[...] the present moment has greater potential for a revitalisation of a Marxist research open to the unpostponable demands of the present, to the imperative of a problematizing practice that cannot presuppose it already has all the analytical tools at its disposal, as though Marx’s restless, multifarious and unfinished writings provided some kind of secure and comforting canon. The lesson that Stuart Hall drew from Gramsci in the 1980s remains relevant: ‘Gramsci … came face to face with the revolutionary character of history itself. When a conjuncture unrolls, there is no “going back”. History shifts gears. The terrain changes. You are in a new moment. You have to attend, “violently”, with all the “pessimism of the intellect” at your command, to the “discipline of the conjuncture”.’ What we have to ask then is not whether readings of Marx are open, heterodox or heretical – as though these were values in themselves – but whether they subject themselves to the ‘discipline of the conjuncture’, and if that means jettisoning, mutating or demoting certain aspects of Marx’s work, so be it (let’s not forget Marx wasn’t so precious about his own concepts as to cherish them for their own sake). Shining the flickering light of the present onto the corpus of Marx’s writings has brought into relief aspects of his thought that might in other moments have seemed secondary. [...]
wish i could write like this omg
[...] it is important to learn how to discern the classed and anti-capitalist dimensions of what is sometimes misconceived reductively as ‘identity politics’. After all, how could the political movements and militant theorising of those whose labour and lives have been confiscated, devalued and ‘primitively’ accumulated through gendered and racialized exploitation not concern class understood in its most crucial, which is to say its relational dimension? If start from class as a relation rather than class as an identity (an identity that would allow us to demarcate, as too many Marxists beginning with Marx have done, a good working class from bad lumpen, free from forced labourers, etc.) then we can begin to attend to the invisible ‘iceberg’ of exploitation (to borrow Maria Mies’s characterisation of the role of ‘women, nature and colonies’ in capitalist accumulation, recently revisited and revitalised by Jason W. Moore) which lends class determination its full weight. Ironically, as I already suggested, beginning with a more orthodox, even dogmatic definition of class (relation to the means of production, etc.) would today perforce lead one to recognise how the working class, globally conceived, but also in the so-called ‘North’, is anything but a white, male redoubt. None of this is to ignore that a focus on identity (including in a narcissistic-individual sense) to the detriment of collective experiences of exploitation and antagonism remains an ideological problem, that liberal (or even reactionary) reflexes inhabit us all to varying degrees. But I think that to reproduce this dichotomy – class politics versus identity politics – is not only to freeze the necessary internal debates in the left into the sterile terrain of 1980s skirmishes around postmodernism, but to conceal all the ways in which political and theoretical work across the twentieth century had already dismantled it. Stuart Hall et al.’s turn to the language of experience and mediation in their landmark Policing the Crisis is very instructive in this regard, when, in speaking of the Black British proletariat they write: “racial oppression was the specific mediation through which this class experienced its material and cultural conditions of life, and hence race formed the central mode through which the self-consciousness of the class stratum could be constructed”. Analogous if not identical arguments could be made in terms of gender or sexuality.
[...] Marx’s famous 1852 letter to Weydemeyer (put to illuminating use in Andrea Cavalletti’s acute essay on class, which I’m currently editing), where he clearly states that it was not he who invented the concept of class, but rather bourgeois historians – and that his contribution was rather to historicize class, to envisage the dictatorship of the proletariat, and to posit the revolutionary abolition of class. In other words, there is nothing particularly Marxian or Marxist about reference to class, nor indeed about the idea of class politics, and thus nothing contradictory or unusual about a reactionary politics that uses class as one of its chief signifiers (the history of fascisms and related political and ideological formations teaches as much). With this proviso in mind, there are a multiplicity of non-exclusive responses to this predicament: one can engage in the work of sociological demystification and undermine this inconsistent entity (i.e. ‘the forgotten white working class’); one can explore the historical and material grounds that lead particular sections of workers to develop passionate attachments to their ethno-racialised class identities; one can agitate among the targets of these reactionary discourses; above all perhaps one can foreground the fact that exploitation and exclusion (or indeed social ‘forgetting’) disproportionately affect the non-white working class. All of this without underestimating the depressing allure of the ‘psychological wages’ of whiteness that DuBois wrote about in Black Reconstruction, which remind one that any kind of ‘class unity’ or ‘solidarity’ is a very precarious product of political work and not some underlying and secure ground which is merely obfuscated by capitalist brainwashing, liberal ideology or, indeed, ‘identity politics’.
The politics of Wages for Housework was shaped by women who had an understanding of capitalism, imperialism, and the anti-colonial struggle. Thus we could not accept that women’s liberation could be a struggle for “equality with men” or that it could be limited to equal pay for equal work. We saw that in the same way as the racialization of black men and women had served to justify slavery, so had gender-based discrimination served to exploit women as unpaid workers in the home. This is why we supported the struggle of welfare mothers, which was led by black women—not because black women were the majority of women on welfare, which was not the case, but because black women were the most ready to struggle for their rights. They were the ones who were out in the streets saying: Welfare is not charity. Every woman is a working woman. They were saying, like us, that raising a child is socially necessary work. They were saying, Don’t tell us that we are parasites. Don’t tell us that we are dependent on the state. When the state needs soldiers, it turns to our children. When it needs people for its factories, it turns to our children.
Our analysis of violence against women hinged on seeing housework as a form of capitalist production, and analyzing the role of the wage in constructing the whole family’s organization. We argued that violence is always latent in the family because, through the wage, the state delegates to the husband the power to supervise and control the work of the wife, and the power to penalize her in case she does not perform. I would describe it as a sort of indirect rule: the state mediates the control over women through the man and his wage. [...]
cool way of thinking about it
Wages for Housework was misunderstood as saying, Give us money so we can stay home, doing the same domestic work. We actually saw wages for housework as a strategy of refusal, as a strategy giving us more options, more power to decide how to organize our lives. We were accused of “institutionalizing women in the home.” But many women we met would tell us that they were already institutionalized in the home because, without any money of their own, they could not go anywhere or they could not leave their husbands even if they wanted to.
Wages for Housework was not the end goal for us, as some critics supposed—which is not to say that it was not a powerful goal in itself. We believed that the struggle for Wages for Housework would be the quickest way to force the state to give us free daycare and other key support services. [...]
clearing up common misconceptions about the project
[...] Nobody can get a proper undergraduate education. You'll never know in advance what that education should be. Regret is the feeling you have when you finally realize what the education is that you want. Right? And you're always going to come to that after it's too late. There is always going to be a Henry Adams moment. And so it's not bad to have regrets.
[...] sociology is partly about how people's agency or free will is exercised within limits that they didn't make, and I think people can find that distasteful about sociology, that it can seem deterministic. [...]
by Meghan Falvey
reminds me of Marx: "Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past"