Women’s work and women’s labor are buried deeply in the heart of the capitalist social and economic structure. (David Staples, No Place Like Home, 2006)

It is clear that capitalism has led to the super-exploitation of women. This would not offer much consolation if it had only meant heightened misery and oppression, but fortunately it has also provoked resistance. And capitalism has become aware that if it completely ignores or suppresses this resistance it might become more and more radical, eventually turning into a movement for self-reliance and perhaps even the nucleus of a new social order. (Robert Biel, The New Imperialism, 2000)

The emerging liberative agent in the Third World is the unwaged force of women who are not yet disconnected from the life economy by their work. They serve life not commodity production. They are the hidden underpinning of the world economy and the wage equivalent of their life-serving work is estimate at &16 trillion. (John McMurtry, The Cancer State of Capitalism, 1999)

The pestle has snapped because of so much pounding tomorrow I will go home. Until tomorrow Until tomorrow… Because of so much pounding Tomorrow I will go home. (Hausa Women’s Song, from Nigeria)

INTRODUCTION

This essay is a political reading of the restructuring of the [re]production of labor-power in the global economy, but it is also a feminist critique of Marx that, in different ways, has been developing since the 1970s, first articulated by activists in the Campaign for Wages For Housework, especially Selma James, Mariarosa Dalla Costa, Leopoldina Fortunati, among others, and later by the feminists of the Bielefeld school, Maria Mies, Claudia Von Werlhof, Veronica Benholdt-Thomsen. (1) At the center of this critique is the argument that Marx’s analysis of capitalism has been hampered by its almost exclusive focus on commodity production and its blindness to the significance of women’s unpaid reproductive work and the sexual division of labor in capitalist accumulation. (2) For ignoring this work has limited Marx’s understanding of the mechanisms perpetuating the exploitation of labor, and led him to assume that capitalist development is both inevitable and progressive, on the assumption that scarcity is an obstacle to human selfdetermination, but capital’s expansion of the forces of production, through large scale industrialization, would in time lead to its transcendence. Marx had apparently second thoughts on this matter in the later years of his life. As for us, a century and a half after the publication of Capital, we must challenge this view for at least three reasons. [Read the entire article here]

Advertisements