The problem with work (I)

Posted on | May 20, 2012 | 3 Comments

Feminist calls for better work for women, as important as they have been, have on the whole resulted in more work for women. Beyond the intensification of many forms of waged work… the burdens of unwaged domestic and caring work have also increased, both because of the pressures of neoliberal restructuring along with the double day, and because of the increasingly dominant model of intensive parenting presented as what is required to develop the communicative, cognitive, and creative capacities increasingly necessary for reproducing, let alone elevating, the class status of a new generation of workers (see Hays 1996). Given all the ways that the institution of the family — on which the privatization of reproductive labor has been predicated and sustained — is so clearly not up to the task of assuming so much of the responsibility for the care of children, the elderly, the sick, and the disabled, the refusal of the present organization of reproductive labor may have much to offer contemporary feminism.


Feminist antiwork critique would need to accomplish several things at once: to recognize unwaged domestic work as socially necessary labor, contest its inequitable distributon (the fact that gender, race, class, and nation affects who does more or less), and, at the same time, insist that valuing it more highly and distributing it more equitably is not enough — the organization of unwaged reproductive labor and its relationship with waged work must be entirely rethought. For feminist postwork imagination, it raises the following question: if we refuse both the institution of waged work and the model of the privatized family as the central organizing structures of production and reproduction, what might we want in their stead?

– Kathi Weeks, The Problem with Work: Feminism, Marxism, Antiwork Politics, and Postwork Imaginaries, Duke University Press, 2001: 110-11.


3 Responses to “The problem with work (I)”

  1. Meg
    May 20th, 2012 @ 9:34 pm

    Hi Melissa, thanks for posting this book. I’m doing a PhD on ‘economic activism’, and what those doing it are trying to change in a world where socialism doesn’t seem like a posible alternative anymore. So it looks super relevant to me!

    I have also been visiting here a little lately and have been inspired that you post and use this as a springboard with academic work. It’s started me rethinking how I can use my blog/s.

    Thanks for writing.

  2. MC
    May 22nd, 2012 @ 6:38 pm

    Great to hear from you, Meg. This book is a MUST READ for your thesis. There is a whole section on different forms of socialist imagination and how neoliberalism has affected utopian and radical thinking. I’ve not come across anything like it in terms of its rigour on the relationship between feminism, labour and political theory. Except perhaps for the work of Melinda Cooper and Catherine Waldby, whose workshop I’ve just been at…

  3. Meg
    June 4th, 2012 @ 6:37 pm

    Thanks Mel!

    I sometimes think work is an oddly de-political-scienced/theoried subject – seems to get done (well) by IR and PE and then some gender and cultural studies peeps like yourself!

    Have ordered. Can’t wait to read.

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