It remains to be clarified that by saying that the work we perform in the home is capitalist production, we are not expressing a wish to be legitimated as part of the “productive forces,” in other words, it is not a resort to moralism. Only from a capitalist viewpoint being productive is a moral virtue, if not a moral imperative. From the viewpoint of the working class being productive simply means being exploited… Ultimately when we say that we produce capital, we say that we can and want to destroy it, rather than engage in a losing battle to move from one form and degree of exploitation to another.
—Silvia Federici “Counterplanning from the Kitchen”
Among the most important Marxist contributions to a theory of gendered exploitation, and also one of the most widely misunderstood, is a short text entitled The Arcane of Reproduction: Housework, Prostitution, Labor and Capital. Written in 1981 by Leopoldina Fortunati, this rigorous account of reproductive labor under capitalism has long been underappreciated within the larger Marxist tradition. The following article attempts to give it its due reappraisal, arguing for the text’s continuing relevance not only as a necessary critique of an incomplete project begun by Marx in his mature writings, but also within the context of the current crisis and global struggles against austerity.
In order to appreciate the intervention made by Fortunati – beginning over a quarter century ago, along with the other founding members of the group Lotta Femminista, including Mariarosa Dalla Costa – we must first jettison some of our Marxist baggage. We might call this habit of thought “the arcane of productive labor,” a privileging of value production as that which defines class exploitation. This prioritization often leads to the conclusion that the point of production is the central locus of proletarian subjectivation, as well as the foreground of revolutionary struggle and the starting place of a positive communist project. The ongoing Marxist reflex of productivism has effectively written off Fortunati’s insights, along with the bulk of feminist theories of reproductive labor. The charge is that by moving to theorize reproductive activity as productive labor in Marx’s terms, these feminist theorists have concocted a moralizing criticism, rather than a sober critique, of masculine discourses under capitalism. Of course, that sober critique would necessarily leave us with no more than “what Marx said.” In any event, this reaction has framed the discussion of reproduction since the publication of The Arcane of Reproduction: measuring its adequacy as a theory of value rather than understanding it to reveal what a theory of value cannot immediately disclose. 1
This reception had the consequence of renaturalizing the very thing Fortunati’s critique was meant to denaturalize in the first place: reproductive labor and gendered exploitation under capitalism. It is true that if Marx’s categories are stretched to incorporate reproductive labor, this can lead to further confusion. In short, if the debate revolves around whether reproductive labor is value-productive, we are still missing the point. The point is the political, as opposed to the moral, viewpoint of the proletariat – that which arises from the wage and class relation of exploitation itself. Let us not forget that “the personal is political,” which is to say, in the context of Marxist-Feminism, that the wage-relation – not biologically but structurally – must also involve that half of the working class relegated to the hidden abode of labor-power’s reproduction.
This reproduction, and therefore this sphere of activity, is as relevant and historically specific a Marxist category as labor-power itself – regardless of its content as social substance. Nevertheless, the fact that this activity is feminized, and performed by women outside of the directly market-mediated sphere of capital accumulation, gives it a moral valence in the eyes of Marxist critics. To denaturalize, i.e. make political and social, the category of reproduction through the mediation of the wage was the goal of the Wages for Housework Movement. Whether just in the form of a demand, or through recognition won through the institution of that (perhaps impossible) demand, its function was to rid gendered exploitation of its emotional connotations, and thus combat the structural devaluation of reproductive labor in capitalist social relations.
As Silvia Federici had to clarify in her defense “Wages Against Housework,” the aim of the wages for housework movement was not to win wages: “to view wages for housework as a thing rather than a perspective is to detach the end result of our struggle from the struggle itself.” 2 Furthermore, she writes, this demand is “the demand by which our nature ends and our struggle begins because just to want wages for housework means to refuse that work as the expression of our nature.” 3 Within the context of the feminist movement and the Wages for Housework campaign, Fortunati’s achievement was not to “prove” that housework produces value. The value-theoretical analysis put forth flows directly from the revolutionary implications of the demand for Wages for Housework. The theorists of Wages for Housework understood the struggle could never “be won” “without at the same time revolutionizing – in the process of struggling for [the wage] – all our family and social relations.” 4
The members of Lotta Femminista were also making an appeal to their male comrades, as Federici discloses in their defense. 5 As a result, the demand for a wage was made within the traditional Marxist framework, within the assumption that the power of the proletariat is actually measurable in terms of socially necessary labor time. If we bracket for a moment the debate over the “productive” or “unproductive” characterization of housework, we will glimpse the political question Fortunati highlighted so well.
The Hidden Abode
Published by Autonomedia in 1995, fourteen years after its initial publication in Italian, the only available English translation of The Arcane of Reproduction is difficult to approach. But what becomes clear upon reading the range of paternalistic reviews is that critics who have half-read the text are evaluating Fortunati’s analysis with a single criterion: the exactitude with which it recapitulates the central points of Capital. However, this book excels precisely where it diverges from the sacred tome. Especially for this reason, I hope to contribute to making this text understood, by breaking its system down into component parts and performing a brief reassemblage.
Despite progressive advancements made over the course of the feminist struggle, the gendered exploitation that Fortunati described remains a reality. This is because capitalism itself re-encloses the areas these gains have generated – which is to say, in more esoteric terms, the reproduction of capitalism daily hides the social character of necessary gendered exploitation, and it will remain structurally obscured unless its social character is exposed by struggle. The rolling back of social gains is precisely what restructuring under conditions of crisis renders inevitable without sustained resistance from below.
Furthermore, even to its most practical and well-meaning critics, the actual relationship between gender and capitalist social relations remains an enigma. This is not simply because, as Marxists, we are reluctant to reproach the old man, but rather as a consequence of the fact that reproductive work – still performed primarily by those assigned the fate “woman” – is extremely difficult to comprehend in the terms provided by the critique of political economy. Of course, gender is fundamentally defined by capitalism, and it should not be concluded that Marx’s critique was “wrong”; but he left women out of the story, and we need to find where he is hiding them.
Silvia Federici best summarizes this lacuna within Marx’s theory: “No difference is made between commodity production and the production of the workforce. One assembly line produces both. Accordingly, the value of labor power is measured by the value of the commodities (food, clothing, housing) that have to be supplied to the worker, to ‘the man, so that he can renew his life process.’” 6 She rightly concludes “the only relevant agents he recognizes in this process are male, self-reproducing workers, their wages and their means of subsistence. The production of workers is by means of the production of commodities. Nothing is said about women, domestic labor, sexuality and procreation.” 7
What Marx leaves us with in his chapter entitled “The Sale and Purchase of Labor-Power” is a “historical and moral element.” 8 Here is the necessary structural place upon which to perform our feminist work – on the reproduction of this peculiar commodity, which Marx immediately folds, tautologically, into the factory setting:
One consequence of the peculiar nature of labor-power as a commodity is this, that it does not in reality pass straight away into the hand of the buyer on the conclusion of the contract between buyer and seller. Its value, like that of every other commodity is already determined before it enters into circulation, for a definite quantity of social labor has already been spent on the production of labor power. But its use-value consists in its subsequent exercise of that power… The consumption of labor-power is completed, as in the case of every other commodity, outside the market or the sphere of circulation… in the hidden abode of production. 9
It is clear from this passage that the consumption of the use-value of labor-power, that is, its capacity to transform the value of dead labor through living labor into a greater quantity of value, takes place in the process of production. Furthermore, this is also where the value of “his” means of subsistence are reproduced and embodied in the use-values purchased through the wage, which enter the process of “his maintenance.” 10 However, nowhere within the description of process do we find the sphere of labor-power’s “maintenance” itself, where the transformation of dead labor into living labor capacity takes place. If living labor is expended through the process of production, and this is also the process of its consumption, then it must logically already exist as a use-value prior to the process of production. As Fortunati explains:
Marx… does not realize that the individual male worker’s consumption is not a direct consumption of the wage, that the wage does not have an immediate use-value for the male worker and that consumption of the wage’s use-value presupposes that some other work has taken place – either housework or prostitution. Only work can transform the wage into the use-values required in the male worker’s reproduction; but even then the use-values are not directly or immediately consumable by him. More work is necessary to transform these use-values into use-values that are effectively usable, i.e. ready to be consumed.
Through what process is the use-value of labor-power “maintained”? How does a sum of commodities, of objectified labor, turn into the use-value labor-power? In sum, where is “the hidden abode” of reproduction? These questions, expertly addressed throughout The Arcane of Reproduction, are at the heart of Marxist-Feminist interpretations. What Fortunati’s text excels in demonstrating is that we must attempt to use Marx’s categories not only to solve the problems he gave us, but to understand that new categories can and must be proposed where they are missing in Capital, and to do so without undermining the entire system he set up. In short, to Marxologize non-dogmatically.
The categorical placeholders Fortunati indicates can be developed without recourse to a discussion of the “productivity” of reproduction. The conclusion that the reproduction of labor-power is value-productive can be understood as a political one, necessary in its historical moment and within the heritage of Italian workerism.
Housework and the Housewife
The Arcane of Reproduction does two important tasks in defining the theoretical foundation of the Wages for Housework movement. It delineates the gendered character of reproductive work, housework, and sex work, and the structural category or gendered subject who performs this particular kind of socially necessary work specific to the capitalist mode of production. The character of this “labor” is, in her terminology, “non-directly reproductive work,” and the subject assigned to this category of work, “the housewife,” names a novel category of reproductive labor-power. While these aspects of the capitalist totality are insufficiently theorized by Marxists, they are absolutely imperative to understanding the reproducibility of a system based upon the accumulation of value and the exploitation of wage-labor.
Mariarosa Dalla Costa was actually the first to outline this problematic in The Power of Women and the Subversion of the Community. Here she makes the initial distinction between housework and production, the latter being directly productive and mediated through production relations specific to capitalist society. However, as she writes, “these are social services inasmuch as they serve the reproduction of labor power. And capital, precisely by instituting its family structure, has ‘liberated’ the man from these functions so that he is completely ‘free’ for direct exploitation; so that he is free to ‘work’ enough for a woman to reproduce him as labor power.” 11
Although Dalla Costa indicates that waged-labor is directly mediated by class relations, relying upon a sphere of “non-work” in which male labor-power is reproduced by women, and she indicates this is done through the capitalist form of the family, it is not clear if this feminine labor of reproduction is capitalist in nature, that is, a performance of living labor in the creation of a commodity’s use-value, or if it is merely a holdover from traditional family formations found in older modes of production.
In addition, while addressing that which is not directly mediated by the market, she relegates reproductive labor to a sphere outside of the capitalist market. She states firmly: “where women are concerned, their labor appears to be a personal service outside of capital.” 12 The ambiguity as to the capitalist character of “the outside” leaves open the question of dual modes of production – one capitalist and the other domestic. Though Dalla Costa affirms throughout the text that housework and the family are absolutely capitalist in their social form, the theory required to demonstrate precisely how they are capitalist was left to Fortunati.
Fortunati takes this initial distinction and develops “the outside” theoretically. She names the form of labor conducted in this liminal space “non-directly waged reproduction work.” 13 The housewife’s fate is not that of a “feudal serf” – under capitalism, she is “first of all an indirectly waged worker.” 14 This is where not only a specific category of work is categorized as indirect, but also the site of the historical subject to whom this work is structurally assigned: “within the housework process another, different, labor-power is consumed – that of the female houseworker.” 15
These new concepts of indirectly waged work and the houseworker open up the sphere of housework and prostitution as a capitalist sphere within the circuit of reproduction. 16 Within this sphere there is “the co-existence of the two forms of labor power,” productive and reproductive, whose bearers engage primarily in two different kinds of work relations – formal and informal (or more often marriage), in addition to directly waged exchange: “the individual as capacity for production confronts capital,” while “in the second case, the individual as capacity for reproduction is confronted not by capital, but by the individual him/herself as [productive] labor-power.” 17 The duality of gendered labor-powers, corresponding to gendered workers – breadwinner and housewife 18 – are put to work; the use-values of their respective labor-powers take place in a different time and space – the former at the proper capitalist workplace and the latter in the workplace of the home. While one spends the “working day” being consumed productively by capital, in the process of the reproduction of the exchange-value of the wage, the other spends “his” hours of free time away from this form of reproduction while “she” is reproducing the use-value of “his” labor-power. Fortunati explains: “in production, the exchange-value of labor-power as capacity for production is produced and its use-value consumed; in reproduction, the use-value of labor-power is produced and its-exchange value is consumed.” 19
Nevertheless, for Fortunati, this sphere is not simply the opposite of the productive sphere, but rather it conceptually “presents itself as a photograph printed back to front, as mirror image of the process of commodity production.” 20 Nevertheless, reproduction is not a reflection of production back upon itself (the self-maintaining tautology in Marx’s account); in other words, “where the reproduction of labor-power takes place is not simply a producing workshop.” 21 Rather, the site where reproduction takes place completes the entire circuit of simple commodity exchange in the sphere of housework and sex work.
This is not foreign to Marxism; it is instead a portion of the circuit of reproduction left open-ended. Marx himself distinguished between two circuits inherent to the wage-relation, but left one of the most important aspects of the circuit incomplete. He identifies the quintessential and historically specific circuit with the accumulation of money, M-C-M’. 22 Within this circuit, production, or capitalist exploitation, takes place. (This we might call the viewpoint of capital). However, there is also another circuit, which waged laborers necessarily engage in for access to means of life: C-M-C. This circuit begins with labor-power as a commodity “C” which is exchanged for money “M” in order to buy means of subsistence. 23 Then the cycle repeats, or so it seems…
In order to receive money wages to complete this circuit of reproduction (through capitalist production), the proletarian must enter relations with the capitalist who buys his or her labor-power (the first C in C-M-C) in order to put it to work in the creation of value and surplus value (the M’ in M-C-M’). There are many stops along the way in the production and the circulation of commodity capital and labor-power. What is perhaps most important to say here is that the circuit C-M-C assumes that the wage-earner’s commodity “labor-power” is purchased on the market ready-made, with money wages. The problem identified by the members of Lotta Femminista is the fact that “at no point does labor-power roll off an assembly line.” 24
This feminist critique has located an aporia within traditional Marxist thought, a fetishization, or in other words, a structural transhistoricization. Fortunati has defetishized the seemingly natural process in which labor-power is assumed to be reproduced, but is in actuality “the hidden abode” tucked within the circuit of C-M-C. Much like Marx, who discovered the origin of profit as a particular historical form of class exploitation, Fortunati discovers the historical form of gendered exploitation under capitalism. And yet, this does not require that it therefore be value-productive. Quite the contrary; according to Fortunati’s own schema, it must remain external to accumulation, which she characterizes as indirectly mediated by the form of value, as socially necessary but not “socially determined.” 25
In other words, whether the non-directly waged work of reproduction is in fact productive is neither here nor there. Between each moment of “the buying and selling of labor-power” which is to say the reproduction of the circuit of labor-power itself (C-M-C), there is a sphere of use-value creation – of the making (and maintaining) of labor-power. In the same way that M-C-M’ unfolds into its own moments: M-C… P(roduction)…C’-M’, there is an analogous unfolding in the non-directly productive sphere of the reproduction of labor-power. As Fortunati expresses in other terms:
the male worker does not transform the money with which he pays for the food into capital, he only transforms it into food. He uses the money as simple means of circulation, converting it into a determinate use-value. This money does not function as capital for him, although in the first two cases it also buys the work done as a commodity, it only functions as money, as a means of circulation. On the other hand, none of these people – houseworker, domestic servant or care worker – is a productive worker in relation to the male worker, despite the fact that the work of each one of them provides him with a product – cooked food.
We might qualify this, though Fortunati does not explicitly, C-M…R(eproduction)…C, and so on throughout the course of days and years. 26 This moment of “R” or reproduction as the mirror of production, is the process through which “food” becomes “cooked food” and “the bearer of the commodity labor-power” becomes “the use-value commodity ‘he’ brings to market.” 27
We might also note that in the above quotation Fortunati explicitly assures us that this reproductive moment within the circuit does not expand capital, i.e. is not productive. The decision to insert a C’ at the end of the circuit of reproduction C-M-C is perhaps a political rather than economic surplus. Even if C-M-C as the circuit of reproduction does not expand value, it nevertheless is entirely within the wage-relation and therefore a socially necessary moment within capitalist reproduction. On the level of total social activity, both direct and non-direct reproduction sustains the capitalist totality. As Fortunati concludes:
Now if, instead of the single capitalist and the single worker, the capitalist class and the working class are examined, and instead of solely the process of commodity production, the entire process of capitalist production – in full flow, and in all its social setting –is considered, it turns out that the consumption of housework and prostitution work is posited as a condition of the constant maintenance and reproduction of the working class. 28
For every productive moment, there is a corresponding moment in terms of reproduction. These, however, are not one and the same moments occurring in the same time and place, but rather an aspect of reproduction occurring in dual spheres, separated in time and space within the same mode of production. In fact, it is the duality of these spheres – direct/non-direct, or productive/reproductive – as well as their interconnection that define this mode of production as one based upon waged labor. 29
The Work of Love
As I have already mentioned, within this schema we find an analogous form of labor-power, which belongs specifically to reproductive workers -– typically women. In the context of the Wages for Housework movement, this is entirely relegated to wives, mothers, grandmothers, and daughters, all of whom are assigned both the female gender and this form of labor-power, by virtue of its structurally enforced necessity within the wage-relation. Even if we are to make this category “feminine” as opposed to generally “sexed,” we will still find it is a constitutive category within the wage-form. In short, someone must perform this work, regardless of their gender, and necessarily do so without remuneration. Therefore, the demand for wages is a demand which strikes at the heart of capitalist exploitation. This is a separate question from whether it produces value; in fact, it must remain non-valued: “a condition of existence of labor power as capacity for production, and hence of capital, is that labor power can have exchange-value only insofar as the individual reproduces it as non-value.” 30
This identification of housework as the reproduction of “the individual as non-value” through the creation of “pure use-values” has the effect of representing reproductive labor-power as “a natural force of social labor,” donated by Mother Nature to both capital and the male working class for free. As Fortunati claims, reproduction is “posited as ‘natural production,’ which has enabled two workers to be exploited with one wage, and the entire cost of reproduction to be unloaded onto the labor force.” 31 Nevertheless, this exploitation is not unloaded equally, because it must be inscribed onto female biology, disguising its origin in the historically specific capitalist mode of reproduction.
The woman, under capitalism, reproduces the waged male worker; yet she is not waged herself. She is instead a “natural force of social labor.” The “free” male waged worker thus corresponds to the “free” female non-waged houseworker, a profound formal difference which is reflected in the equally profound inequalities of their mutual relationships under capitalism, and their unequal status within the capitalist system, which arises at the point in which capital transforms the male/female relationship from an exchange of living labor into a formal relation of production between them. 32
It is here that we strike the heart of the demand for housework wages. As we have already noted, and as feminists have repeatedly made clear, the point of the demand for Wages for Housework is to denaturalize this form of labor-power, to dismantle its biological justification, so that those who perform this work can be understood as proletarians in the full sense of the term – not just as waged workers, but as socialized proletarian subjects with the power to struggle as a sector of the exploited class. This struggle begins from a definite point of capitalist exploitation and work for capital: (non-directly waged) reproduction.
The question remains, why is this work reproductive of the capitalist system gendered, or in other words, why is this the feminist class struggle and also the communist struggle. Fortunati does the excellent work of outlining this problematic. Not only is it naturalized, but it must remain naturalized. Marx uncovered the wage fetish. But with regards to gendered exploitation, he seems to be subject to this fetish himself; he does not recognize, as Fortunati does, that not only is all labor “unpaid” and yet appears to be paid for the work it actually performs, but that this fetish inherent to the wage-relation and our very understanding of justice requires that all life outside of work appear absolutely “free” of work for capital. However, for those who are given the duty of reproduction in this sphere of life, as their biologically determined role, there are no illusions as to its “worklike” character. It is so much like work that it ought to be paid (and in fact often is). Federici recalls a “welfare mother” who remarked that “if the government is willing to pay women only when they take care of the children of others then women should ‘swap their children.’ ” 33 Why, if it is one’s own child, is it not work but love?
Once we understand “the work of love” in the context of total social reproduction, we can see why debates over the value-productivity of feminized labor obscures the analysis. If we can draw anything from Marx’s analysis of the wage fetish, it is that under capitalism, whether on the commute to work or at the office and factory, none of what we do is paid labor, or even payment for the “value” that labor-produces. It is the payment of money for the purchase of the “raw materials” that go into the process of the reproduction of labor-power (and that of the indirectly waged who perform its reproduction).
This defetishization has always been an underlying understanding of the communist viewpoint of wage struggles – that demands for wages are only the beginning of class struggle to end the wage-form. The theorists of the Wages for Housework movement, as a revolutionary feminist struggle, were more aware of this than anyone. As Dalla Costa put it bluntly: “there has never been a general strike.” 34 To strike at the point of production, or the sphere of waged labor, is to only address half of the unpaid work exploited by capital. Perhaps we can now see why it was necessary to make this work appear as work by theorizing it as productive.
In this regard Wages for Housework and its complementary theoretical strategy can be understood as a political move to mobilize women and male communists around the reproductive sector. What, however, does it mean to us today? In the context of wage stagnation and high unemployment, in which women and mothers attempt to scrape by within the waged sphere, we must recognize that value-productivity cannot be understood as the condition for revolutionary subjectivity. What can be drawn from the Wages for Housework movement today is the call to resist the augmentation of unpaid reproductive “maintenance,” which should rightfully be called housework, as a result of the crisis of capitalism and austerity measures – especially since that maintenance may not even “maintain” the price of labor-power, but only do the work of mere survival, in order to keep not only us but also the system of exploitation alive.
This work will inevitably fall upon women, because as Fortunati has demonstrated, work outside of direct market mediation is biologically assigned to women. The outcome of austerity measures and restructuring will be the capitalist attack on women – unless we resist it, and place the viewpoint of reproductive labor at the center of our struggles.
|This criticism can be summarized in the following claim made by the group Aufheben in their review of The Arcane of Reproduction: Fortunati, according to Aufheben, abuses Marxist “categories of productive, unproductive, value, abstract labour” in order to render reproduction “essential in the political (or moral?) evaluation of the role and antagonism offered by sections of the proletariat.” (“The Arcane of Reproductive Production,” available online at libcom.org.
|Silvia Federici, “Wages Against Housework” (1975) in Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction and Feminist Struggle (Common Notions, PM Press, 2012), 15.
|“Nothing can be more effective than to show that our female virtues have already a calculable money value: until today only for capital, increased in the measure that we were defeated, from now on, against capital, for us, in the measure that we organize our power.” Ibid., 20.
|Federici, 93, citing Marx, Capital, 276.
|Silvia Federici, “The Reproduction of Labor Power in the Global Economy” (2001) in Revolution at Point Zero, 93-94.
|Karl Marx, Capital, Volume 1, trans. Ben Fowkes (London: Penguin, 1976), 275.
|Selma James and Mariarosa Dalla Costa, The Power of Women and the Subversion of the Community (Falling Wall Press, 1972), 33-34.
|Leopoldina Fortunati, The Arcane of Reproduction (New York: Autonomedia, 1995), 15.
|Andrea Righi calls to our attention this discovery in his book on the biopolitical character of her work, though he does not draw out the further implications of indirect labor. See Biopolitics and Social Change in Italy: From Gramsci to Pasolini to Negri (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 58.
|Fortunati, Arcane of Reproduction, 16.
|This is not to say that housewives do not also work for wages, and that breadwinners win all of the bread. The point is that they are two different categories of gendered labor-power. Fortunati explains, “the female worker, in order to reproduce herself, can exchange her labor power as capacity to reproduce either for the male wage or, if she works in the production of commodities, for her own wage… the female proletarian must, in order to reproduce herself, exchange her capacity to reproduce both for her own wage and for the male wage at a mass level. ‘His’ wage has rarely been able to allow ‘her’ not to do a second job.” Ibid., 13-14.
|Karl Marx, Capital, Volume 2, trans. David Fernbach (London: Penguin, 1978), Chapter 1, “The Circuit of Money Capital.”
|Marx, Capital, Volume 1, Chapter 4, “The General Formula for Capital,” 250.
|See “The Logic of Gender: On the Separation of Spheres and the Process of Abjection,” Endnotes 3, forthcoming.
|Fortunati, Arcane of Reproduction, 106-107.
|Let us not forget generational reproduction, which is the process through which another generation of the proletariat is reproduced for years until it can enter the market and enter the circuit of waged labor.
|This process of “cooking” for instance can and has historically always been paid for (at least potentially) within the sphere of direct production, in the service and waged sector; however, as Fortunati notes (53), this is not structurally in the economic interests of any member of society, and furthermore, this wage is, under conditions of competition, reduced to its bare minimum. Many studies have been done, in particular the work of Michael Perelman, to show that the formation of waged relations, through enclosures of the commons etc., has relied upon a purposeful augmentation of the wage and household, such that a large portion of “reproduction” is done structurally outside of the productive sector in order to create the very conditions of surplus-value extraction. Today, it may be the case that even women can relegate this labor to paid domestic workers within their own homes and remunerate them through their own (middle-class) wages; however, these workers, often poor women of color, are themselves unpaid domestic workers in the home, and this unpaid portion of labor-power’s reproduction is not only done by the same women rather than their male counterparts, but is in aggregate passed off inevitably to the least able to “purchase” reproduction, and is rather done “for free” through capitalist relations of gendered exploitation. This is part and parcel of the post-Fordist turn towards feminized production and uneven development globally – a discussion far beyond the scope of this review, yet theorized most recently by Federici and Dalla Costa.
|Fortunati, Arcane of Reproduction, 51.
|For a complete analysis of the logic of gendered spheres, please see “The Logic of Gender: On the Separation of Spheres and the Process of Abjection,” Endnotes 3, forthcoming.
|Fortunati, Arcane of Reproduction, 11.
|Federici, Revolution at Point Zero, 45.
|Mariarosa Dalla Costa, “The General Strike” in All Work and No Pay (Falling Wall Press, 1975), 127.