“Human Capital or Toxic Asset: After the Wage”
Reartikulacija, 2010. [link]
This is a sequence of reflections on affirmation and negation, on identification and severance: determinate negation as strategic affirmation, the identification of concrete universals and severance from a defunct relation. These lines will be explored with reference to the current situation of the waged and unwaged working class, most proximately in Britain, as “debt” becomes the ideological white noise and the practical horizon of all social and political imagination. Household indebtedness is confused with the state deficit in the spontaneous ideology of the Conservative austerity agenda, as what remains of the crisis-riddled economy is sacrificed to the “debt” – as poor people to loan sharks, so Britain to the bond investors. The nationalist narrative of “we’re all in this together” eliminates any space for discussion as to who might bear greater responsibility for the crisis, and who should be paying for it. The announced cuts make it all too clear – it’s the bloated public sector and welfare payments which are responsible, and those that have the least shall have even that taken away, as the Biblical parable goes. Yet a fatalistic consensus prevails for now, transfixed by a menace beyond dispute: the “debt.” Read more…
“The Battle of all* Mothers (or: No Unauthorised Reproduction)”
Well Jeff, … the fact is that you have the luxury of knowing that you will never ever ever ever EVER be faced with the government bossing you around like a child, simply because you have a parasite living in your body.
– The Law Fairy, Feministing.com
By now people have forgotten what history has proven: that ‘raising’ a child is tantamount to retarding his development. The best way to raise a child is to LAY OFF.
– Shulamith Firestone, The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution, 1970
In what follows I wish to consider the effects of recent UK health and social policies on women and their children who are labelled ‘at risk’. Read more…
“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…
“The Politics of Motherhood”
Chapter Six, The Color of Welfare: How Racism Undermined the War on Poverty, Oxford University Press, 1994. [PDF]
During the first half of the turbulent sixties, child-care policy remained disengaged from the volatile battles raging over race and rights. Rather, improving child care remained the obscure mission of two federal bureaus, the Women’s Bureau and the Children’s Bureau. Before the decade was over, child care, too, became embroiled in the struggle for racial equality. Child care provided through the War on Poverty’s Headstart program was designed to provide enriching experiences for poor children, which in practice meant black children. Day care provided to welfare mothers to reduce the welfare rolls also disproportionately benefited African Americans.
In seeking to build a right-of-center coalition, Richard Nixon seized upon child care as a program that might accomplish that goal. In his first message to Congress, he promised to provide all young children a “healthful and stimulating development.”  The problem was that his welfare reform scheme – the Family Assistance Plan – contained a day-care component. As day-care costs became entangled in the controversy over the FAP, Nixon abandoned his commitment to children.
It wasn’t only the FAP that undermined support for a comprehensive child-care plan. Equally significant was public ambivalence about the escalating numbers of working mothers. If the government embarked on policies that encouraged welfare mothers to work, what implications might such policies have for all families? Federal support for child care was defeated both because of its connection to welfare reform, and thus to one of the most controversial and racially charged issues of the decade, and because of its implied validation of the right of all mothers to work. Read more…
Eileen Boris and S. J. Kleinberg, “Mothers and Other Workers: (Re)Conceiving Labor, Maternalism, and the State”
“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…
“Women, Welfare and the Politics of Need Interpretation”
Thesis Eleven No. 17, 1987.
What some writers are calling “the coming welfare wars” will be largely wars about, even against, women. Because women comprise the overwhelming majority of social-welfare program recipients and employees, women and women’s needs will be the principal stakes in the battles over social spending likely to dominate national politics in the coming period. Moreover, the welfare wars will not be limited to the tenure of Reagan or even of Reaganism. On the contrary, they will be protracted wars both in time and in space. What James O’Connor theorized nearly fifteen years ago as “the fiscal crisis of the state” is a long-term, structural phenomenon of international proportions. Not just the U.S., but every late-capitalist welfare state in Western Europe and North America is facing some version of it.’ And the fiscal crisis of the welfare state coincides everywhere with a second long-term, structural tendency: the feminization of poverty. This is Diana Pearce’s term for the rapidly increasing proportion of women in the adult poverty population, an increase tied to, inter alia, the rise in “female-headed households.” 1,2 In the U.S., this trend is so pronounced and so steep that analysts project that, should it continue, the poverty population will consist entirely of women and their children before the year 2000.3 Read more…
New York, Harper & Row, 1971.
1. Why We Must Disestablish School
2. Phenomenology of School
3. Ritualization of Progress
4. Institutional Spectrum
5. Irrational Consistencies
6. Learning Webs
7. Rebirth of Epimethean Man