[OPE-L:5879] Re: Re: Hello and Kliman's cat

jurriaan bendien (Jbendien@globalxs.nl)
Sun, 21 Dec 1997 03:23:31 +0100

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Gerry writes:
> None of these developments have eliminated domestic labor or patriarchy.

I agree.

> Rather, they concern the changing *forms* in which patriarchal relations
> are manifested under late capitalism.

But these "forms" have changed in the history of capitalism, wouldn't you
agree ?

>From a theoretical perspective,
> perhaps the larger issue is to identify the requirements regarding the
> reproduction of labour-power under capitalism.

Yes, I had a crack at that problem when I studied for a Master's degree in
Education back in 1982 (in relation also to human capital theory). Insofar
as there is a "moral-historical" as well as a physiological element to the
wage, and given that these days in the West the former element dominates
over the latter, not just economic but also political and cultural factors
are involved, the "moral climate", "cultures of consumption" and so on.
But at the end of the day one has to say it is essentially a question of
"material interests", and how these happen to be articulated and expressed
in the specific context.
> Certainly from a historical perspective the reproduction of labour-power,
> domestic labour, and patriarchy have all been connected to the
> reproduction of capitalist social relations. The theoretical question is
> whether there is a systematic and necessary relationship between domestic
> labour, patriarchy, and capitalism (and this also has a political
> corollary, i.e. whether patriarchy and the nuclear family can at least in
> theory be eliminated under capitalism).

My argument is that there is no necessary relationship, but an historically
contingent one, and that is where I disagree probably with a lot of
feminists, who would argue there is a structural connection which Marxists
have neglected (Marx said somewhat sarcastically "the problem of the
reproduction of the working classes may be safely left to the working
classes themselves" - something which isn't actually true historically
since bourgeois reformers sought to intervene directly in the home life of
the proletariat). I might even be so bold as to suggest that much of the
persistence of so-called "patriarchy", is straight out a product of class
society as such (and not capitalism), of the disparity level of rich and
poor, of the strong and the weak.But I have to be careful with that sort of

To give an empirical example to illustrate at least something about these
points: in New Zealand it was found that after unemployed solo parents
(mainly mothers) were given a reasonable social security benefit in the
1970s, the tendency was for the total of solo-mothers to increase, in other
words the propensity of men to abandon their family, or father children
that they did not look after fulltime, increased significantly. Lateron
however, as the recession worsened, solo-mothers got "bashed" in the media
by politicians saying the solo-parents were "bludgers" and so on. It was
easy to do, because solo-mothers were in a weak position politically.

> > >the activities involved in reproducing the collective worker (I mean
> > household labour, raising children, education etc.) are a cost, but
they are also more than a cost since capital has an interest in the
"quality" of labour-power produced. Thus
> public education may be seen as a cost, but also a potential benefit (to
> the extent that it trains future workers in skills and behavior, e.g.
> docility, that benefit capital).
Yes, I agree with that. I left it out of the argument, oops ! Certainly
in New Zealand the bourgeoisie was very concerned with the nature and
quality of education, as well as how to change it to generate more avenues
for profitable activities during the neo-liberal revolution since 1984.
They were prepared to spend more on it, seeing it as making a contribution
to productivity. Generally the policy in the West today is to tie
educational processes more closely to business, to the requirements of the
labour market, to make education more flexible/responsive to the labour
market. However a central question remained, "who pays for education, and
why ?". I believe they have opted for a universal "voucher" system now in
New Zealand, that is to say, you get an automatic entitlement to three
years paid tertiary education of your choice (how it works out in practice
I don't know yet).

> I don't have any specific remarks now on your comments on "transitional
> demands" at the close of your post other than to say that I have no
> objection to what you wrote.
Well maybe it crops up as a relevant issue at some other point !

In solidarity