Marxism, Work, and Human Nature Marxism as a philosophy of human nature stresses the centrality of work in the creation of human nature itself and human self-understanding see the entry on Marxism. Both the changing historical relations between human work and nature, and the relations of humans to each other in the production and distribution of goods to meet material needs construct human nature differently in different historical periods: Marxism as a philosophy of history and social change highlights the social relations of work in different economic modes of production in its analysis of social inequalities and exploitation, including relations of domination such as racism and sexism.
Marx , , —9; Marx and Engels , ; Engels Within capitalism, the system they most analyzed, the logic of profit drives the bourgeois class into developing the productive forces of land, labor and capital by expanding markets, turning land into a commodity and forcing the working classes from feudal and independent agrarian production into wage labor.
Marx and Engels argue that turning all labor into a commodity to be bought and sold not only alienates workers by taking the power of production away from them, it also collectivizes workers into factories and mass assembly lines.
This provides the opportunity for workers to unite against the capitalists and to demand the collectivization of property, i.
Women lose power when private property comes into existence as a mode of production. The rise of capitalism, in separating the family household from commodity production, further solidifies this control of men over women in the family when the latter become economic dependents of the former in the male breadwinner-female housewife nuclear family form.
Reed , Leacock , Rosaldo and Lamphere Yet other feminist economic historians have done historical studies of the ways that race, class and ethnicity have situated women differently in relation to production, for example in the history of the United States Davis ; Amott and Matthaei Keys represented the difference side, that women are superior humans because of mothering; while Gilman and Goldman took the equality side of the debate, that is, that, women are restricted, and made socially unequal to men, by unpaid housework and mothering[ 3 ].
Second Wave Feminist Analyses of Housework In the second wave movement, theorists can be grouped by their theory of how housework oppresses women. Typically, liberal feminists critique housework because it is unpaid. This makes women dependent on men and devalued, since their work is outside the meaningful sphere of public economic production Friedan That the necessary work of reproducing the working class is unpaid allows more profits to capitalists.
Some even make this analysis the basis for a demand for wages for housework Dalla Costa ; Federici More recently, Federici has done an analysis of the transition to capitalism in Europe. One of the philosophical problems raised by the housework debate is how to draw the line between work and play or leisure activity when the activity is not paid: If the former, then her hours in such activity may be compared with those of her husband or partner to see if there is an exploitation relation present, for example, if his total hours of productive and reproductive work for the family are less than hers cf.
But to the extent that childrearing counts as leisure activity, as play, as activity held to be intrinsically valuable Ferguson , no exploitation is involved. Perhaps childrearing and other caring activity is both work and play, but only that portion which is necessary for the psychological growth of the child and the worker s counts as work.
If so, who determines when that line is crossed? Since non-market activity does not have a clear criterion to distinguish work from non-work, nor necessary from non-necessary social labor, an arbitrary element seems to creep in that makes standards of fairness difficult to apply to gendered household bargains between men and women dividing up waged and non-waged work.
One solution to this problem is simply to take all household activity that could also be done by waged labor nannies, domestic servants, gardeners, chauffeurs, etc. Or, one can argue that although the line between work and leisure changes historically, those doing the activity should have the decisive say as to whether their activity counts as work, i. Finally, one can argue that since the human care involved in taking care of children and elders creates a public good, it should clearly be characterized as work, and those who are caretakers, primarily women, should be fairly compensated for it by society or the state Ferguson and Folbre Folbre , Ferguson Patricia Hill Collins argues further that the racial division of labor, institutional racism and different family structures put African American women in yet a different epistemic relation to society than white and other women , Hence our perspectives are so intersectional that they cannot be unified simply by a common relation to work.
This involves theorizing a separate system of work relations that organizes and directs human sexuality, nurturance, affection and biological reproduction. While Ferguson and Folbre agree that there is no inevitable fit between capitalism and patriarchy, they argue that there are conflicts, and that the family wage bargain has broken down at present.
Walby has a similar analysis, but to her the connection between forms of capitalism and forms of patriarchy is more functional and less accidental than it appears to Ferguson and Smart. Walby argues that there are two different basic forms of patriarchy which emerge in response to the tensions between capitalist economies and patriarchal household economies: Private patriarchy as a form is marked by excluding women from economic and political power while public patriarchy works by segregating women.
There is a semi-automatic re-adjustment of the dual systems when the older private father patriarchy based on the patriarchal family is broken down due to the pressures of early industrial capitalism.
This is especially notable in the rise of poor single-mother-headed families. However, as it forces more and more women into wage labor, women are given opportunities for some independence from men and the possibility to challenge male dominance and sex segregation in all spheres of social life. The work of feminist sociologist Dorothy Smith has been a notable intervention into the public-private split by bringing into view the institutions and power regimes that regulate the everyday world, their gender subtext, and basis in a gendered division of labor.
Legal feminist critics expand on the biopolitics of the patriarchal welfare state, which psychiatrizes as it threatens mothers with the loss of child custody. This represents a new eugenics twist on the enduring mistrust of working-class mothers and casting those who are imprisoned as undeserving parent Guggenheim ; Law African American mothers bear the brunt of punitive and racist family and criminal law Thompson ; Solinger et al.
Psychological Theories of Women and Work The socialist-feminist idea that there are two interlocking systems that structure gender and the economy, and thus are jointly responsible for male domination, has been developed in a psychological direction by the psychoanalytic school of feminist theorists. Particularly relevant to the question of women and work are the theories of Mitchell , , Kuhn and Wolpe , Chodorow , , and Ruddick Mothering, or, taking care of babies and small children, as a type of work done overwhelmingly by women, socializes women and men to have different identities, personalities and skills.
In a Freudian vein, Mitchell later argues that women learn that they are not full symbolic subjects because compulsory heterosexuality and the incest taboo bar them from meeting either the desire of their mother or any other woman.
The sexual division of infant care gives boys, who must learn their masculine identity by separating from their mother and the feminine, a motive for deprecating, as well as dominating, women. On the other side of the debate, Brenner argues that women are not uniformly exploited by men across economic class lines: Hochschild and hooks point out that career women tend to pay working class women to do the second shift work in the home so they can avoid that extra work, and they have an interest in keeping such wages, e.
Nancy Fraser and Susan Moller Okin formulate ethical arguments to maintain that a just model of society would have to re-structure work relations so that the unpaid and underpaid caring labor now done primarily by women would be given a status equivalent to other wage labor by various means. Interestingly, the debate between feminist theorists of justice, e. All of these theorists seem to have ideal visions of society which dovetail: Postmodernist Feminist Theory Useful anthologies of the first stage of second wave socialist feminist writings which include discussions of women, class and work from psychological as well as sociological and economic perspectives are Eisenstein , Hansen and Philipson , Hennessy and Ingraham , and Holmstrom Others such as Jaggar and Rothenberg , Tuana and Tong and Herrmann and Stewart include classic socialist feminist analyses in their collections, inviting comparisons of the authors to others grouped under the categories of liberal, radical, psychoanalytic, Marxist, postmodern, postcolonial and multicultural feminisms.
Various post-modern critiques of these earlier feminist schools of thought such as post-colonialism as well as deconstruction and post-structuralism challenge the over-generalizations and economic reductionism of many of those constructing feminist theories that fall under the early categories of liberal, radical, Marxist or socialist feminism cf. Grewal and Kaplan ; Kaplan et al.
Others argue that part of the problem is the master narratives of liberalism or Marxism, the first of which sees all domination relations due to traditional hierarchies and undermined by capitalism, thus ignoring the independent effectivity of racism Josephs ; and the second of which ties all domination relations to the structure of contemporary capitalism and ignores the non-capitalist economics contexts in which many women work, even within so-called capitalist economies, such as housework and voluntary community work Gibson-Graham For example, Spivak , Mohanty , Carby , and Hennessy , are creating and re-articulating forms of Marxist and socialist-feminism less susceptible to charges of over-generalization and reductionism, and more compatible with close contextual analysis of the power relations of gender and class as they relate to work.
They can be grouped loosely with a tendency called materialist feminism that incorporates some of the methods of deconstruction and post-structuralism Hennessy ; Landry and MacLean Nonetheless strong emphasis on issues of race and ethnicity can be found in their work on women, class and work. For example, Brewer shows that white and African-American working class women are divided by race in the workforce, and that even changes in the occupational structure historically tend to maintain this racial division of labor.
Presupposed in the general theoretical debates concerning the relations between gender, social and economic class, and work are usually definitions of each of these categories that some thinkers would argue are problematic.
For example, Tokarczyk and Fay have an excellent anthology on working class women in the academy in which various contributors discuss the ambiguous positions in which they find themselves by coming from poor family backgrounds and becoming academics. One problem is whether they are still members of the working class in so doing, and if not, whether they are betraying their families of origin by a rise to middle class status.
Another is, whether they have the same status in the academy, as workers, thinkers and women, as those men or women whose families of origin were middle class or above. Rather than provide a standard philosophical definition in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions for membership in the working class, they provide a cluster of characteristics and examples of jobs, such as physically demanding, repetitive and dangerous jobs, jobs that lack autonomy and are generally paid badly.
Examples of working class jobs they give are cleaning women, waitresses, lumberjacks, janitors and police officers.
They challenge those that would argue that family origin can be overcome by the present position one has in the social division of labor: More recent work in socio-legal studies also has begun to question the limits of intersectional analysis Grabham et al. Furthermore, because such method is identity-focused it will not get at the dimension of class which has been traditionally thought in relational not locational terms , 29— For example, a woman may work on two levels: If in addition her family of origin is professional middle class because, say, her parents were college educated academics , the woman may be seen and see herself as either working class or middle class, depending on whether she and others emphasize her present relations of wage work her individual economic class, which in this case is working class , her household income middle class or her family of origin middle class.
Sylvia Walby deals with this ambiguity of economic class as applying to women as unpaid houseworkers by claiming against Delphy that the relevant economic sex classes are those who are housewives vs. Such an identity is usually formed through political organizing and coalitions with other women at her place of employment, in her home and her community.
In this sense the concept of sex class is exactly analogous to the concept of a feminist epistemological standpoint: Strategic gender interests, on the contrary, may ally women across otherwise divided economic class interests, since they are those, like rights against physical male violence and reproductive rights, which women have as a sex class to eliminate male domination.
Her distinctions, and those of Molyneux, have been changed slightly — practical vs. Many have pointed out that the concept of class itself is mystified in the U. The Ehrenreichs , in a classic article, argue that this mystification is due to the emergence of a professional-managerial class that has some interests in common with the capitalist class and some with the working class. Whatever its causes, there are empirical studies which show that class distinctions still operate between women, albeit in an indirect way.
Barbara Ehrenreich , by adopting the material life conditions of a poor woman, did an empirical study of the lives of women working for minimum wages and found their issues to be quite different from and ignored by middle and upper-class women.
Diane Reay does an empirical study of women from manual labor family backgrounds and their relation to the schooling of their children, and discovers that they use a discourse that acknowledges class differences of educational access and career possibilities, even though it does not specifically define these by class per se.
Anarchist Perspectives on Work and its Other So far, it has been assumed that work is an intrinsic good. What if waged or unwaged work itself were to be considered problematic or oppressive? Autonomous Marxists contest that liberal or socialist feminist perspectives have unnecessarily mystified work and have operated with a moralism. Whether one ought to be paid for housework or reproductive labor or seek equal employment opportunities, feminists have not sufficiently opposed the sanctification of work.
Championing the refusal of work means to abandon a narrow focus on the critique of the extraction of surplus value or of the process of deskilling. Furthermore, it is imperative to interrogate how work dominates our lives Weeks , Kathi Weeks charges that a productivist bias is common to feminist and Marxist analysis. The Wages for Housework campaign demanded purposefully the impossible.
These feminists did not only ask for compensation for unpaid domestic labor, but also postulated the end of such work Federici Post-work also means post-domestic care, something that gets lost in some of the ethic of care analysis, which inadvertently fosters a romantic attachment to endowing meaning to such work.
A post-work ethic entails a playful commitment to leisure and unstructured activities such as day-dreaming. By ignoring the liberatory power of play, Weeks insufficiently engages the meaning of work and the asceticism of the work ethic Trullinger , Punitive Perspectives on Work and Non-Work While it is reasonable to champion daydreams and play as intrinsic goods, idle time itself is often not felt as a good or luxury, but instead a psychic imposition.
Imprisonment is anathema to indigenous, socio-centric peoples in the Global South, and imprisonment is closely connected to the disciplinary apparatus of western colonization of the Americas and Africa Nagel Day-dreaming in a solitary cell becomes positively dangerous and suicides and mental illness increase exponentially Casella et al. In the US, poor children of color, especially Black, Latino, and American Indians living on reservations, are at higher risk of being taken away from their kin and carers and turned over to the foster care system Goldberg The world over, parents who are socially displaced such as Romanian immigrants in Norway, are under greater scrutiny by state actors, e.