MARXISM, FEMINISM, POSTSTRUCTURALISM (Topic 1)

The gendered form of the family has been used to better understand how domestic labour has to be defined. In fact the gendered perspective is what most scholars have argued on when discussing the role of women in the social production process. However with or without gender, the connection between capitalism and the family as such is seen to be a one that is disputed and debated even now. In this context this essay discusses three different readings. One of the readings analyzes the connection between domestic labour and capitalism. Here the domestic labour processes are presented by author Vogel (2000) in a way that there is no rational reason to add gendered reasoning’s. The second is that of how social classes and oppressions are better understood by Marxist framework. Here the work of Gimenez (2005) is presented. Then the work of Brenner is presented to highlight why it is necessary to understand the significance of the women’s role in a capitalist society as it would help to economically free the women.

Capitalism and the Social Feminists

Capitalism and family can be described in a connective perspective as Vogel (2000) presents it. Domestic labour in which women were involved was theorized from as early as the 1960s into the 1970s. This domestic labour was classified as the work within one’s household, the childbearing and rearing work.Social feminists attempted to study this as embedded within Marxist political economical framework. This form of an understanding was actually considered to be effective towards understanding how women and their diverse activities within the household were actually contributing towards society’s interests and assets. Women’s liberation was a much researched notion then and this was also radical feminists also adopted much of the Marxist concepts without much ado.

A range of formulations and writing were hence born and this was seen to inter-mingle both Marxism and feminism. The feminist perspective is hence one way to represent how Capitalism and family could be connected. However by the end of the 1970s there was more of an interest decline when it came to labor theorizing and in this context the author presents why the challenges representing the historic capitalist society in a gendered version could have contributed to the decline. Vogel (2000) presents that there could be a challenge at the concept level itself. Primarily the concept of domestic labour was mainly rooted in the liberalization and the feminist movement of the 1960’s. It was a concept that was formed in Britain and very soon came to be a theory for representation of women on a theoretical level as one who did the housework, child rearing and more. At the concept level in the connection of domestic labour and capitalism, the family households were seen to be the sites of production. What was being produced was that of work output in the form of the making of good citizens, their nourishment in the form of child rearing and more. However this is a very intangible way to represent the goods of production. Where the household is the production, then it can be said that the work being done are actually labor processes. Here the definition is very much tangible, however when it comes to the product of the labor processes, there are not much tangibility. Does the product have a value become a big question, as it is only with the value that the product could be viewed in the capitalist chain? In this context there arises many other questions in context too; the prime of them is on how the value should be determined, and how the product would be viewed when it came to modes of reproduction for the product. Here therein is a very conceptual level problem in understanding how domestic labour could be traced back to capitalism. The very meaning of what domestic labour was was also quite fluctuating. People could claim that it could mean an extension of the act of procreation and in which case should it be paid labour or should it be unpaid? Alternatively which form of works should be considered under paid labour, would it include child care in general or would it only pertain to housework that helps rear the child? These are some questions that could not be discussed or explained with only the feminist or the economic perspective. Here there needed to be include many more elements such as the psychology of child care, the involvement of the mother in the rearing of the child and more. Ideological, political, social and other agendas come into play.

The second most important challenge was how the women’s liberationists found the abstractness of the concept. For them to use the concept in social-political debates they needed to have a more defined concept. This was what led to them abandoning advocating for the role of the women in capitalist society. Here they essentially shifted from attempting to define house labour and women in the Marxist framework. Vogel (2000) however argues that this was an approach with an epistemological orientation. What author means here is that theory was interpreted in a one-to-one meaning with that of the empirical. Theory however cannot be explained in a one is to one relationship, it is a broader intellectual representation. In this context it becomes necessary to analyze for how other literatures argued about the domestic labour context in Marxian framework and not just the feminist perspective. In his presentation of a Marx framework, Marx does not present a concrete society as such. The capitalist mode of production is also presented in a very abstract way, there is no connection to a pure state. A concrete reality was established by taking up examples such as England, France, Russia, etc. In this context Marx framework is as abstract as the concept of ‘domestic labour’ that feminists and others tried to define. The author states that theory should hence be used as a lens to interpret or to define things and should not be used as a direct link to reality or some empirical formation. Applying the same to domestic production, author Vogel (2000) presents that the feminist perspective could be just as comprehensive in presenting a connection between capitalism and the work women did in their households. The author acknowledges that the challenge here was to present the family work as a labour process.

Labour Power, Reproduction of Labour Power and Capitalism

In using Marx’s framework, the author primarily considers what could be two deviations. One is that of the labor power which is often defined as the capacity that is exerted by an individual to make something of value that can be used or exchanged for something else. This labor power will actually go down as the people that labour are humans and hence there will be some amount of wear and tear when they work. This will hence affect the term which is called the reproduction of labour. How can there be a perfect reproduction of labour when there are some processes that are constantly being brought under wear and tear, in the long run this degradation will bring down the reproduction power. The author presents this and other similar divisions of labour processes to establish the connection between family and capitalist society better.

Applying this degradation of the labour power within time, the author describes what could be the case in a class divided society. In such a society it can be said that the classes that are dominant will use the labour power of those classes that are recessive. However be the social structure, Marx has only considered how labour power was essential to a society, he has not presented for what the labour power would degrade with time. Marxian framework however discusses that nonworking members have to be replaced with the working members as a form of replenishment. Primarily the author presents how direct producers will need energy to come back to work and here they need some daily activity that could give them this energy. Secondly activities are needed to help the non-laboring members of society also. These are members that are either sick or are old or too young to work. Lastly it is necessary to have some form of a replacement process that will ensure replacement when a laboring individual is taken out of the labor force because he is infirm or when a replacement is necessary because an individual of the labor force died. These three activities are essential to production. Production as a social process will not be kept without these three processes. That these processes are required to maintain the social production has been seen in societal activities. Countries that need workers, have not only brought in the workers that were needed, but actually managed to transport the families of the workers itself. Here the families were necessary to sustain the worker and support the activities of the worker in the social production process. In fact the author argues that the presence of heterosexual family forms is very proof that this form of support is institutionalized.

In the context of discussing capitalism, the author presents the key terms of what Marx presents capitalism to be. The primary of these is that of the understanding of what a commodity is in social production. A commodity is one that has a use value, as it can be used. It will also have an exchange value, which means the owner of the commodity might be able to exchange he commodity for something else of equal value. In the context of a worker expending labour power, Marx made two distinctions. One of them is what he calls as the necessary labour. Necessary labour is that work done in a day that will support the worker for their subsistence. On the other hand the surplus labour is that which is accumulated by the person who employs the labour. A profit driven system is hence created in a real capitalist society. On the other hand when a worker does more work for the same wages, his labour power is actually cheapened. When his wages are increase relative to the work he does then Marx defines this as relative surplus value. In all these definitions Marx considers individual consumption as it only relates to the whole picture. That the individual consumption could by itself be a very complex topic has not been considered by Marx. The individual consumption is not just the wages that a worker earns and consumes on his own, this is wages that is being considered for a family of women and people that are either too young to work or are too old to work. The author argues that Marx in no presenting the consumption processes in here has actually left behind a great void. The first component of necessary labor is purely wag related as Marx presents it, however Vogel (2000) presents the second component to be one that is not wage related. It is that component that will enable the replenishment of energy and people for the socialist workforce. This is what is referred to as the domestic labour. The author in presenting the domestic labour from the capitalist perspective as well as from a labour process perspective is actually able to present more quantifiable entities. As noted in the previous discussions on the challenges that feminist scholars faced when trying to explain away the abstractedness of the concept of domestic labour, there were many commonplace concerns. However the way the author defines domestic labour, the use value and the exchange value of the domestic labour actually becomes more quantifiable. In fact the author states that when it is defined in such a sense, it actually loses its gendered bearing, it can be taken to be fixed as a family concept only and not in any other context. “Defined this way, domestic labor became a concept specific to capitalism and without fixed gender assignment. This freed it from several common-sense assumptions that haunted the domestic labor debate, most especially the notion that domestic labor is universal and that it is necessarily women’s work”. Here the social and domestic components of labour are seen to be viewed in connection with the market. While wages that a worker earns in the market are seen be essentially connected to labour, the expenditure of the wages to replenish energy would by itself require some form of work in the domestic end, that which is seen to be additional labour. The food has to be prepared for the person to eat, so that they can be energized so as to go to work the next day. Similarly a child has to be cared for at home and must be taught skills that will enable the child to grow up to be an adult that would take the place of a worker in the socialist society. In being a more complicated concept domestic work is thus differentiated into work that has value and does not have value. In the former two elements of caring for workers and for children that are going to be workers there is a certain value sense associated, however in the context of caring for the infirm or the people who are too old to work, there is a value less dimensions associated with it. In either case, capitalist interest to reduce labor is seen to be felt. Where domestic labor is reduced then there are more workers available in the work pool of society. In the 19th and the 20th century there are many devices that have enabled the reduction of domestic labour. However the reduction of labour in the home has not actively increased the amount of people working outside as per the capitalist interests. However as the author portrays that although there are not much favorable outcomes with respect to capitalist interests there could be other benefits. In the spheres of production there is more equality and this by itself is a benefit. All women are seen to suffer in terms of equality in society. In a time where the role of the women was severely constrained to only the domestic front, such an argument as which is placed by the author gives their work a social capitalist value. There are obviously other dual positioning of factors that might seem to play a role here. But the pivotal is that the significance of the domestic labour gendered or otherwise is still recognized.

Capitalism and the Oppression of Women

In ‘Capitalism and the Oppression of Women’, Gimenez (2005) discusses a way to understand the connection between family and capitalism. Where Vogel (2000) presented a feminist social perspective, here the author is seen to present a social oppression based angle to the connection. The basis for author to present such a perspective is that the Marx framework inherently presents a the foundation level inequality that might exist in society with respect to gender. The capitalist mode of production is seen to be the main causative agent here dictating that labour has to be sold, when most women are working in the domestic household not to sell their labour but do it as a duty. It is easy to understand why Gimenez (2005) presents that there is a structural flaw. The oppression of women is more than a side effect of the social production process; in fact it is rooted in the process itself. The author argues that the very nature of understanding the man versus the women mode might by itself lead to sexist ideologies. Relations have to be understood through their effects, and if such is the case then the means of exchange should also be presented and argued in the context of their effects. Things according to the Marxian way would be organized based on the value that is produced and the value that could be exchanged freely. In this context the domestic labour that the women might produce also has value. However Gimenez’s arguments are focused on the oppression perspective.  She argues that where the Marxian framework could be used to understand how the social inequality for women is rooted in production, it cannot be said that social inequality for women will improve once they are given the rightful claim in connection to capitalism. This is because of the concept of classes which could still be used to differentiate the form of oppression that women would face. The author presents here that women in different classes might face different forms of oppression. Here the author’s arguments are something that could be taken to be applicable in a realist sense. It does make sense that women in a more marginalized section of society might face greater oppressions than one that is a more elevated class of society. Taking the authors’ arguments in the context of this essay, it leads to the question of how women and their contribution to domestic labour might vary based on classes. If a connection between domestic labour and its inevitable benefits to social production in a capitalist society was considered such as how Vogel (2000) presents it to be, then one will also have to consider the impact of existing social classes, as social classes might change how the contributions work, or how they might impact on one another. This is yet another complexity added to the discussions.

Capitalist Globalization

Brenner (2000) in her article discusses how women’s rights in political discourses are seen to be endorsed by many social political groups. Here the greater advocacy for women’s rights are seen to be  based on the fact that most women related agendas are only focused on reducing population or the fertility issues of women. However this is not the only necessity, there needs to be a shift from considering only this issue to better understanding of the economic situation of the women.  The economic situation of the women needs to be made better, it is necessary that there should be better conditions promoted internally. This has to be done by means of equal education, changes in family and property law, and more. Brenner’s presentations of transnational feminism presents the issues for how women are facing much labour issues also and which leads to the greater reduction in their economic value. Here the questions are whether the labour value of the women are in any context considered to be lesser that that of the male counterparts and if the domestic labour that women expend are being considered in nay context. While Brenner’s article in comparison to the article of Vogel (2000) does not present a way of connecting family and capitalism, it highlights the importance of failing to understand such a connection.

 

Conclusion

There are continuing challenges in representations. There were obviously some continuing challenges in representations of the connections between family and the capitalist productions. These challenges were mostly present because of the feminists debate did not apply the Marxist categories correctly or simply dismissed theories that attempted to use them. Much of the epistemological perspective was not understood as it should be and in addition there were also concerns of the abstract nature of the presentations. In essence when feminism was used as a perspective towards understanding the connections of domestic labour and social production under capitalism, it was seen that there were many literature activist debates that seem to dramatically oppress such theories. Only in the 1980s and 90s there was a greater interest in understanding he domestic labour debates, early domestic labour literature was hence reused social reproduction came to be understood in its broader meaning. The creation and the recreation of beings so as to help them go onto another days work were considered just as important as the labour itself. Women’s life at the very core of capitalism was the initial projections but later the theory shifted to accepting domestic labour as something that need not essentially have a gendered context. While heavy burdens of the domestic labour are indeed focused on the women, it can be said that theorizing domestic labour into its rightful framework of social production and capitalism might also need to look beyond gender.

This essay discusses more than the challenges of representation. It presented why it is necessary to view the domestic labour as more than a gendered perspective. This was because when viewed firmly from a gendered angle the significance of the work comes under greater debate. Furthermore a level of abstractness is introduced and also it becomes biased in becoming just pure feminist literature. However when presented as social processes that needs to be understood as necessary for the capitalist production it acquires more meaning. Secondly there is the need to understand the economic oppressions and the economic deficiencies that women face when the significance of their work in society domestic productions are not understood. Only in enabling better debates on these topics can women be helped economically.

 

 References

Brenner, J &Holmstrom, N. (1983). “Women’s Self Organization: Theory and Strategy.” Monthly Review, 34, 34-46

Lise V. (2000).“Domestic Labor Revisited,” Science and Society, v. 64, n. 2 (2000)

Gimenez, M. (2005). “Capitalism and the Oppression of Women: Marx Revisited,” Science and Society, v. 69, n. 1

Brenner, J. (2003). “Transnational Feminism and the Struggle for Global Justice,” New Politics, v. 9, n. 2.