When we consider the question of surplus populations from the point of view of the feminist literature on social reproduction, we see that migrant women do not constitute a surplus population in Europe, but rather a “regular army,” which is totally necessary to capitalist production. While the widespread debate around surplus populations rightly highlights unemployment as a cause of migration, it runs the analytical and political risk of obscuring the fact that most migrant women do not take the jobs of others, and are waged rather than “superfluous” in their countries of arrival since much of the socially reproductive activity in the Global North has become commodified.
In some ways, our renewed focus on social reproduction shares interesting parallels with the “Italian Revolution” of 1968-1980, the most radical upheaval in postwar Western Europe. For while originally firmly anchored to the struggles of the factory proletariat, many movements began to wage a multitude of struggles beyond the point of production, developing class power on what was called the terrain of social reproduction.
In fact, from one point of view, we cannot unravel one female’s narrative from the other’s, cannot decipher one without tripping over the other – Hortense Spillers1 We had driven straight through from Brisbane to Sydney, a nine-hour drive with your foot flat to the floor. We were on our way to a radical student conference, it was the very… Read more →
By the summer of 1968, less than two years after its inception, Oakland, California’s Black Panther Party was running out of space. Signs of the Black Power organization’s rapid growth were especially evident at its Grove Street office, which by this time, was “busting out at the seams,” with “piles of newsletters, leaflets, buttons, [and] flags” overflowing into members’ homes.1… Read more →
What could have interested Foucault in the passages from Capital, to the degree that he presents them as sources for a positive study of power, rooted in the development of the economy and its “forces?” We would like to clarify this point by returning to Marx’s text, which Foucault’s suggestion prompts us to read in a manner that might be called “symptomatic,” since it is not at all obvious, at first glance, how one might derive the principles for an analysis of “power” which is at best implicit in Capital, hovering in the background.
Today, few uphold the old belief that wage labor will gradually expand to cover the majority of the worlds’ population. Once, this was the condition of the historical belief that capitalism would create the conditions under which wage labor could be organized as a global power to match capital. Instead another teleology has appeared, claiming that capitalist development entails working class disorganization. Rather than a narrative of progress, this is a narrative of decline, of precarity, informalization, and immiseration.
This focus on the border regime allows for an understanding of how it produces people residing within a nation-state with differential rights, differential access to the labor market, and variable access to the services of the state. These differential rights have a structural role in the differentiation of the commercial sex sector, as well as in determining how migrants use intimacy in their migration processes. However, through another optic, intimacy and intimate relations can be viewed as resources – as workable and effective strategies – in these women’s aspirations to create more satisfactory and independent lives from their position of structural disadvantage.
This text introduces the Archivio di Lotta Femminista per il salario al lavoro domestico, which contains a wealth of material collected from the 1970s to the present, all graciously donated by Mariarosa Dalla Costa after years of work as a militant in the Feminist Movement and as a scholar of the condition of women. The archive, based in Padua, Italy, collects a broad range of inventoried material from a strand of the Feminist Movement which, in Italy, first called itself Movimento di Lotta Femminile (Women’s Struggle Movement), then later Lotta Femminista (Feminist Struggle) and finally Movimento dei Gruppi e Comitati per il Salario al Lavoro Domestico (Movement of Groups and Committees for Wages for Housework).
My intention is to talk about social reproduction in the context of a specific social environment. Social reproduction versus the reproduction of individuals, public versus private, manipulated and regulated versus free and autonomous, frustration and solitude versus joyous cooperation.
I believe that intimacy, together with other social and intellectual practices that are necessary for the reproduction of our collectivity, is being appropriated today by the capitalist machine and, in the same movement, transferred from the collective sphere to that of the nuclear unit and from the sphere of reproduction to that of the market economy.