival to the Lavapies neighborhood, and after attending a couple of meetings organized by Precarias, I received a mysterious email in my inbox:

Precarias a la Deriva ha Muerto, Viva Precarias a la Deriva!

Precarias a la Deriva is dead, long live Precarias a la Deriva!
(email on PD list-serve, March 15th 2007)

The “death notice”, as they called it, explained the transition period that Precarias was at the time going through. Since 2006, this feminist project engaged in a new experiment under the name of “Agencia de Asuntos Precarios”. Under this institutional sounding name -Agency of Precarious Affairs-, they made an attempt to formalize many of the relationships, resources and knowledges gained during the previous research phase. The Agency has currently an office space available every Saturday afternoon at Embajadores Street, a few blocks down from the previous squatted building that had to be evicted by order from the Madrid municipality. The new locale of Eskalera Karakola, the mythical women’s social center, is now located right across the street from Traficantes de Sueños, the alternative bookshop and publishing house, close to the local fresh food market, the muslim mosque and one of the libraries of the Universidad Nacional a Distancia, itself located in an old monastery destroyed during the Spanish Civil war.2 The new Eskalera Karakola, in contrast to the previous old building, is rented at an affordable price from the municipality and after a process of re-construction, now has a contemporary look, with a large meeting room, a radio studio, telephone line and a series of archives and basic technological support.3 Having this space available regularly and open to the public, makes this phase more prompted to act locally. This is in contrast with the previous phase, in that even if that phase had been a place-based research project, their material and effects ended up being more internationally oriented than expected. In this sense, La Agencia might be thought of as part of “the current process of territorialization of global justice movements” – meaning a tendency towards local concerns and organizing at the level of the lived territory, shared by many global justice initiatives at least in Europe (interview with MayDay Sur organizer, April 2008). Read more…

Kevin Van Meter, “The Moment I Cannot Escape: Care, Death, Mourning, and the Struggle Against It All”

November 21, 2010 1 comment

“The Moment I Cannot Escape: Care, Death, Mourning, and the Struggle Against It All”
Kevin Van Meter | Team Colors [PDF]

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…

Categories: affect/care, reproduction

Stevphen Shukaitis, “Questions for Aeffective Resistance”

November 20, 2010 Leave a comment

“Questions for Aeffective Resistance”

Stevphen Shukaitis

Chapter Eight, Imaginal Machines: Autonomy & Self-Organization in the Revolutions of Everyday Life, Autonomedia, 2009. [PDF]



Each wound accumulated over the years, each hope frustrated feels a part of your pain and disappointment. Often I wonder, what the heck keeps us going on, despite such hurt affected in a walk that is supposed to be beautiful, trustful, liberating, juvenating? I do not know any more, or forgot what I once knew. Perhaps those glimpses we have had, here and there, planned or spontaneous, with friends or with strangers, glimpses of “the best” in each one of us, in love, risk, togetherness, joy, labor, and, yes, in pain and disappointment. It seems to me that there is no obvious “reason” we must hang in there, except the reasons we can provide for and with each other in the midst of this insanity that passes for reality, left and right. What can I say, but that if we fail to be that reason, let us, at least, fail better. – Ayca Cubukcu 1

I’m tired. It’s 3 am. The desk is stacked tall with too many things to be done, too many projects that have fallen behind schedule, and ideas that would come to fruition beautifully if only there was time for them to be born. If only there was time. But there never seems to be. The endless march of everyday pressures and gripes mounts endlessly-the moment it seems that they have been beaten back, that there are conditions of respite to move from with thought out intentions-the flood just sweeps in again. And my whole body aches. It never seems possible to catch up with this mounting pile of tasks. Sometimes I wonder whether this constant sense of growing tiredness might just be something that’s my fault, something I caused by taking on too many projects and not managing time effectively. Perhaps. Surely there are few foolish enough to make this kind of mistake, voluntarily taking just enough so that they don’t totally collapse, but always teetering close to doing so. Read more…

Categories: affect/care

Arlie Hochschild, “Feeling Management: From Private to Commercial Uses”

November 19, 2010 1 comment

“Feeling Management: From Private to Commercial Uses

Arlie Hochschild

Chapter Six, The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1983. [PDF]


If they could have turned every one of us into sweet quiet Southern belles with velvet voices like Rosalyn Carter, this is what they would want to stamp out on an assembly line.
Flight attendant, Delta Airlines

On PSA our smiles are not just painted on.
So smile your way From LA To San Francisco
PSA radio jingle

When you see them receiving passengers with that big smile, I don’t think it means anything. They have to do that. It’s part of their job. But now if you get into a conversation with a flight attendant . . . well . . . no. . . I guess they have to do that too.
Airline passenger

When rules about how to feel and how to express feeling are set by management, when workers have weaker rights to courtesy than customers do, when deep and surface acting are forms of labor to be sold, and when private capacities for empathy and warmth are put to corporate uses, what happens to the way a person relates to her feelings or to her face? When worked-up warmth becomes an instrument of service work, what can a person learn about herself from her feelings? And when a worker abandons her work smile, what kind of tie remains between her smile and her self?

Display is what is sold, but over the long run display comes to assume a certain relation to feeling. As enlightened management realizes, a separation of display and feeling is hard to keep up over long periods. A principle of emotive dissonance, analogous to the principle of cognitive dissonance, is at work. Maintaining a difference between feeling and feigning over the long run leads to strain. We try to reduce this strain by pulling the two closer together, either by changing what we feel or by changing what we feign. When display is required by the job, it is usually feeling that has to change; and when conditions estrange us from our face, they sometimes estrange us from feeling as well.

Take the case of the flight attendant. Corporate logic in the airline industry creates a series of links between competition, market expansion, advertising, heightened passenger expectations about rights to display, and company demands for acting. When conditions allow this logic to work, the result is a successful transmutation of the private emotional system we have described. The old elements of emotional exchange – feeling rules, surface acting, and deep acting – are now arranged in a different way. Stanislavski’s if moves from stage to airline cabin (”act as if the cabin were your own living room”) as does the actor’s use of emotion memory. Private use gives way to corporate use.

In the airline industry of the 1950s and 1960s a remarkable transmutation was achieved. But certain trends, discussed later in this chapter, led this transmutation to fail in the early 1970s. An industry speed-up and a stronger union hand in limiting the company’s claims weakened the transmutation. There was a service worker ”slowdown.” Worked-up warmth of feeling was replaced by put-on smiles. Those who sincerely wanted to make the deeper offering found they could not do so, and those who all along had resisted company intrusions on the self came to feel some rights to freedom from it. The job lost its grip. When the transmutation succeeded, the worker was asked to take pride in making an instrument of feeling. When it collapsed, workers came to see that instrument as overused, underappreciated, and susceptible to damage. Read more…

Mariarosa Dalla Costa, “Rustic and Ethical”

November 18, 2010 Leave a comment

“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…

Categories: affect/care, migration

Lisa Dodson and Rebekah M. Zincavage, “‘It’s like a family’: Caring labor, exploitation, and race in nursing homes”

November 18, 2010 Leave a comment

“‘It’s like a family’: Caring labor, exploitation, and race in nursing homes”

Lisa Dodson and Rebekah M. Zincavage

Gender & Society December 1, 2007 21: 905-928 [PDF]

This article contributes to carework scholarship by examining the nexus of gender, class, and race in long-term care facilities. We draw out a family ideology at work that promotes good care of residents and thus benefits nursing homes. We also found that careworkers value fictive kin relationships with residents, yet we uncover how the family model may be used to exploit these low-income careworkers. Reflecting a subordinate and racialized version of being “part of the family,” we call for an ethic of reciprocity and for concrete change toward valuing equally the humanity of those who need and those who give care.

AUTHORS’ NOTE: We are very grateful to Christine Bishop and the Better Jobs Better Care research team members for their collaboration in this project, sponsored by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Atlantic Philanthropies. We thank Wendy Luttrell, Marjorie DeVault, and Catherine Riessman for early comments and ongoing support. We also wish to thank the anonymous Gender & Society reviewers and Dana Britton for their thoughtful comments on this article. We are indebted to the men and women who participated in this study for trusting us enough to share their experiences and insights with grace and honesty. Finally, we want to recognize the outstanding contribution of the late Susan Eaton who believed that good care of vulnerable people is essentially tied to decent jobs for careworkers.


“[T]he same way I think about my mother, this is the same way I’m thinking about these residents. I consider them like they are my own. But it’s a very hard job, we don’t get paid enough for the job, and sometimes you feel like every day you do more and more and more, and the money is less.”
-Certified Nursing Assistant

Over the last two decades a “crisis in care” has provoked difficult questions and a complex critique about the meaning and value of purchased care in contemporary society. Historically family relationships and the market had been seen as separate worlds; one did not trespass onto the other. Yet carework, historically a taken-for-granted female activity, has increasingly demanded market valuation as millions of women left homemaking for paid employment, expanding the need for hired care providers. Today in the United States, with an ever-growing population of elderly and chronically ill people, long-term care has become an urgent and complex care demand.

As in the past, those who enter the low-paid care labor market tend to be poor women, often native-born women of color and immigrants (Dawson and Surpin 2001; Duffy 2007; Glenn 1992; Romero 1992). This paper draws from interviews, focus groups, observational data, and a survey from research in 18 long-term care residential facilities in Massachusetts. From these multiple sources, we explicate an ideology of family that consistently emerged as integral to the design and understanding of care for residents. Further, we examine how family ideology drives expectations of the kind of care provided by certified nursing assistants (CNAs) who, as one facility director put it, are “the backbone of the nursing home industry.” As theorized in scholarship on caring labor across disciplines (DeVault 1991; Folbre 2002; Kittay 1999; Stone 2005; Uttal and Tuominen 1999) our research uncovers the tension experienced by careworkers as they manage their work as both a job and as a commitment to care for fictive family members.

We begin this paper by situating our discussion in recent scholarship at the intersection of family ideology and purchased carework. This is followed by a brief description of the growing demand for long-term care, the nature of the work, and an overview of the workforce. Turning to our research, we identify a family model posited by both nursing home managers and CNAs as essential for providing good care to frail and dependent people. We reveal, however, this model of kinship is “one way,” benefiting the residents and nursing homes but essentially denying reciprocity to CNAs. We also explore the racialization of the occupation of the CNA, a dynamic that brings to mind the historical image of women of color working as domestics, servants, and nannies, expected to willingly sacrifice themselves and their families to take care of those who employed them (Glenn 1992; Hondagneu-Sotelo 2001; Omolade 1994; Romero 1992; Rollins 1985; Wong 1994).

Finally, we challenge the use of an institutional culture of family that is specifically designed to extract more work from the lowest-paid workers- often native-born women of color and immigrants. We join others who argue that meeting a growing public need for long-term care demands an ethic of reciprocity: considerate, high-quality care for those who need it, and respect and decent compensation for those who provide this critical labor. Read more…

Michel Foucault, “Friendship as a Way of Life”

November 18, 2010 12 comments

“Friendship as a Way of Life”

Michel Foucault

R. de Ceccaty, J. Danet, and J. Le Bitoux conducted this interview with Foucault for the French magazine Gai Pied. It appeared in April 1981. The text that appears here, translated by John Johnston, has been amended.

Q. You’re in your fifties. You’re a reader of Le Gai Pied, which has been in existence now for two years. Is the kind of discourse you find there something positive for you?

M.F. That the magazine exists is the positive and important thing.
In answer” to your question, I could say that I don’t have to read it to voice the question of my age. What I could ask of your magazine is that I do not, in reading it, have to pose the question of my age. Now, reading it…

Q. Perhaps the problem is the age group of those who contribute to it and read it; the majority are between twenty-five and thirty-five.

M.F. Of course. The more it is written by young people the more it concerns young people. But the problem is not to make room for one age group alongside another but to find out what can be done in relation to the quasi identification between homosexuality and the love among young people. Another thing to distrust is the tendency to relate the question of homosexuality to the problem of “Who am I?” and “What is the secret of my desire?” Perhaps it would be better to ask oneself, “‘What relations, through homosexuality, can be established, invented, multiplied, and modulated?” The problem is not to discover in oneself the truth of one’s sex, but, rather, to use one’s sexuality henceforth to arrive at a multiplicity of relationships. And, no doubt, that’s the real reason why homosexuality is not a form of desire but something desirable. Therefore, we have to work at becoming homosexuals and not be obstinate in recognizing that we are. The development toward which the problem of homosexuality tends is the one of friendship. Read more…

Precarias a la Deriva, “Four Hypotheses on the sex-attention-care continuum”

November 3, 2010 Leave a comment

“Four Hypotheses on the sex-attention-care continuum”

Precarias a la Deriva

Translation by Nate Hawthorne


1. Affect knows a historically determined social stratification, which materializes in the chain sex-attention-care. This stratification:

a) counterposes sex and care

b) disincarnates affective communication and converts it into attention (communication based on uninvolved empathetic listening)

c) capitalizes fractions, isolated functions, of each one of these elements, opening new modalities of the sexual contract (buying and selling of spouses, rented mothers, children for order, proliferation and virtualization of sexual services…);

d) continuing to assign the tasks linked to this chain to women, but introducing new stratifications among them, linked, above all, to race/ethnicity and country of origin.

2. We call this chain the sex-attention-care continuum, on one hand, in order to emphasize  the elements of continuity that exist under this stratification and, thus, to challenge the stratification and to open possibilities of alliance and of transversal conflict. On the other hand, because we detect three processes (the sexualization of work, the crisis of care, and the capitalization of attention) that are blurring the neat distinctions making the fixed traditional positions of women more mobile and creating new positions.

An example: through the instauration in almost all countries of the western world of laws that penalized sexual services for money, those services remained restricted to determined places, spaces, and subjects. The whore was opposed in sharply to other good women; during Franco-ism, if a woman was ‘lost’ (or of a strange sexuality or a single mother or one of those that like to fuck) then she was called a whore and thus a clear barrier was established that
excluded her from other options (most obviously, the functions of the wife and the dignified mother). Even though at first she did not have this profession, she could wind up having it. She left from the matrimonial market and ended up either in some institution (prison for lost youth…) or on the street, “doing the street”. Now, in contrast, sexual service has a more uncertain place and those who behave badly are not immediately headed for the other side of the gate, to another profession, to a specific mode of life. Sex as a mercantile exchange impregnates other spaces and the subjects that exercise it can enter and leave with greater ease, they can even include women student-whores or phone sex operators and things like that…

The word continuum speaks of the breakdown of the borders in sex, care, and attention: internal borders in the “world of the sex industry” (porno-sex, street-sex, phone-sex); external borders (sex in relation to other supposed worlds: sex-fashion, sex-marriage, sex-domestic work, sex-care services). And in this breakdown of borders is where sex joins with attention and care: whores care, telephone operators masturbate, students attend, caregivers are girlfriends…

What do the three processes that we allude to and what continuities are there among them?

The sexualization of work: alludes to the expansion of sex as commodity exchange the strict bounds of the sex industry, and at the same time its expansion and diversification. Sex appears in play in the world of fashion and the spectacle, in job interviews, in the sexualized performance that is demanded of all women (and increasingly also of men) (in an expanding service sector), etc.

At the same time, sex, inserted itself into the chain pleasure-consumer, produces a specific value that adds to the value of the commodity/service to which it is associated. Thus, sex becomes a force of production. And bodies discipline themselves increasingly in function of this permanent demand for sexual performance. A demand that comes to saturation of a fixed and exclusively heteronormative plain (heteronormativity as a political regime) and that at the same time generates hetero, hypervisible and hypersexualized bodies, organized in unifamilar models of cohabitation. This assures its social intelligibilty and control, at the same time that it excludes or neutralizes other forms of organization of care, intimacy, and space. Which connects the sexualization of work with the following process:

The crisis of care: due to the feminist flight from the tasks of mother and spouse, to the increase of demand for feminine workers (because capital has learned to exploit the “feminine difference” for its profit), to the laboral deregulation and the dismantling of the welfare state, the informal networks of women, which in “private” had assured the sustainability of life supported by familial unities and in the welfare state, in the countries where that  has existed), they are destructuring, without the creation of a new organization to assure the care of persons, opening an authentic crisis, that experiences a conservative closing through three processes:

a) Replacement of the welfare state and its universal rights with the EMERGENCE OF A THIRD SECTOR whose principal task is the containment of risk(y) subjects;

b) Contracting of immigrant women workers, for the most part from the south of the world, to cover the tasks of care, on occasions in situations of semislavery, introducing into the bosom of the home the international division of labor and its tensions (affective flows in the south-north direction and creation of so-called global chains of affect);

c) Lack of time, resources, recognition, and desire to take charge of the labor of nonremunerated care (which notwithstanding continues to fall onto the shoulders of women), which ends up  translating into a powerful uncertainty for periods or illness or old  age;

d) Capitalization of attention delinked from affective bonds. With this the crisis of care connects to the third process to which we made reference:

The capitalization of attention: three heterogeneous phenomena come together in order to create an emergent market for the sale of “listening” and “empathy”:

a) The sensation of uncertainty that produces the crisis of care (which  feeds such things as confessional radio programs, sessions with psychics and psychologists…);

b) The centrality that the relationship with the client acquires in the process of production, in order to facilitate the adjustment of production that takes demand as its point of departure (for example, the market of telephone services which provide attention to the client or consulting services and causes the proliferation of figures such as the cool-hunter or the commercial…);

c) The need to trim public expenses, “filtering” the demand for assistance (which translates into the creation of things like emergency phonelines, phonelines for abused women, etc…).

Attention, exchanged for money in a temporal pattern of measure, isolates itself from incarnated communication – which produces an enduring relationship, trust and cooperation – and becomes an empty and uninvolved exchange of codes (words and gestures).

3.  In the context of uncertainty and deterritorialization imposed by the precarization of existence, a securitarian logic triumphs as a mode of taking charge of bodies, based on fear, individualiation, and containment. The two principal agents of this logic are private security services and NGOs. Care appears here as a mode of taking charge of bodies opposed to the securitarian logic and based on cooperation, interdependence, the gift, and social ecology.

Seeking a definition of care, which would take into account the form in which it is given today, but also its possible virtualities, we are given to the following formula:

task + attention + X + everydayness = care

Where we define the X in principle as affect, but affect not understood as that which you want or love, but rather as an ethical element and a criterion for social ecology. We speak of a virtuosity that happens in the juncture between attention and task and that produces care, empathy, intersubjectivity. This affective component has an indispensible creative character and constitute the part of the labor (nonremunerated as much as remunerated) that can not be codified. What escapes from the code situates us in what is not even said, opens a terrain of the thinkable and livable, is that  which creates relationships.

4. One of the fundamental biopolitical challenges today consists in inventing a critique of the present organization of sex, attention, and care, and a practice that, taking these – as elements inside a continuum – as point of departure, recombining these elements in order to produce new more liberatory  and cooperative forms of affect, that place care in the center but without separating it from sex nor from communication.

Categories: affect/care

Tiqqun #2, “Sonogram of a Potential”

October 31, 2010 2 comments

“Sonogram of a Potential” [echographie d’une puissance]

Tiqqun #2 [PDF]

What hinges on something defends it.

Italian Proverb.


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…

Judith Ramirez, “The Global Kitchen: A Speech on the Value of Housework Debate”

October 6, 2010 Leave a comment

“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…

Claire Fontaine, “Human strike within the field of libidinal economy”

September 25, 2010 Leave a comment

“Human strike within the field of libidinal economy”
Claire Fontaine

Bureau for Open Culture, Descent to Revolution pp. 144-151 [2009]

The possibility of keeping together autonomy and an affective life is a tale that hasn’t been written yet.
Lea Melandri, Una visceralità indicibile, 2007

In 1974 François Lyotard published the surprising book entitled Libidinal Economy where he attacked Marxist and Freudian simplifications and he opened a new perspective on the connection between desires and struggle. What starts to crumble down at that time under the offensive of the two essential weapon-books by Deleuze and Guattari The Anti-OEdipus and A thousand plateaux is the fetishization of consciousness as the organ that will lead the revolution. As the myth of the avant-garde begins to decline, a psychosomatic reorganization arises and its consequences on the relationship between people are brutal and inevitable. Like in an inverted Menenius Agrippa’s speech the head, with all its metaphorical connotations, lost its privilege and the low body could find a new voice full of desire and fear. A new materialism was coming to life inside people’s bodies. At this point the failure of the responsible and pyramidal militant structures becomes blatant: thirst for power, need for leaders and the insufficiency of language to resolve conflicts inside the groups reveal the impossibility of living and fighting in such formations. In ’73 the Gramsci Group wrote in the Proposition for a different way to make politics: “it’s no longer possible to talk to each other from avant-garde to avant-garde with a sectary language of “experts” politicians…and then not being able to concretely talk about our experiences. The consciousness and the explanation of things must become clear through the experience of one’s own condition, one’s own problems and needs and not only through theories that describe mechanisms” (p.508, L’orda d’oro). The language that served the purposes of traditional politics seemed to have lost all its use value in the mouths of these young people; the members of the militant groups felt like they were “spoken,” traversed by a speech that didn’t transform them and couldn’t translate their new uncertain situation. A protagonist of the events describes as it follows his position of leader: “the leader is somebody who is convinced that he has always been revolutionary and communist, and he doesn’t ask himself what the concrete transformation of himself and the others is…The leader is the one that when the assemblies don’t go the way they should either because a silence takes place either because some political positions are expressed which are different from the ones of his own group, he feels that he must intervene in order to fill the verbal space or to affirm his political line against the others.” In this simple and clinical diagnosis we see the groups as spaces where subjective transformation attempts to be funneled into revolutionary efficiency; as a result of this process the positions of the singularities that composed the groups became progressively more and more rigid and the revolutionary space, in order to remain such, imposed the most conservative patterns of behavior within itself.

The term “human strike” was forged to name a revolt against what is reactionary even – and above all – inside the revolt. It defines a type of strike that involves the whole life and not only its professional side, that acknowledges exploitation in all the domains and not only at work. Even the notion of work comes out modified if seen from the ethical prism of human strike: activities that seem to be innocent services and loving obligations to keep the family or the couple together reveal themselves as vulgar exploitation. The human strike is a movement that could potentially contaminate anyone and that attacks the foundations of life in common; its subject isn’t the proletarian or the factory worker but the whatever singularity that everyone is. This movement isn’t there to reveal the exceptionality or the superiority of a group on another but to unmask the whateverness of everybody as the open secret that social classes hide.

One definition of human strike can be found in Tiqqun 2: it’s a strike “with no claims, that deterritorializes the agora and reveals the nonpolitical as the place of the implicit redistribution of responsibilities and unremunerated work.”

Italian feminisms offer a paradigm of this kind of action because they have claimed the abolition of the borders that made politics the territory of men. If the sexual borders of politics weren’t clearly marked in the seventies in Europe, they still persisted in an obscure region of the life in common, like premonitory nightmares that never stop coming true. In 1938 Virginia Woolf wrote in Three Guineas, “Inevitably we look upon societies as conspiracies that sink the private brother, whom many of us have reason to respect, and inflate in his stead a monstrous male, loud of voice, hard of fist, childishly intent upon scoring the floor of the earth with chalk marks, within whose mystic boundaries human beings are penned, rigidly, separately, artificially; where, daubed red and gold, decorated like a savage with feathers he goes through mystic rites and enjoys the dubious pleasures of power and dominion while we, ‘his’ women, are locked in the private house without share in the many societies of which his society is composed.” Against the chalk marks, already obsolete in 1938 but that still keep appearing under our steps even in the twenty-first century, Lia Cigarini and Luisa Muraro specified in 1992 in a text called Politics and political practice: “We don’t want to separate politics from culture, love and work and we can’t find any criterion for doing so. A politics of this kind, a separated one, we wouldn’t like it and we wouldn’t know what to do with it.”

At the core of this necessity of a politics that transforms life and that can be transformed by life, there wasn’t a claim against injustice but the desire of finding the right voice for one’s own body, in order to fight the deep feeling of being spoken by somebody else, that can be called the political ventriloquism.

A quotation by Serena, published in the brochure Sottosopra n°3 in 1976, describes a modest miracle that took place at the women convention in Pinarella, “Something strange happened to me after the first day and a half: underneath the heads that were talking, listening and laughing, there were bodies; if I was speaking (and how serenely, and with no will of self-affirmation I was speaking in front of 200 women!) in my speak, in a way or another there was my body that was finding a strange way to become words.” What an example of miraculous transubstantiation of the human strike.

* 1890 date of birth of the human strike

In her extensive research around the strike in the nineteenth century, Michelle Perrot talks about the birth of a sort of “sentimental strike” in the year 1890. May 4th of that year, in the newspaper from Lille entitled Le Cri du Travailleur (the worker’s scream) we can read that “the strikers didn’t give any reason for their interruption of the work… just that they want to do the same thing than the others.” In this type of movement, young people and women start to play a very important role, Perrot says. In a small village called Vienne militant women encouraged their female comrades, “Let’s not bear this miserable condition any longer. Let’s upraise, let’s claim our rights, let’s fight for a more honourable place. Let’s dare to say to our masters: we are just like you, made out of flesh and bones, we should live happy and free through our work.” In another small village, Besseges, in the same year a young woman of 32, wife of a miner and mother of five, Amandine Vernet, reveals her vocation of natural born leader, “she never made herself noticeable before May 14th when she started to read a written speech in a meeting of 5,000 people in the Robiac woods. The day after she had started to speak, and the following days, made more self-confident by her success, she pronounced violent and moving speeches. She had the talent of making part of her audience cry.”1

In this type of strike, what Perrot calls the emotional strike, the movement is no longer limited to a specific target: what is at stake is a transformation of the subjectivity. This transformation – and that is the interesting point – is at the same time the cause and the consequence of the strike. The subjective, the social and the political changes are tightly entangled so that necessarily this type of uprising concerns subjects whose social identity is poorly codified, the people that Rancière calls the “placeless” or the “part-less.” They are movements where people unite under the slogan “we need to change ourselves” (Foucault), which means that the change of the conditions isn’t the ultimate aim but a means to change one’s subjectivity and one’s relationships.

According to some interpretations, there have been some components of this kind in the movement of ’68. Young people and women rose up then and claimed new rights that weren’t only political in an acquired sense, but that changed the very meaning of the word “political.” The inclusion of sexuality as an officially political territory is actually symptomatic of this transformation. Sexuality isn’t in fact the right term to be used, because it already designates an artificially separated field of reality. We should rather talk about the rehabilitation of the concept of desire, and analyze how new desires enter the political sphere in these specific moments, during the emotional strikes that we call “human strikes.”

The feminisms that do not pursue the integration in a world conceived and shaped by male protagonists are part of these strikes. We can read on this crucial point in a collective book from 1987 entitled Non credere di avere dei diritti (Don’t believe you have any right), “The difference of being a woman hasn’t found its free existence by establishing itself on the given contradictions, present within the social body, but on searching the contradiction that each singular woman was experiencing in herself and that didn’t have any social form before receiving it from the feminine politics. We have invented ourselves, so to speak, the social contradictions that made our freedom necessary.” Where invented doesn’t mean made up but found and translated the facts that reveal their dormant political dimension.

*The plan of consistency of human strike

“They call it love. We call it unpaid labour. They call it frigidity. We call it absenteeism. Every time that we become pregnant against our own will, it’s an accident at work. Homosexuality and heterosexuality are both work conditions. Homosexuality is just the control of the workers on the production, not the end of the exploitation. No more smiles? No more money. Nothing will be more efficient to destroy the virtue of a smile. Neurosis, suicide, desexualization: professional illnesses of housewives.” Silvia Federici, The right to hatred, 1974

“1) The house where we make the most part of our work (the domestic work), is atomized in thousands of places, but it’s present everywhere, in town, in the countryside, on the mountains, etc.
2) We are controlled and we depend on thousands of little bosses and controllers: they are our husbands, fathers, brothers etc., but we only have one master: the State.
3) Our comrades of work and struggle, that are our neighbors, aren’t physically in touch with us during the work as it happens in the factory: but we can meet in places that we know, where we all go when we can steal some free time during the day. And each one of us isn’t separated from the other by qualifications and professional categories. We all make the same work.
(…) If we went on a strike we would not leave unfinished products or raw materials untransformed etc.: by interrupting our work we wouldn’t paralyze the production but the daily reproduction of the working class. This would hit the heart of the Capitalist system, because it would become an actual strike even for those that normally go on strike without us; but since the moment we stop to guarantee the survival
of those which we are affectively tightened to, we will also have a difficulty in continuing the resistance.” Coordination from Emilia Romagna for the salary to the domestic work, Bologna, 1976

“The worker has the possibility of joining a union, going on strike, the mothers are isolated, locked in their houses, tightened to their children by charitable bonds. Our wildcat strikes manifest themselves as a physical and mental breakdown.” Adrienne Rich, Born of a Woman, 1980

The situation of not being able to draw the line between life and work that beforehand only concerned housewives is now becoming generalized. A strike isn’t possible to envisage for most of us, but the reasons we keep living the way we do and can’t rebel against anyone but ourselves are to be searched in our libidinal metabolism and in the libidinal economy we participate to.

Each struggle has become a struggle against a part of ourselves because we are always partly complicit with the things that oppress us.
The biopower, under which we live, is the power that owns our bodies but allows us the right to speak.
According to what Giorgio Agamben writes in The Coming Community

the colonization of physiology by industry started in the ’20s and it reached its peak when photography allowed a massive circulation of pornography. The anonymous bodies portrayed were absolutely whatever and because of this very reason generically desirable. Images of real human beings had become for the first time in history objects of desire on a massive scale, and therefore objects.

Stuart Ewen explains very well how advertising starts to target heavily women and young people in the fifties, right after the war; women and children were the absolute majority of the bodies portrayed in a promiscuous proximity with goods of consumption. The intimacy between things and human beings creates all sort of symbolic disorders since the very beginning. Since then the consumption shapes the actual life form of human beings – not only what is called life style. In the case of women the confusion and enforced cohabitation with objects within the sphere of desire – male and female desire – is clear for everybody. Advertisements talk to the affects, and tell tales of a human life reconciled with things, where the inexpressiveness and the hostility of object is constantly obliterated by the joy and the beauty that they are supposed to bring to their owners.

Work is never really present and life has no gravity in advertising: objects have no weight, the link between the cause and the effect of gestures is governed by pure fantasy. The dreams engendered by capitalism are the most disquieting of its products, their specific visual language is also the source of the misunderstanding between the inhabitants of the poorly developed countries and the Westerners. These dreams are conceived as devices of subjectivization, scenes from the life of the toxic community of human beings and things. Where the commodity is absent, bodies are tragically different.

If brought to its last consequences this implicit philosophy leads to the complete redundancy of art – and in this sense the message that we all know so well and that we all receive every day in the streets of the cities or from the television screen must be taken seriously. The artwork is no longer the humanized object – this change started to take place in the nineteenth century with the industrialization of life in general. Duchamp himself explains the birth of the readymade in 1955 in an interview with James Johnson Sweeny by declaring that he came to conceive the readymade as a consequence of the dehumanization of the artwork. The task of making the objects expressive, responsive to human feelings, that for thousands of years has been taken in charge by artists, is now performed by capitalism essentially through television. Because what is at stake in the capitalistic vision of the world is a continuous production of a libidinal economy in which behaviors, expressions and gestures contribute to the creation of this new human body.

*The irreversible anthropological transformation in Italy (and elsewhere)

“I think that this generation (…) of the people that were 15 or 20 years old once they have made this [revolutionary] choice between 1971 and 1972, which in the following years becomes a generalized process in the factories and the schools, in the parishes, in the neighbourhoods, they have gone through an anthropological transformation, I can’t find a better definition, an irreversible cultural modification of themselves that you can’t come back from and that’s why these subjects later, after ’79, when everything is over, become crazy, commit suicide, become drug addicts because of the impossibility and the intolerability of being included and tamed by the system.”2

That’s how Nanni Balestrini describes a form of tragic human strike that took place during the eighties, when the movement of ’77 fell under the weight of a disproportioned repression.

The bleed of revolutionary lives from the country makes Italy a nation of disappeared. Without needing a genocide nor a real dictatorship, the strategy of tension and a modest amount of State terrorism achieved this result within a few years.

One should consider that what doesn’t happen isn’t a disgrace or the legitimate source of resentment against the anonymous and submitted population, but as a consequence of what has happened before.

The space of politics where Berlusconi rose without encountering any resistance was a territory where any opposition had been deported since the repression started to function directly on the life forms, since people couldn’t desire in the same way anymore because the libidinal economy they were part of went bankrupt.

One question that still isn’t considered with the adequate attention in the militant context is the one of the struggle-force. The struggleforce, like the love-force, must be protected and regenerated. It’s a resource that doesn’t renovate itself automatically and needs collective conditions for its creation.

Human strike can be read as an extreme attempt to reappropriate the means of production of the struggle-force, the love-force, the life-force.
These means are ends in themselves; they already bring with them a new potentiality that makes the subjects stronger. The political space where this operation is possible isn’t of course the same one that was colonized by the televised biopower. It’s the one that we can foresee in Lia’s words from 1976:

“The return of the repressed threatens all my projects of work, research, politics. Does it threaten them or is it the truly political thing in myself, to which I should give relief and room? (…) The silence failed this part of myself that desired to make politics, but it affirmed something new. There has been a change, I have started to speak out, but during these days I have felt that the affirmative part of myself was occupying all the space again. I convinced myself of the fact that the mute woman is the most fertile objection to our politics. The nonpolitical digs tunnels that we mustn’t fill with earth.”


1 M. Perrot, Les ouvriers en grève, France 1871-1890, Mouton, Paris, La Haye, 1974, p.99-100.
2 N. Balestrini, L’Editore in La Grande Rivolta, Bompiani, Milano, 1999, p.318-319.