Theorie Communiste reply to some questions on their conception of the gender-capital relation.
This non-coincidence of individual and social activity in labor is a historical fact in all human societies up to the present. This non-coincidence doesn’t need to be produced as theory (only analyzed)—if one wants to avoid explaining why there is history (which always results in a teleology). The non-coincidence means that society must represent itself to itself as something which is exterior to its own scission. The reproduction of this scission includes the constraint of surplus labor as necessary to the material existence of the class who, as non-worker, represents society. The worker, the non-worker, and surplus only exist if they exist together.
Despite the diversity of relations of production and their historical combination in the mode of production, we eliminate the specific forms and the differences between these modes of production in order to keep only what they have in common, an essential common point is the fact that “if we take any social production (...) we can always distinguish between the part of work in which the product is individually consumed by the producers and their families and another part -- abstraction which is made from the portion entering productive consumption -- which is always of surplus labor, therefore the product serves to satisfy the general needs of society. No matter what the distribution of the surplus product, and whatever person who acts as the representative of these social needs (underlined by me).” (Capital). Capital did not invent surplus labor. Whenever a faction of society has a monopoly of the means of production, the worker, free or not, as “an objective individual” in the case where belonging to a community is the preliminary condition to their activity as a worker or a “contingent individual”1 is forced to work beyond the amount of labor needed to reproduce themselves, thereby producing a surplus destined to subsistence for the owners of the means of production. The distinction between necessary labor and surplus labor can even be extended to “classless” societies, which are in fact only societies where classes exist in an element other than the economy.
There cannot be surplus labor without a level of labor productivity that allows the extension of labor time beyond that which is necessary for the producer to obtain their own subsistence, a level of labor productivity that can increase surplus labor without population growth. But this productivity is in no way the cause of surplus value and exploitation. Surplus labor implies, in one form or another, a relationship of exploitation, because it implies a social differentiation between individual and social. Therefore in every mode of production, the increase in population as productive force, as well as the productivity of labor, drive the contradictions which are rooted in the reproduction of the conditions of this exploitation. Surplus labor determines population growth as principal productive force, and so it is a principle productive force in all class societies. This necessity drives the contradictions specific to each mode of production which requires it.
Surplus labor and exploitation are given simultaneously, and “This never happens without help from the force that subjects one to another (laborer and non-laborer, even if it’s the community that appears to be this way)” (ibid, t.2, p.185). If a part of the society can carry out this takeover by force of another part of society, it is because in no social form up until now have social activity and individual activity coincided. Whatever the forms may be of society, of community, of social activity, they have always taken an independent and autonomous form in relation to the individuals of which they are the community. These forms can be blood relation, common ancestry, the totem, religion of the ancestors, the “forces of nature”... There are no obligations or duties without those who are compelled abide by them. This independent social form can even be an assemblage of all the members of the community, which is never merely the sum of its parts.
And everywhere this community appears as men vis-à-vis women.
Already, in the Paleolithic societies, the death rituals revealed marked social hierarchies. On the basis of these hierarchies, during the Neolithic period, the first theocratic states are formed (around the Sumerian temples), formalizing and deepening the relations of force [coup de force] already present in all the previous social forms. During the Copper Age, the inequalities become rigid and turn hereditary, at the moment when exchange becomes organized over vast spaces and when metallurgy, the wheel, the wagon and the tank, the domesticization of the horse, modify qualitatively the productive force of work. To speak clearly: “primitive communism” is a huge joke and the questions posed in terms of origin are always suspect.
Essentially, a given mode of production consists in the reproduction of the coercion which concentrates the appropriation of surplus labor, or, in other words, in the assemblage of social conditions that determine and reproduce a specific mode of exploitation. In the capitalist epoch, the form of the appropriation of surplus labor is directly economic; at other periods the relations of blood, religion, or the direct sexual division of the community have functioned as relations of production. A mode of production is understood by reconstructing the conditions and the effects of this complex articulation (in which the economic is not always given clearly and plainly, though one is tempted to see it this way when one transposes the capitalist conditions on the previous modes of production) and not by piling superstructures upon infrastructures.
This division of society between workers and non-workers is immediately doubled in another division internal to the first, but escaping its terms: the gendered division of society.
The first condition of this surplus labor is "population control," the control of the principal productive force (which is the increase of the population), and thus the control of those who are the producers. The autonomization of the social character of activity is in itself the existence of a constraint on surplus labor, and is constructed as a social distinction of anatomical characteristics. From biological reproduction, and from the specific place of women in this reproduction, the result of a social process is presupposed as given. The point of departure (and having a point of departure is one of the necessary flaws of theoretical production) is what makes this place specific as social construction and differentiation : the modes of production up to today. The increase of the population as principal producive force is no more a natural relation than any other relation of production
Indeed, up until capital, including where it becomes contradictory, the principal source of surplus labor is the work of increasing the population. The necessary appropriation of surplus labor, a pure social phenomenon (surplus labor is not tied to the supposed overcapacity of labor) creates gender and the social pertinence of the gender distinction in a sexual and naturalized way. The possession of a uterus does not signify "baby maker"; to move from one to the other one requires an entire social apparatus of appropriation and a scenario of “making babies”2, the apparatus through which women exist. The possession of a uterus is an anatomical feature, and not immediately a distinction, but "baby maker" is a social distinction which makes the anatomical feature a natural distinction. Within the nature of this social construction, of this system of constraint, that which is socially constructed -- women -- are always sent back to biology. Without putting this into operation, to have a uterus is an anatomical feature and not a distinction: the uterus does not make the woman any more than the melanin makes the slave. Just as for capital to appear as a thing is a manifestation of self, belonging to its being, it would not be a relation without appearing as a thing ; just as value of labor power would not be what it is without appearing as the price of labor ; just as the production of the social category of woman would not be what it is without being naturalized and the relation between men and women would not be a social relation without appearing as natural.
Whether one is in the Amazon, in the Islands of Trobriand (Malinowski), in Athens or New York, there is autonomization as a form of the community or class, there is surplus labor and therefore labor, and thus there is the population as principal productive force. And by the same token, there is a gender division, the creation of women3 by the social actuation and the appropriation of the biological reproductive capacity and there is appropriation of the biological reproductive capacity of women. Each time, a whole structure of social violence defines them, and they are coerced and conscripted (this can be the prohibition of the usage of certain hunting weapons, private and domestic labor, or part-time work).
The productive forces are grasped only in a synthesis which is not the result of an addition and is not resolved through a census. This synthesis is the productive force of labor.
" Indirectly, however, the development of the productivity of labor contributes to the increase of the value of the existing capital by increasing the mass and variety of use-values in which the same exchange-value is represented and which form the material substance, i.e., the material elements of capital, the material objects making up the constant capital directly, and the variable capital at least indirectly. More products which may be converted into capital, whatever their exchange-value, are created with the same capital and the same labor. These products may serve to absorb additional labor, hence also additional surplus-labor, and therefore create additional capital. The amount of labor which a capital can command does not depend on its value, but on the mass of raw and auxiliary materials, machinery and elements of fixed capital and necessities of life, all of which it comprises, whatever their value may be. As the mass of the labor employed, and thus of surplus-labor increases, there is also a growth in the value of the reproduced capital and in the surplus-value newly added to it." (Capital Vol III, New World edition, p 248)Defined synthetically as the productive force of labor we understand that the productive forces “develop”, and we understand how. Capitalism has not “liberated the development of the forces of production”, it has imposed upon the productive forces a type of development determined by its own rhythm and pace, including with regard to the population. For capital, the increase in the productive force of labor is not universally applied:
« Pour le capital, cette productivité est augmentée non quand on peut réaliser une économie sur le travail vivant en général, mais seulement quand on peut réaliser sur la fraction payée du travail vivant une économie plus importante qu’il n’est ajouté de travail passé… (…) Du reste, c’est seulement dans le mode de production capitaliste que doit s’accroître absolument le nombre de salariés, en dépit de leur diminution relative. Pour lui, des forces de travail sont en excédent dès lors qu’il n’est plus indispensable de les faire travailler de douze à quinze heures par jour. Un développement des forces productives qui réduirait le nombre absolu des ouvriers, c’est-à-dire permettrait en fait à la nation tout entière de mener à bien en un laps de temps moindre sa production totale, amènerait une révolution, parce qu’il mettrait la majorité de la population hors du circuit. Ici encore apparaît la limite spécifique de la production capitaliste… (…) La limite de cette production c’est le temps excédentaire des ouvriers. L’excédent de temps absolu dont bénéficie la société ne l’intéresse nullement. Pour elle, le développement de la force productive n’est important que dans la mesure où il augmente le temps de surtravail de la classe ouvrière et non pas où il diminue le temps de travail nécessaire à la production matérielle en général ; ainsi il se meut dans des contradictions. » (Marx, Le Capital, Ed. Soc., t.6, pp.274-275-276).The law of population in the capitalist mode of production is governed by the relation between necessary labor and the capacity of capital to transform superfluous time into surplus labor.
The theoretical synthesis of the productive forces is worked out in the productive force of labor and its development in the law of population. The productive forces are a relationship of appropriation (and not of property) between the means of production, the objects of labor and the producers (including here the non-workers as organizers of production). We say a relationship of appropriation and not a relation of production (the factory, for example, is the specific product of capitalism and its relations of production -- cf. real subsumption as specifically capitalist mode of production -- but the factory is not itself the relations of production which constitute capitalism) because if this relation takes place inside the mode of production, and if its form and rate of development are determined by the mode of production, it is not a relation that remains and persists in the relationship of appropriation, but the restoration [rétablissement] of a unity such as the relations of production determine it (the worker is reunited with the object and the means of labor when it ceases to be owned). And we return from there to work and to the population.
Population can be called the principal productive force only insofar as it becomes the productive force of labor (rather than science or the means of production, etc.). It becomes this not as a simple collection of individuals, but insofar as a specific social arrangement has population as its object, and makes population into the productive force of labor, which is the true concept of productive forces.
In the capitalist mode of production, the principal “productive force” is the working class itself. No matter the transformations of the production process which are induced by the passage to real subsumption, it is always living labor which brings the dead labor back to life. It is always the productive force of labor which is the synthesis of all that we enumerate as productive forces. It's not only a matter of a principal productive force amongst many others, but of their synthesis and of their very existence.
Labor is not a productive force as long as it resides in the subjectivity of the laborer. The working class is this “principal productive force” only insofar as its activity is consistently necessary and always in excess, insofar as its activity is in itself “the contradiction of labor time”. The content of the famous contradiction between the productive forces and the relations of production is distilled in the contradiction between the capacity for labor to valorize capital, and the fact that this capacity to valorize is called into question by the ongoing process of valorization. Therefore when Marx qualifies the working class as principal productive force, he qualifies it as a revolutionary class. The “principal productive force” “breaks apart” the very narrow relations of production only by abolishing itself, and along with it all the relations of production in which it exists and is reproduced as principal productive force (the abolition of the relation is the abolition of its terms). That is related to the following question.
3. TC often write that \"labor is a problem for capital\". Does this mean the falling rate of profit? Or does it mean the increasing surplus populations pose a problem of revolt? or both?The capitalist mode of production is the first mode of production which has a problem with labor and the increase in the population as “principal productive force”4. Even in real subsumption of labor under capital, the extraction of surplus value, in its relative form which reduces necessary labor time, must be combined with the increase in simultaneous working days. An increase in the rate of exploitation which is not accompanied with a multiplication of working days will cause an immediate and radical decline in the rate of profit.
It is a law of capital, as we saw, to create surplus labour, disposable time; it can do this only by setting necessary labour in motion—i.e. entering into exchange with the worker. It is its tendency, therefore, to create as much labour as possible; just as it is equally its tendency to reduce necessary labour to a minimum. It is therefore equally a tendency of capital to increase the labouring population, as well as constantly to posit a part of it as surplus population—population which is useless until such time as capital can utilize it. (Hence the correctness of the theory of surplus population and surplus capital.) It is equally a tendency of capital to make human labour (relatively) superfluous, so as to drive it, as human labour, towards infinity. Value is nothing but objectified labour, and surplus value (realization of capital) is only the excess above that part of objectified labour which is necessary for the reproduction of labouring capacity. But labour as such is and remains the presupposition, and surplus labour exists only in relation with the necessary, hence only in so far as the latter exists. Capital must therefore constantly posit necessary labour in order to posit surplus labour; it has to multiply it (namely the simultaneous working days) in order to multiply the surplus; but at the same time it must suspend them as necessary, in order to posit them as surplus labour. As regards the single working day, the process is of course simple: (1) to lengthen it up to the limits of natural possibility; (2) to shorten the necessary part of it more and more (i.e. to increase the productive forces without limit). But the working day, regarded spatially—time itself regarded as space—is many working days alongside one another. The more working days capital can enter into exchange with at once, during which it exchanges objectified for living labour, the greater its realization at once. It can leap over the natural limit formed by one individual's living, working day, at a given stage in the development of the forces of production (and it does not in itself change anything that this stage is changing) only by positing another working day alongside the first at the same time - by the spatial addition of more simultaneous working days. E.g. I can drive the surplus labour of A no higher than 3 hours; but if I add the days of B, C, D etc., then it becomes 12 hours. In place of a surplus time of 3, I have created one of 12. This is why capital solicits the increase of population; and the very process by means of which necessary labour is reduced makes it possible to put new necessary labour (and hence surplus labour) to work. (I.e. the production of workers becomes cheaper, more workers can be produced in the same time, in proportion as necessary labour time becomes smaller or the time required for the production of living labour capacity becomes relatively smaller. These are identical statements.) (This still without regard to the fact that the increase in population increases the productive force of labour, since it makes possible a greater division and combination of labour etc. The increase of population is a natural force of labour, for which nothing is paid. From this standpoint, we use the term natural force to refer to the social force. All natural forces of social labour are themselves historical products.) It is, on the other side, a tendency of capital—just as in the case of the single working day—to reduce the many simultaneous necessary working days (which, as regards their value, can be taken as one working day) to the minimum, i.e. to posit as many as possible of them as not necessary. Just as in the previous case of the single working day it was a tendency of capital to reduce the necessary working hours, so now the necessary working days are reduced in relation to the total amount of objectified labour time. (If 6 are necessary to produce 12 superfluous working hours, then capital works towards the reduction of these 6 to 4. Or 6 working days can be regarded as one working day of 72 hours; if necessary labour time is reduced by 24 hours, then two days of necessary labour fall away—i.e. 2 workers.) At the same time, the newly created surplus capital can be realized as such only by being again exchanged for living labour. Hence the tendency of capital simultaneously to increase the labouring population as well as to reduce constantly its necessary part (constantly to posit a part of it as reserve). And the increase of population itself the chief means for reducing the necessary part. At bottom this is only an application of the relation of the single working day. Here already lie, then, all the contradictions which modern population theory expresses as such, but does not grasp. Capital, as the positing of surplus labour, is equally and in the same moment the positing and the not-positing of necessary labour; it exists only in so far as necessary labour both exists and does not exist. (Marx, Grundrisse, from marxists.org, p. 400)5* * *
Within an analytical framework in which the gender division is understood as contradiction, if we understand that labor is a problem for capital, it is not merely a way of understanding the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. To say "labor is a problem for capital" also allows us to understand that the working class as the primary productive force simultaneously reproduces the categories of men and women. The categories of men and women are thus absolutely not contingent. However, with the capitalist mode of production, these categories can no longer be taken for granted [ne vont plus de soi], because it is the population as primary productive force which, with capital, can no longer be taken for granted [ne va plus de soi].
Tant que la contradiction n'est pas apparue, les conditions, dans lesquelles les individus entrent en relation entre eux sont des conditions inhérentes à leur individualité, elles ne sont nullement extérieures et seules, elles permettent à ces individus déterminés et existant dans des conditions déterminées de produire leur vie matérielle et tout ce qui en découle ce sont donc des conditions de leur manifestation actives de soi et elles sont produites par cette manifestation de soi. En conséquence, tant que la contradiction n'est pas encore intervenue, les conditions déterminées, dans lesquelles les individus produisent correspondent donc à leur limitation effective, à leur existence bornée, dont le caractère limité ne se révèle qu'avec l'apparition de la contradiction et existe de ce fait pour la génération postérieure. Alors cette condition apparaît comme une entrave accidentelle, alors on attribue à l'époque antérieure la conscience qu'elle était une entrave. (Marx, l'Idéologie allemande, Ed. Sociales, p. 98).With the capitalist mode of production, the contradiction “appeared”: that of the population as principal productive force. It is impossible to escape from it without the abolition of this mode of production. This mode of production hatches in its chest a class struggle which, in abolishing capital, will not permit any person to escape the question of the “inherent conditions of their individuality.” This is a question determined according to this “apparent contradiction” between being a “man” or a “woman” -- that needs to be overcome. In its own terms and its own dynamic, the emergence as contradiction of gendered reproduction of humanity existed as a particular moment of the contradictory relation of capital and labor at the interior of the capitalist mode of production, that is the moment of capital as moving contradiction:
Le surtravail des grandes masses a cessé d’être la condition du développement de la richesse générale. (…) Le capital est une contradiction en procès : d’une part, il pousse à la réduction du temps de travail à un minimum, et d’autre part il pose le temps de travail comme la seule source et la seule mesure de la richesse » (Marx, Fondements de la critique de l’économie politique, Ed. Anthropos, p.222).Even in this, it is the gender division which, in the capitalist mode of production, is a moving contradiction : on the one hand it pushes the indistinct and abstract universality of individuals face to face with the power of society which it represents as autonomous value; and on the other hand, it poses labor and the growth of the population as the sole source of that valorization. It wants women and it doesn’t want them. It wants the gender distinction and it wants the universality of the simple individual, abstract and free. It wants the “free woman”, but always woman is her ideal, and the contradiction in which the gender distinction is locked must appear at one and the same time objectively necessary and individually contingent. Also, it wants the family as private space of reproduction of labor power -- and at the same time, to destroy the family.
* * *
As for the “problem of revolt” that is posed by overpopulation, it is important to consider that the question raised by overpopulation does not have its own dynamic, is not a question which can define itself. The question of surplus population is always modeled according to the categories and the determinations of each cycle of struggles. It is thus that the “problem of revolt” is inscribed in labor as a “problem for capital”.
During the crisis of the 1930’s, the unemployed became objects of organization and they functioned as a particular social force. The fight against unemployment moves forward by reinforcing the bonds between the unemployed and the employed. It's not a matter of posing unemployment as the social manifestation of the contradiction of waged labor, and posing the struggle of the unemployed as the obsolescence of the activities of the struggle of the waged workers [poser le chômage comme la manifestation sociale des contradictions du travail salarié et la lutte des chômeurs comme caducité en actes, dans la lutte de classe, du travail salarié]. It is nothing but the sign of capitalist anarchy in the market. In France, for example, it enhances the struggle against unemployment through guaranteed unemployment insurance [l'assurance obligatoire] and by the establishment of the 40 hour work week.
During the same period, the struggle of the unemployed in Amsterdam revealed the impossibility of the inverse, that is, organizing the class against capital around unemployment as the obsolescence of the wage relation (this kind of struggle is now possible, because since then the clear separation between work and unemployment has been made more clear, which had only begun to be formalized during the dissolution of the crisis of the 1970s and the restructuring which followed this separation).
“The unemployed of Amsterdam were without a doubt the most radical sector of the proletariat in the Netherlands. Obliged to their daily migration to the unemployment office, the private workers politicized themselves very quickly; the long lines every day were conducive to political discussion and the dissemination of revolutionary press, in particular those of the council communists, whose propaganda resonated. After 1932, “struggle committees” of unemployed were formed in Amsterdam ; Very combative, they fell to the blow of the CPN (the communist party of the Netherlands) in spite of the propaganda of the GIC (International Communist Group) to “carry out the struggle without any union or political party.”When one considers the march of the unemployed of the CGTU (communist) in France, the revolt of Jordan, or the same violent movements in the US, one observes the parallel consolidation of the position of the unemployed and of the waged worker; they are not two separate worlds, rather, there is a separation and a reciprocity. The crux lies within the fact that for the reciprocal definition of unemployed and waged worker, the point of departure, during this period, is the definition of waged work. It is waged work which defines the unemployed. The solution to unemployment is posed in the wage system, in its new modalities put in place by the crisis and social struggles. It is this redefinition of the waged worker in real subsumption which, consequently, defines the unemployed. The unemployed, whose struggles are either direct determinations of this redefinition (action of the CGTU), or they become tragically isolated (Amsterdam and the US). They cannot be the basis of a recomposition of the class which would address the totality of the wage labor relation of capital.
« Le mouvement des chômeurs déboucha en juillet 1934 sur une véritable insurrection, lorsque le gouvernement conservateur de Colijl décida de réduire les allocations de chômage. Le 4 juillet, les ouvriers du quartier du Jordaan d’Amsterdam manifestèrent spontanément, sans consignes de partis ou de syndicats, contre les mesures gouvernementales. Ils offrirent dans ce quartier, comme dans le “quartier indonésien” une vive résistance aux attaques de la police motorisée ou à cheval. Les rues du quartier du Jordaan furent bientôt couvertes de barricades et aux mains des ouvriers et des chômeurs, qui une fois “victorieux” rentrèrent chez eux. Mais le lendemain l’armée occupait le quartier avec des chars et des mitrailleuses. La répression contre les ouvriers se solda par 7 morts et 200 blessés. Fort de sa “victoire”, le gouvernement néerlandais interdit toute manifestation et tout meeting. Bien qu’ayant pris ses distances avec la lutte des ouvriers du Jordaan - en n’y voyant que pillages et provocations- De Tribune, l’organe du CPN fut interdit. (...) La défaite des chômeurs d’Amsterdam était sévère, car elle signifiait une défaite grave du prolétariat des Pays-Bas, qui était resté passif. En effet, la lutte des chômeurs fut considérée comme une lutte à part, d’une catégorie particulière des ouvriers. Les chômeurs eux-mêmes ne tentèrent pas de généraliser leur mouvement. Le corporatisme et le manque de solidarité entre catégories d’ouvriers, autant de faiblesses : “...Les forces de classe étaient encore si faibles que les ouvriers en lutte ne prêtèrent pas encore pleinement attention à l’extension du mouvement comme leur tâche propre. On était d’avis qu’il s’agissait seulement d’une lutte des chômeurs devant être menée par eux seuls. Dans le Jordaan et dans ses environs, il y avait différentes usines ; pourtant il n’y eut aucune tentative de la part des chômeurs en lutte de les entraîner dans la lutte.” (Räte-Korrespondenz - organe du GIC - n°8-9, 1935). » (Courant Communiste International, “La gauche Hollandaise”, p 219-220, Ed du CCI).
It is not unemployment in itself which determines our understanding of the revolt of the “supernumerary" (there were periods, in the already too-long history of this mode of production, where unemployment was much higher than it is today), but rather, the relation to the aggregate of waged work. In the present cycle of struggles lies the possibility for the class struggle to turn capital, insofar as it is an ongoing contradiction expressed as "tendential fall in the rate of profit" into immediate activities. The mass of unemployed themselves tells us only that crisis exists -- they say nothing about the particularity of an epoch of the class struggle.
By means of precarity, flexibility, part time work, and all the imaginable forms of unstable employment, capital, having reduced the amount of labor which it required for its reproduction, manages to maintain, as much as possible in the current growth model, an equilibrium between the reduction of necessary labor which increases surplus labor, and the multiplication of simultaneous days, which is to say, the increase of the same necessary labor to increase its surplus. The transformation of the global relation between working class and capital persists through a clear separation between “reserve army" and “active army”. The radical novelty in the struggle of the “supernumerary” is the capacity of the proletariat to deal with their situation, to lay claim to their situation, in the relation of exploitation which establishes capital as ongoing contradiction. This is their capacity to take the offensive against the inessentialization of labor -- the reduction of the amount of labor that capital requires for its reproduction.
“We demand nothing”, one could say.
4. TC say that women/the family are a problem for capital. Is this merely because labor is a problem for capital, and women/the family reproduces labor?Yes, but once this is said, one has articulated an abstract universal.
In the text Gender Distinction, programmatism and communisation published in TC 23, we wrote [and have repeated above] (TC 23, p. 111):
"With the capitalist mode of production, the contradiction “appeared”: that of the population as principal productive force. It is impossible to escape from it without the abolition of this mode of production. This mode of production hatches in its chest a class struggle which, in abolishing capital, will not permit any person to escape the question of the “inherent conditions of their individuality.” This is a question determined according to this “apparent contradiction” between being a “man” or a “woman” -- that needs to be overcome."In the course of the discussions which accompanied the drafting and publication of this text, one among us made the following critique:
“The end of this chapter says that the only dynamic is class struggle and class abolition. An attack on the men/women relation is necessary to the abolition of capital, but it is not included with the relation itself. Therefore, this is a little overture, on principle, to say that it is necessary to attack the gender relation specifically, and that will be a struggle within the struggle, because the entire proof relies on a dynamic (the one of the class struggle) that is like an external thing which is included, reintroduced from the outside as the dynamic of the man/woman relation. In this respect, the text takes the relation between men and women as an object and the only content that the text gives to this relation is the wage relation, and so one cannot see why the specific struggle around the gender division is necessary, except because we have the (correct) intuition that this specific attack is necessary. Thus it is necessary for us to say something about the dynamic, or at least say that we lack the dynamic."This critique was included in the text Comrades, but women, published at the end of the Gender distinction...as an element of discussion and critique :
"And yet, if we say that the abolition of gender will be a revolution in the revolution, this assumes a proper dynamic which is something other than the class struggle, which can’t be reduced to the class struggle -- or even to the class struggle in its turning against itself. Moreover, if one speaks of the proper dynamic in the course of the revolution, already there is today a proper dynamic of the gender relation which is not reduced to the class relation. To say proper dynamic is to say specific contradiction, for a simple relation of antagonism doesn’t contain any dynamic. Thus it is about the possibility of thinking a revolution in the revolution, a contradiction in the contradiction. But it is problematic to include one element only within another element. The traps and the difficulties are legion..." (TC 23, p. 126).
The gender division and the relation between men and women was articulated as having the exact same content as the class struggle. The specificity of this relation could only be one accident of the class struggle coming in to “supplement” the class struggle. The fundamental proposition of the text in TC 23 was:
“The appearance as contradiction of the gendered reproduction of humanity is identical to the contradictory relation of capital and labor at the interior of the capitalist mode of production, which is to say, identical to capital as moving contradiction" (we have added an emphasis this time).* * *
The problem with the assertion of such an identity is that the relation between men and women, the division and the contradiction between the genders, is always regarded as a differentiation of an original sameness. In our text, the distinction between the class struggle and man/woman relations was hidden away in capital as a moving contradiction, which was at once the departure point and the arrival point. This conception merely offers a choice between the “return to self”, self-determination of all as a unity (the dialectic of the preservation of the same within the different), and the “bad infinity”, which is the reflexivity of an infinite reciprocal action, the mere addition of simultaneous contradictions. This totality (capital as ongoing contradiction) merely announces itself in the diversity of its determinations. We could not consider, without sinking into teleology and universal abstraction, each determination as differentiation of a totality which is always and everywhere self-identical, as particularization of the universal, as its self-determination. The universal is not immanent to the particular (this would only bring us back to the problematic of the monad), but there is a necessary relation amongst particularities. The immanence of the universal to its parts is not what relates the determinations to each other. The capitalist mode of production as ongoing contradiction is not the universal as immanent to its particular moments (waged labor, capital, ground rent, exploitation, gender distinction).
Nor can one merely reverse the order of existence, from the pre-existence of the totality/identity, to the pre-existence of the determinations/particularities. The particularities do not preceded their identity - if we said so, we would be left only with the ideology of the chance encounter to explain the connection between the class relation and the gender relation.
The unity embodies the necessary co-presence of the two terms (class and gender : exploitation and male dominance) which can only exist together. The totality is the internal requirement each has for the other -- and thus, the totality is also what differentiates each one. Indeed, behind the simple concept of co-presence or involvement/implication [implication], many meanings are possible, including reductive models where the highest achievement is the interaction where x acts upon y which reacts upon x, ad libitum. This system can contain in itself the principle of its overcoming only if one defines the totality as distinct from its particularities, as carrying the relation between its terms (class and gender) to a contradiction for themselves. Totality, capital as ongoing contradiction, is active, it is not the simple co-presence or implication of its terms (class and gender).
A relation of the Whole to its parts, the Whole produced out of the category of “self-determination”, we give a Whole which can be recognized not as immanent to its parts, but as the necessary connection between them. The connection between its parts is what makes them belong to the totality.
In connection to the gender distinction we can then formulate the following methodological approach: it is the very dynamic of that particularity which makes it a particularity of the totality. In other words, by its specificity, the gender distinction, male dominance, exists as determination (particularity) of capital as ongoing contradiction.6 Capital as ongoing contradiction (the problem with labor) doesn’t exist in the form of the relationship between men and women; to the contrary, it’s the gender distinction and the contradiction between men and women such as they exist in the capitalist mode of production which create the gender distinction and the contradiction between men and women as determinations of capital as ongoing contradiction.
If women (and as we will soon see, the family) are a problem for capital it isn’t only because labor is a problem for capital, but because the activity of women who do not want to remain what they are is a problem. To see only the “problem expressed in a form”, we would only have an abstract unity, abstract because self-determination as the form of the gender relation which only achieves the existence of a mask (the problem of labor exists in the form of....). The form is not more than one appearance.
* * *
Let us address the specific content of the gender distinction and the contradiction between men and women as particularity of the totality. Let us expose here, in an inevitably simplistic way, the architecture of the reasoning.
- As in the text of TC 23, we established the group women starting from surplus labor and the population as principal productive force. We add that what we took for granted, surplus labor and necessary population, requires firstly the more or less violent ascription of women to their definition, a reduction to their reproductive capacity. "Reproductive capacity" is not “given” and “used”, it is constructed and appropriated (see the “responses” to the first two questions).
- In all this, the categories of the CMP (capitalist mode of production) are sexed. Labor, and population of course. And also, the wage relation : the separation of production and reproduction ; reproduction in the sphere of circulation ; payment not of labor but of the reproduction of labor power and of the “race of workers”. But also, the distinction of labor, property, exchange. On this latter point, the market seems neutral in relation to the gender because the market is not neutral in relation to gender. In a mode of production where all production is destined for sale, the market defines the social character of this production as public, therefore the gender distinction could be considered non-pertinent internally, because it is presupposed in the very existence of the thing.7
- The sexed character of all categories of capital signifies a general distinction in society between men and women. This general distinction acquires as its social content that which is the synthesis of all the sexuations of the categories: the creation of the division between public and private. This distinction is the synthesis because the CMP is a political economy. In other words, the CMP, because it rests on the sale of the labor power and a social production that does not exist as such on the market (value), rejects as "non-social" the moments of its own reproduction which escape direct submission to the market or to the immediate process of production : the private. The private is the private of the public, always in a hierarchical relation of definition and submission to the public. As general division and given its content (socially produced), it is naturalized and it actually exists in the framework of this society as natural division: all women, all men. It is not enough to say that all the categories of the capitalist mode of production are intrinsically sexed. It is necessary also that this general sexuation is given a particular form: the distinction between public and private where the categories men and women appear as general, more general even than the differences of class which are produced as “social” and “natural.” The distinction between men and women acquires its own content at its level, specific to the level produced, which is to say, specific to the distinction between public and private: nature (that which the social has produced at the interior of itself as non-social and which actually comes to appear as obvious, natural, because of the anatomical distinction). The distinction between men and women as relation wouldn't be a social relation without “appearing” as natural, as a commodity wouldn’t be a social relation without appearing as a thing, or the wage, the value of the work force, without appearing as the “price of labor”. Denaturalization is only possible when you take naturalization seriously. The authoritative definition of woman was the biology of social “naturalism”. This biologization has some actual effects on the m/w relation, and on the nature of it’s overcoming.
- The public/private distinction shows that, in the capitalist mode of production, the definition of women is globally constrained to their role as childbearers. For instance, one does not move (either logically or socially) from the appropriation of women as reproducers to domestic labor. Domestic labor is an element of the social device [dispositif] that defines and assigns the group ''women” to this reproductive capacity. Domestic labor, positioned within the division of labor, forms of integration/interpellation [insertion] in the immediate process of production, “atypical” forms of the wage system, everyday violence of marriage, family, negation and appropriation of female sexuality, rape and/or the threat of rape, all these are the frontlines where the contradiction between men and women plays out, a contradiction whose content is the definition of men and women and the ascription and confinement of individuals to these definitions (none of these elements is accidental). These frontlines are the loci of a permanent struggle between two categories of society constructed as natural and deconstructed by women in their struggle. The frontlines are never stable. The public-private distinction is constantly redefined: the present “parity” is a redefinition of its boundaries but also a redefinition of what is private.
- If the abolition of the gender distinction is necessary from the point of view of the “success” of communization, it is not in the name of the abolition of all the mediations of society. It is in its concrete and immediate character that the contradiction between men and women, imposes itself on the "success" of communization", against what that relation implies in terms of violence, invisibilisation, the ascription to a subordinate position. If the abolition of the gender distinction becomes necessary for communization, it is because the contradiction and exploitation which define women exist in everyday life and from this situation, from this contradiction, we begin to talk of the necessity of the abolition of gender. The gender distinction that is the contradiction between men and women as it exists and takes place allows us to speak of its necessary abolition and of the necessary abolition of all the mediations for the “success” of communization. If we analyze the gender distinction from the point of view of its abolition, it is because we begin with its current material existence. From whence, the following point.
- It is the very dynamic of this contradiction that makes the contradiction exist as a particularity of the totality which is capital as ongoing contradiction. Women do not want to remain what they are, as Marx wrote about the proletarians in The German Ideology. If they do not want to remain what they are, it is because their situation is a contradiction within and for the capitalist mode of production: labor as problem (the “apparent contradiction”, population as principal productive force, is no longer self evident in capitalism, the natural distinction is undermined by contingency). But, labor as a problem doesn't take the form of the struggle of women, labor as problem is the struggle of women against their definition as women. One can say that the tendential fall in the rate of profit is not “the basis” of the class struggle but directly a contradiction between capital and proletariat. One can say that labor (or the population, principal productive force) as a problem (the “apparent contradiction”) is directly a contradiction between men and women.
- Labor as a problem is the very dynamic of the contradiction between men and women (it does not merely take the form of this contradiction), labor as a problem is the dynamic through which this particularity exists as a particularity of the totality : Capital as ongoing contradiction. Capital as ongoing contradiction doesn't determine itself as a double contradiction: between men and women on the one hand, and between capitalists and proletarians on the other. Unity as living, active unity, is the necessary relation between the two contradictions by which the unity makes them its own and acts as their unity.
- The necessary relation between these two contradictions is at first,
historically, an experiential fact. The activity of women in the class
struggle always introduces within itself the contradictory relation of
women to men: the refusal to be relegated to the subaltern tasks or to
tasks associated with their social role in “private”; the outbreak of
the private into the public sphere as a transgression of their
separation; the pleasure of being together for example during an
occupation; the sexuality which haunts all female acts within the class
struggle, whether it be the presence of militia women on the frontlines
in Spain, or during a strike with occupation for days and nights (one
could say that de facto women’s struggle spontaneously takes the form of
an emancipation). More specifically, women's struggles against the
appropriation of their time, of their person, of their body (only women
have a body, “are a body”) also invoke the class distinction in a
perpendicular fashion, both unifying and cleaving the distinctions
between “bourgeois women” and “proletarian women”. In the same way, it
also cuts across the struggles for equality of conditions and of rights.
The “household worker" can feel threatened by this freedom and this
equality as she doesn't have the cultural and social capital needed in
order to validate this “freedom”.
It is quite easy and trivial to show that exploitation, the contradiction between proletariat and capital, defines capital as ongoing contradiction. ( Théorie Communiste has long shown this). But exploitation is not conceived as a particularity of the totality, but as an immediate identity with the totality of capital as ongoing contradiction. The gender distinction and the men/women contradiction in its specific content and in all its frontlines are not acknowledged like the other particularities of this totality: in their difference and their unity.
- We are thus, for an instant, in the presence of two contradictions which each exist as particularities of the totality on account of their specificity. In all this, this totality is nothing but their necessary relation, or rather, as necessary relation they exist inevitably conjoined, as capital as ongoing contradiction (or contradiction between surplus labor and necessary labor). If each of these contradictions exists as a particularity of the totality, and is this particularity because of a specific dynamic, this means that capital as ongoing contradiction is their unity. Unity in which contradictions do not exist insofar as they are conceived apart from their unity. The current solution to the problem is to say that each intersects with the other, and this amounts to saying that they exist together without saying why nor how, without producing and deducing their “co-existence”. This is the problematic of the “complexity” which contents itself with coexistence without unity. To say that each contradiction intersects with the other is not false, but it is necessary to conclude that they do not exist insofar as they exist independently, they intersect and conjugate antagonistically (antagonistically: in the class struggle it is not irrelevant whether a proletarian is male or female, because the proletariat is male) as a single movement : capital as ongoing contradiction. Woman, man: proletarian, capitalist, no subject is pure. Each contradiction in its specificity doesn't disappear, but it is internally (as particularity of the same totality) prevented from recognizing the other as its own. It matters that there are two contradictions and four terms -- it’s for this reason that the dynamic is unique, that of capital as ongoing contradiction and of its overcoming.
- The contradiction between men and women doesn’t erupt within the class contradiction, but modulates it constantly in the same way that exploitation constantly modulates the contradiction between men and women. Their entanglement constitues a succession of historical configurations in the class struggle as well as a succession of historical configurations of the contradiction between men and women. The struggle of women who do not want to remain who they are has a history: from the demands for equality of civil and political rights, the demands for equality in work, to the calling into question of their own definition (in 1970’s feminism, where the body itself becomes the object of demands and social critique) which overcomes the paradox of feminism as articulated by Joan. W. Scott.8 It is false to say that the class struggle, or its overcoming, depends on the contradiction between men and women -- just as it would be false to say that the overcoming of the categories men and women depends on the class struggle. They are particularities of the same totality insofar as they are specific contradictions (by their specificity, the whole is not self-determining), they are constantly constructing and are constructed by one and the same movement (inside of which their entangled and antagonistic relationship is always historically specific) of a succession of cycles of struggles (class struggle/ gender contradiction, and one on account of the other) always historically defined. Two contradictions, four elements, but one single movement, one single dynamic, that of capital as ongoing contradiction. Through this, each contradiction by its specificity exists as particularity of the totality (the “self-determination of the whole” is a speculative trap). The struggles that constitute these cycles are always the antagonistic entanglement (the class struggle is always related to the general contradiction between men and women, just as the latter is always connected to the cleavage between classes) of the contradictions between classes and genders
- Particularities of one totality insofar as they are specific contradictions (by their specificity, the whole is not self-determined) build and are built constantly by each other as a single movement (inside of which their antagonistic entanglement is always historically specific) of the succession of cycles of struggles (class struggles/ gender contradiction, and one because of the other) which are always historically defined. Two contradictions, four elements, but one single movement, one single dynamic, that of capital as ongoing contradiction. Each contradiction exists in its specificity as a particularity of this totality (the speculative trap is the self-determination of the whole). Struggles which constitute these cycles are always, if considered in the unique dynamic of capital as ongoing contradiction, the antagonistic entanglement (the struggle of classes always has issues with the general contradiction between men and women, while the latter always has issue with the division of the classes) of class and gender contradictions.
- If considered as particularities of the same totality, do these two contradictions have the same relation to this totality? In other words, are the contradictions heirarchized in their relation to the whole? Yes, in the course of their history. No, in terms of their overcoming of their shared totality. The sexed character and sexed hierarchy of capital's categories, the very definition of the group woman and its subordination to the private, mean that the contradiction between men and erupt on the public scene as the intermediary of the contradiction between classes. It’s always during the crisis of social reproduction that the unity of these two contradictions is brutally and publicly re-established9. The struggles of women (comrades but women) are neither useful nor useless “for the class struggle” -- they exist, whether or not they are taken into consideration, and they had better be taken into consideration. It will then depend on their particular historical aggregation to know if their antagonistic entanglement is for each one the sign of the impossibility of its overcoming (programmatism) or the possibility of their common overcoming (i.e. communization)
It would be necessary to begin by analyzing the formation of the family in the generalization of the market based and capitalist economies, between the16th and 18th centuries. This formation of the family has a stake in the formation of a political economy10 (cf above and on top of public/private). As Polanyi would say: a dis-embedding of the family in the sphere of production and of its communal environment. This is accompanied by a surge of feelings and love in the western world. For all of its long history, the capitalist family is between two contradictory necessities: for one, the capital wants only free individuals, without attachments -- on the other hand, it separates public from private more radically than other modes of production because it has made the force of labor a commodity. The capitalist history of the family moves within this contradiction.
This contradiction is initially a contradiction in the family between mean and women, a contradiction then between the tendency of capital to absorb the totality of the available labor power into the reproduction of labor power centered around the reproduction of the male labor power of the head of the family (inherent tendency of the wage system). This reproduction as addition of the individual labor powers present in the family, is a contradiction, in the end, between the private character of reproduction of labor power, and its production as any commodity in a specific capitalist process of production, i.e. as an objective condition of production. This is all that, in the terms of the family, “labor is a problem” for capital.
* * *
Public/private, wage relation, and feminine domestic labor are closely interdependent. In the capitalist mode of production, the public and private spheres are radically separated, the exclusion of women in public space is fundamentally more radical than in previous modes of production at the same time as the universality of abstract equality between individuals is an interior force of this mode of production.
By removing the distinction of sex, the law (the state) does not abolish the genders, but merely declares that its effects are not politically pertinent and that they can be forgotten. On one side the law claims to establish true equality of the sexes as a public affair, but it makes the gender division into a non-political difference (non-public), which can no longer be the object of a critique or a transformation. In becoming equal, the State or the public sphere in general does not abolish the gender distinction, but rather presupposes it by arranging it in the private sphere on the side of concrete men and women. The State and the public sphere are fundamentally constructed on the gender distinction in which they redouble this distinction by declaring it non-pertinent internally and actually pertinent for its very existence. The State and the public sphere do not have an internal need for the difference of sex, they can, on the contrary, abstract from this difference because in it (as such: public/private) is realized the actual foundation of the difference of gender.
The legal declaration of parity and its real application go hand in hand with the interior split [dédoublement] of each woman. As a member of the public sphere, she is relieved of the pertinence of sex difference, she is stripped of her real life and filled with an unreal generality. As woman in the private sphere and private relations of production, she remains a women precisely because the parity is no more than an abstraction, which is to say, the parity is not something which doesn’t exist, but something which exists precisely as an abolition (in tendency/ achieved) of a difference, abolition founded on the reproduction of this difference and on the decoupling and the scission of the female individual. In actual capitalist society, women are actually divided in each determination (domestic life, work, parenting...) between an abstract individuality and a concrete individuality at the point which each determination of concrete life (private and work) is itself divided between its reality and its ideality, so much so that the ideality (the parity in all the domains) appears as real in the distinction which it has abolished (in itself). An unfounded “archaism” and by there unreal, whereas it is only the interior split of each woman. Man is also divided between abstract and concrete, but he does not need to abandon the concrete in the abstract (as man).
“The privilege which man holds... is that his vocation of being human does not thwart [contrarie] his destiny of being male. By assimilation of the phallus and of transcendence, he finds that his social or spiritual successes endow him with manly prestige. His is not divided. While it is demanded that women, to accomplish her femininity, become object and prey, to renounce her claims of sovereign subject.” (Beauvoir, Le deuxième sexe, t.1, p. 524)The woman lives her life, insofar as it is “universal”, in the parity, but if she lives it, she contemplates it also. She carries out her private, personal life in her practical, domestic, professional activities, which are themselves split. All her life is divided, because she needs to be the same as that which is different from her (and as the difference establishes the demand to be the same). As a woman, this individual is commanded to be a self and an other, and confirmed as different tin the injunction to be the same.
The distinction is carried out in parity. The illusion which should be shown is not the idealization of the sex difference within parity, but its source: the determination of a public sphere which, avoided by the colors of parity, counters in its own place the reality of inequality and domination.
Equality is battle for women’s access to abstraction. It is not a battle empty of issues, but its triumph presupposes and confirms each woman’s split in the totality of her life, and makes everyday life into a simple fact without right and without reason. Equality (insofar it as constitutes an abstract individual) as ideality rests on the reality of this “everyday life” which is necessarily the abstract expression of the private/public distinction. Abstraction which becomes the reading and the practice of concrete life (everyday life). Abstraction is not the name of a separation from a “real base”, it is the name of the role it plays there: the role of abstraction (cf. money).
Liberal ideology (in the political sense) is adequate to the immediate reality and given in social life, while disguising a deeper reality. It makes of the individual an essence, a constituent subject. Woman, in the equal pair man/woman, is such an individual in which the abstract individual, objectively abstract, is confused with the concrete individual, so much so that the former becomes not only the ideal form of the second, but also returns the concrete individual to a contingent, accidental form of this abstract, objective individual.
* * *
Capitalism delineates productive labor absolutely separated from reproductive activities in the private sphere. The free labor power which make productive labor must go and be sold. The cleavage between production and reproduction, of home and workplace, is perfect, structural, definitive of the mode of production. The marital family is the family of the free laborer, with du respect to Engels. Domestic space is socially delineated as an exclusion and imprisonment. Women can enter in the labor market, but on the basis of this exclusion. Their entrance into the labor marker, their participation in productive labor, is always defined as the work of “those which exist in this way” and by which the value of labor power is devalued.
Capital has a problem with female labor because if it is eager to integrate women directly to its service, this will influence the relation between necessary and surplus labor through the value of labor power. For this reason, capital is always in an antagonistic and ambivalent relation to female work.
Capital has at its disposal three ways to usurp domestic labortime, either by leaving it the way it is, as housework (in this case, it usurps insofar as reduction in the part of the working day which is comprised by necessary labor), or by absorbing this time (in other words, absorbing women), in which case necessary labor time will increase in the long term, or finally by combining both, winning on both sides. This third solution is of course preferred by the capitalist, but in this case capital would have to incessantly compose through female labor, in a diachronic manner, in the re-division of salaried work in the individual duration of the life of each worker, what is considered in the synchronic fashion a cutting up of female employment in age groups. For more than 20 years, the ‘solution’ has been part time work, imposed in the vast majority of cases. The solution has been the international migration of women to do work related to care.
Cooking for the family is not considered free productive labor on account of the fact that cooking can be bought (any more than changing the oil in the car). It is wrong to think that work must be paid. However, if there is not, in the family setting, unpaid productive labor, then from the nature of the wage itself, the family is a place of economic exploitation, that of women which immediately benefits the spouse, which is to say men in general. We have here an exploitation which passes for a relation of domination which rises from the wage : domination and supply of domestic labor are forms firstly dependent on surplus labor and, secondly, on the form of the wage relation.
To say that wages pay the reproduction of labor power and of the “race of workers” makes us cross the threshold of “intimacy”. Only a non-programmatic theory of class struggle and a theory of revolution as abolition of all classes, as abolition of the proletariat and the wage system can take into account the antagonism included in the wage as reproduction of labor power and even more, consider that this internal antagonism is and must be a determinant element in the abolition of the wage system.
* * *
The content of the construction of the capitalist family is the history of the wage system, and its decomposition in direct and indirect wages -- in brief the integration and the reproduction of labor power as collective and social force in the cycle of capital. In other words, the future of capital in the specifically capitalist mode of production. One could also describe this process as one of a relation between business and reproduction of the assemblage of capitalist society; the relation between the two first moments of exploitation and the third.
The first effect of industrialization is to augment “exploitable human material”, which is not inevitably exploited, and to elevate the degree of exploitation.
"The value of labour-power was determined, not only by the labour-time necessary to maintain the individual adult labourer, but also by that necessary to maintain his family. Machinery, by throwing every member of that family on to the labour-market, spreads the value of the man’s labour-power over his whole family. It thus depreciates his labour-power. To purchase the labour-power of a family of four workers may, perhaps, cost more than it formerly did to purchase the labour-power of the head of the family, but, in return, four days’ labour takes the place of one, and their price falls in proportion to the excess of the surplus-labour of four over the surplus-labour of one. In order that the family may live, four people must now, not only labour, but expend surplus-labour for the capitalist." (Capital Vol 1, New World Books edition, p 395).The mechanization of modern industry universalizes “exploitable human matter” because it is no longer tributary of anything other than the capitalist relation itself in order to be exploitable. It is no longer an agent of trade, and for a prior social history, it suffices that it is free. Any individual is then presupposed as an integral part of this exploitable human matter and belongs, in his freedom, to capital, before even, individually, his labor power enters in a particular labor process. This is the beginning of a proccess in which all the individual labor powers become independent and in which globalisation of their reproduction is not familial but social. The result is that the current labor market in which the addition of family revenue, when the family system persists (it is no longer a condition of the reproduciton of labor power) is not the final instance of the reproduction of each of these components, but a simple median term put in relation to reproduciton of the individual labor power and the global reproduction of the global force of social labor.
Up until the end of the 19th century, fluctuations of employment, “accidents of life”, and the brief rearing of children until the time when they can be productive, are “regulated” by the individual foresight of the worker, some mutual aid societies, charity, begging, and illegal activities, and also by the paternalism of the bosses. There is also still the possibility of taking refuge in the countryside, enlarging the family, worker nomadism, and for women the regulation of their activities through marriage. “Even as citizens, the artisan and their workers continue to live in perfect symbiosis with the rural. No clear border separates the workshop from its environment. (...) This isn’t only true for the cottage industry. Manufacturing itself, in the beginning, is strongly subject to the law of the cultural and social rural hegemony.”(Jacques Le Goff, Du silence à la parole : droit du travail, société, Etat, 1830-1985, Ed La Digitale, p. 26).
The first mode of adaptation leads to the dispersal of manufacturing, the extension of the putting-out system, to which the factory system is opposed from the 18th century on, the factory system. Nevertheless, even in this case it must adapt itself to peasants who are in the factory only to round out their income, and leave immediately as soon as the agricultural work requires them to leave, or as soon as they feel like they have enough money to survive. The rebellion of the national workshops in June 1848 in Paris, with the influx of unemployed workers coming from the country, marks nonetheless the emergence of a working class that does not benefit from the ability to take refuge in the country.
Little by little, the small domestic workshops disappear and give way to the big manufacturing establishments. At the same time, the latter close themselves off from the rural environment -- externally and materially with the birth of industrial architecture, and internally through the disciplining of labor. (cf. J.P De Gaudemar, L’ordre et la production, Ed Dunod ; et Gérard Noiriel, Les ouvriers dans la société française XIXè s – XXè s, Ed Le Seuil.).
As waged labor becomes generalized, and as its relationship to capital becomes its very principle of renewal, the working class becomes a legal subject. In France the 1864 strike laws and the 1884 legalization of unions, the working class as a collective worker begins to take the place of an aggregate of individual isolated workers. It is only gradually that the working class becomes defined by waged labor and the labor market. The social modalities of the reproduction of labor power become formalized with the labor contract at the same time that the specifically capitalist family becomes formalized. The wage system becomes really and explicitly the reproduction of social labor force and of the “race of workers”, it gives the family a specifically capitalist content. Through the evolution of the wage system in direct and indirect wages, this particularly capitalist construct of the family as a place which is exclusively devoted to the reproduction of the work force becomes the subordinate place of women in specifically capitalist terms and relationships. The social process is consubstantial with the formation of a worker identity which marks this period of capitalism. The worker identity is constituted as a masculine identity: the male worker employed full time in modern industry. It is through the formation of the wage system in direct and indirect wages, that workers identity appears through this central figure. The male worker employed full time become the subject of rights applied to its reproduction by which the family is now defined.
With the appearance of the “collective worker”, that is, the definition and determination of social labor in capitalist society, the wage doesn't change fundamentally, but the elements which determine it break apart. The wage is always fixed around the value of the reproduction of labor power, it must also allow for the constant entrance of new proletarians on the market, but now capital must also be concerned with this reproduction and not just send it back to the country (“exteriors”) and therefore consider it as having no cost.
What is new at the beginning of the 20th century, is that that part of the wage devoted to the renewal, which ensures the maintenance of the workforce, becomes autonomous from direct wages, and becomes something that is planned. The social character of the reproduction of the working class becomes autonomous in relation to the individual workers, and becomes “social”. The social takes locates itself in a particular space between politics and economics. The social character of the reproduction of labor power as a whole, in becoming autonomous from the individual worker, no longer depends directly on his immediate work, nor even on the fact that as an individual, he works. But at the same time as these old forms of regulation become obsolete, the “social” creates a new form, which is applied to the family.
The model of the labor contract of the male adult worker takes hold in modern urban industry. Married women and youth take the subordinate role in the relation to the head of the family : if the husband works, the woman does not have the right to unemployment benefits. Demands formulated in terms of "social rights" took these categories as a point of departure, thereby consolidating the distinction between workers and the unemployed, of men and women, between youth and adults. The "social rights" accentuate the discriminations between sex, age, sectors of the working class, professions, and completion of the process of state-formation and of the production of the family as the reproducer of labor power.
A politics of organization and of rational management of the workforce takes shape, within which the family plays a central role. The wage, established by collective bargaining, escapes the individual worker. It implies a mediator -- the union delegate. The indirect wage also escapes the individual worker, and implies a mediation -- the family, of which the worker is both the representative and the chief, insofar as the family must, as a social space, ensure his reproduction.
Since the mid- 1970's and the restructuring of the capitalist mode of production, all the changes in employment and the labor market have had as their goal and content the imposition of unemployment, precarity, and flexibility in the heart of wage labor. The system that segments labor power and creates categories is targeted towards populations produced as particularities in particular zones (neighborhoods, towns, ghettos). Thus, more and more categories crystallize within the available global workforce, and politics are increasingly differentiated in their relation to wage labor. At the beginning of the 70's, with the restructuring of the labor market into increasing heterogeneity and segmentation of labor power, those who were "excluded" are considered and constructed as a residual population in relation to the general logic of the relation between employment and unemployment.
At the heart of the crisis of the first phase of the real subsumption of work to capital is the failure of what is often referred to as the "Keynesian deal" or the "Fordist compromise." What is relevant here is the collapse of the politics of full employment and the pseudo-"sharing" of the gains of increasing productivity. The collapse of the male, waged model of full time employment at a consistent place of work, is accompanied by the increase of female labor, of part time labor, (female labor and part time labor tend to be associated with one another) of temporary work, of the dispersal of the factory, of subcontracting, in other words, of a proliferation of intermediary situations. The accumulation of capital was no longer confined to the national sphere, each State can therefore no longer consider the wage "as an investment" according to the Fordist formula. Work and value of the labor power become a variable of adjustment of external competition. Any politics oriented towards jump-starting the economy or a social wage for unemployment is condemned. It was the epoch of Barre, Thatcher, and Reagan. All the social models, the dynamic modalities of exploitation of the workforce and its reproduction, deployed pretty much everywhere in the developed capitalist world during the 30s and immediately post-war, disappear.
In general, it is the exteriorization of the social, outside of the direct relation of exploitation of labor, that tends to disappear in the contemporary situation. The solidification of the situation of the waged laborer, its irreversibility and the socialization of its reproduction, have broken, in the framework of real subsumption, the interiorization in the workplace of the fluctuations of activity and employment (paternalism pushed this to such an extreme that it became a charicature), where sending back the fluctuations which were extremely exterior to the immediate capitalist relation of exploitation (return to the countryside, withdrawal to the family, etc.) the worker now has to deal with these things, and he does so through his nomadism and individual or mutual prudence, planning for the future. In the first phase of real subsumption, the social is externalized as national politics, dealt with collectively and socially, it is exteriorized without businesses or individual people, it takes the form of social rights guaranteed by the State and the social institutions and defines the family as its
The current phase of capitalist development puts the reproduction of labor power back into labor, as a form of its perpetuation and its execution.
There is a logic of the "activation of social welfare," the objective of which is to promote progressive social security taxes, while limiting the decreasing scale of the transfers, through in work benefits intended to make up for the "welfare trap."11
In the United States: Welfare reform, which began being applied in 1997, instutes the principle of the conditionality, which means that any person profiting from social security must deserve it.
« Celle-ci n’est plus un droit, elle doit avoir une contrepartie : son bénéficiaire devra exercer une activité salariée, effectuer une tâche d’intérêt général, ou recevoir une formation. Tout adulte dont la famille perçoit une aide devra, dans les deux mois, effectuer un travail d’intérêt général. Le principe d’universalité et d’automaticité du versement de l’aide sociale est ainsi supprimé. Chaque Etat est libre de distribuer à sa guise le montant de l’enveloppe qu’il percevra du gouvernement fédéral. Avec cette condition : en 2002, les Etats doivent être en mesure de prouver qu’environ 50% de leur "clientèle" du Welfare est au travail. Sinon, ils perdront une portion non négligeable de la dotation fédérale. Entre janvier 1993 et novembre 1996, 2,5 millions de bénéficiaires du Welfare ont été rayés des registres. En supposant que les deux tiers des bénéficiaires d’aides sociales trouvent du travail et que les Etats maintiennent leur niveau de financement, ce sont, avec la nouvelle loi, 2,6 millions de personnes qui vont tomber en dessous du seuil de pauvreté (32,4 millions d’Américains, soit 13,5% de la population entrent déjà dans cette catégorie). On imagine aisément les conséquences d’un brusque ralentissement de la croissance économique. Le test du succès de la réforme est donc moins dans la réduction du nombre d’abonnés de l’aide sociale (le principe de la conditionnalité à un effet dissuasif) que dans la capacité de l’économie à leur fournir des emplois permanents. De quels emplois s’agit-il ? De nombreuses entreprises ont répondu à cet effort de solidarité nationale en mettant en place des programmes dits welfare-to-work. » (Le Monde du 13 mai 1997).There are many examples of this evolution of welfare politics. Great Britain was a pioneer on the matter. This evolution goes along with the development of all the forms of employment and the putting to work of the proletariat, which is the extinction of the worker identity. For example: one new relationship constituted between, on the one side, the externalization of unemployment to the level of remuneration by paritarian instiutions12 and the relief put in the charge of the state, and the other its internalization of part-time work, the temporary work, etc. The localized management of unemployment and the individualization of the labor contract assured the connection between the two. An evolution in which, importantly, temporary work and precaritization play essential roles.
« Les principaux effets de la réforme résident dans le passage d’un assistanat chronique à des formes de précarité par le travail (working poverty) » (David Giband, Géographie sociale des Etats-Unis, Ed. Ellipses 2006, p.53).
This re-internalization of welfare in the effectuation of labor involves the externalized but internally split “social” applying itself specifically to the family. And the pregnant american teenagers have nothing to do but work… or pretend to work. The family can shatter or present itself in all sorts of more or less ephemeral forms, because it no longer houses a clot in the social reproduction of the force of labor, but instead, it is home to a clotting of the coexistance (simple addition) of individualized segments of this reproduction: a child at school, another in temporary work, an adult unemployed, a woman in part time work, a RMIste, a salaried, full time worker. Each of these positions has its own logic, the ensemble no longer organizes according to a central figure for which it reproduces. There is no longer an ensemble.
All the individual labor powers become independent. In the current labor market, the family contribution of revenues persists alongside the acknowledgment of the family situation, but the family unit is no longer the synthesis of reproduction of each of its components. Rather, it is a simple medium13 connecting reproduction of the individual forces of labor to the general reproduction of the social labor power.
The purchase of labor power by capital is now total. Labor power is presupposed both as the formal property of capital (workers always belonged to the capitalist class as a whole before selling their labor power to a specific capital), and also the real property of capital: capital pays for the individual reproduction of the worker independently of its immediate consumption which, for each labour power, is only the manifestation of its definition as a fraction, a mere aliquot part, of this general labor power that already belongs to capital. Capital did not all of a sudden become philanthropist. In each worker, it reproduces something that belongs to it: the general productive force of labor, which is independent and exterior to each worker and even to the sum of workers. Conversely, labor power which is directly active, productively consumed, sees its necessary labor returning to it as an individualized fraction, which is not defined exclusively by the needs of its own reproduction, but also by the fact that it is a fraction of general labor power (representing the totality of necessary labor)— a fraction of the total necessary labor. There is a trend towards the equalization between income as wages and income as unemployment benefits— there being an institutional contagion of each one toward the other.
Capital first came up against this aggregation of labor power and the labor necessary for it during the first phase of real subsumption. Capital first divided it into rigid categories, because it did not succeed in integrating it, consuming it and reproducing it as a social labor power. The family, as the social sphere where all of the different stages in the life of labor power are represented synchronically, was the synthesis of these categories. This very division now finds a continuity in the interpenetration of its elements rather than the synchronic synthesis. First there is repulsion, exclusion between these different categories; and reunion, synthesis outside them: the family. But at the same time, their mutual attraction as identical things eventually gets the upper hand.
The family is the sphere where this more or less necessary individualization takes place, and little more. The fraction given individually to each labor power as is a mere aliquot part of a total value, which is the value of necessary labor, paid by capital regularly (at fixed intervals). The duration for which a specific labor power is used, the rotation of the fractions put at work, the forms of payment can be endlessly fractioned: the primary purchase has already taken place; the ownership contract has already been signed. Naturally, all this implies the full development of the specific conditions allowing the extraction of relative surplus-value (that is, the previous period)
This purchase which is total because it is individualized, and which is individualized because it is total, makes the “explosion of the family” an undeniable fact, but at the same time as it is falling apart, it is reshaping. Capital needs an atomized proletariat, but the flexibility and precariousness which necessitate the total “freedom” of the proletarian (for example in terms of geographical mobility) transforms the family but does not do away with it. In the extreme case of the Special Economic Zones, which proliferate all over the world, celibacy is imposed and the reproduction of labor power is ignored. The latter, in fact, is left to social structures which are marginal to capital’s cycle of valorization. These structures are always extremely fragile and under threat: small peasant agriculture, informal economy, slums (reproduction is then considered by capital as being performed at no cost). And this, to be efficient, comes hand in hand with an accelerated rotation of the work force. Domestic work does not disappear, it must always be performed; flexibility, precariousness and part-time work are interconnected with domestic labor.
The number of single parent families has been continually growing. In 2005, in France (and the same phenomenon can be seen to a large extent in the US), 18% of children live with only one parent (which means as well, let’s not forget, that 82% of children live with both their parents). In 85% of the cases, these so called single-parent families are composed of one mother with her children (these data come from the newspaper Le Monde- 17 October 2008; they themselves use a study from Insee, a French institute of statistics and economic studies, published in June 2008). “The mothers in these single-parent families, who are often less qualified than those who live as couples, are in a fragile situation on the labor market. They must overcome the difficulties that are linked to their situation as single mothers – the issue of childcare in particular – and to the impossibility of relying on the income of a spouse to support the family (…) In those families, employment is often a scarce commodity: only one single mother out of two works full time” (op. cit) In fact, this “explosion” of the family, far from doing away with or overcoming the familial constraints on women, reproduce them and make them worse. Poverty is gendered, that is to say, it affects predominantly women.
This growing poverty among women manifests a deep transformation of the way their appropriation takes place. The economic dependency of women, which is an element of the apparatus which ascribes them to reproduction, has as counterpart the appropriation of women through their private upkeep. It is difficult to assess the importance, analytical significance, and truth of the trends we find here. The complete appropriation of the reproductive person tends not to be the condition for reproduction any more. The marital relation of private appropriation tends to be called in question; the structures which controlled reproduction since the beginning of capitalism are crumbling. This private appropriation has a cost, in terms of the value of labor power, and it is no longer profitable. Social or rather collective appropriation tends to replace it and the reproductive woman becomes “a free person”, she becomes a pauper who can only survive thanks to her maintenance costs being collectively supported, provided she has children; and in case of a divorce, she will always be granted the “privilege” of child custody.
* * *
The family is a problem for the capitalist mode of production. Capitalism depends on the family in order to produce and reproduce its main element, which is labor power in the form of the free worker. But within the family, capital depends on modalities of production that it produces and subdues but that are not immediately its own. We have to turn to literature, for example to Huxley’s Brave New World, to have an idea of what a capitalist production of labor power according to a capitalist process of production (that is, like any other commodity that enters the production process) could look like. But then the free worker would disappear and slavery would return.
A completely commodified society is the capitalist utopia. Society would then only be made up of a sum of individuals, absolutely independent from one another. All their relations would take the form of a contract, in which all action is recorded and paid for. All relations would be commodity relations, in which individuals would have no existence outside their legal abstraction: a total and totalitarian civil code. Each act would be measured, evaluated, exchanged and paid for. A capitalist utopia.
The family is an obstacle to the capitalist logic, but it is an internal obstacle, not something that the capitalist has inherited from history which it will eventually cast away. The total socialization of domestic work and of the biological reproduction of the worker is a programmatic utopia. It can be found in Guesde, in Pouget, but also in Lenin as a capitalist utopia integrated to the programmatic revolution. In the capitalist mode of production, it is always incomplete, and it always remains under the formal grip of the individual or the family, because the worker, in the capitalist mode of production, is a free worker. It means, according to its own definition, that her reproduction belongs to the sphere of circulation and not of production. The worker does not enter the production process as the machine or the raw material; if the reproduction of the worker no longer belonged to the sphere of circulation, she could only transfer her value in the production process, and there would no longer be variable capital or surplus-value. It also means that, if we say that the reproduction of the worker takes place in circulation, we should specify that it is in the “small circulation” which involves the part that is paid in wages and exchanged against labor power and which the worker transforms into means of consumption. This “small circulation” goes on parallel and at the same time as the production process and the “big circulation” which encompass the whole period from the moment when capital leaves production to the moment when it goes back to it (cf. Marx, Grundrisse). This “small circulation” gives to the reproduction of the worker a character which is at the same time social (labor power is part of capital’s conditions of existence) and private14 : it takes place in parallel to the production process and to the “big circulation”.
The populace in itself is not a commodity. The production and the reproduction of labor-power does not happen in the same way as those those of a commodity. They occur as the production and reproduction of the worker as a person. If this is a limit or a contradiction for (or within) the capitalist mode of production, it is due to the very nature of the commodity, which is no different than that of the person of the worker. The reproduction of the worker reproduces the commodity labor-power in what is totally specific to it: the worker must reproduce the use-value of this commodity, labor, which is not distinct from them as a person. The worker brings their own skin to the market and has nothing to expect – but a tanning. It is in this sense that, in its own terms, in the forms of its existence and in its rationale, the family is “labor as a problem”.
If the worker belongs to capital even before selling themselves to such or such capitalist, it is through a social relation of production, not a production process which produces the worker. The specificity of the commodity she must sell means that she herself has to bring it to the market and is responsible for its reproduction. Contrary to the slave, the free worker must take care of itself It is in this interstice, essential but tenuous, constantly attacked by capitalism but that it cannot destroy, that the family, however broken it is, has its place in the capitalist mode of production. Capital works its way into private life and regulates its most intimate parts, it plans the number of births, it organizes illness and death, fills leisure time, produces tastes and feelings, as tools. In short, it produces this historical social figure: the autonomous person who reproduces themself for capital. One of the tasks of this person is the reproduction of the population in the social framework defined by this autonomy: the family. Within it, there is no “property” of the children, just a delegation of power, which is the most economical form of breeding. Indeed, in its rationale, this specific social relation, the family, maintains and reproduces the domination on women, domination which is necessary for the free appropriation by capital of this whole labor of breeding and reproduction. The capitalist mode of production cannot abolish domestic labor, and it cannot abolish the gender division of humanity or the family: They are part of the very definition of this commodity which is so specific: labor power.
* * *
Capital comes up against the irreducible originality of this commodity: labor-power. Its social mode of reproduction must be private. On the one side, capital can only recognize the necessity of this private mode of reproduction (with is inherent to the wage relation) in order for the use-value of this commodity, living labor, to be the only use-value confronting it. But, on the other hand, the tendency that makes this use-value always superfluous is, for the family, its tendency to eliminate its private character, which is always an obstacle to exchange and to the maximal use of all the forces available for valorization. Here we come back to the notion of the overall purchase of labor power we mentioned before. It is a mobilization of all the forces available, integrating and modulating the diverse moments of their production and reproduction (training, unemployment, benefits “activating” the return to work, single parent benefits, etc…
In the fundamental conditions for the wage exchange (see Grundrisse), Marx insists on this point : « On both sides, there must be a free relation of exchange- monetary circulation- based on value and not on a relation of domination or of servitude. In other words, there must be a mediation between the two extremes (…) As it is not possible to directly get hold of the labor of others, it is necessary to buy labor-power from the worker in the exchange process.”
Have we now reached the possibility of “directly seizing the labor of others”15, when the socialized forms of the wage secure a link between the worker and her subsistence (RSA, ASS16, tax credit, “guaranteed income” ... and the fact of going back to work, not as a break in relation to these conditions but rather as their “activation”)? This incredible socialization of the overall reproduction of the total labor-power, which lubricates movement and eases the distinction between the wage and alternative sources of income, must be considered as capital calling into question the “free relation of exchange”, along with the family, as part of capital’s necessary self-pressuposition. First, a calling into question of the “free relation of exchange” which ensures that the mediation between the two first “fundamental conditions” (labor-power in its purely subjective existence on one side, value or materialized labor on the other) takes place. Second, a calling into question of the family as the private moment in the reproduction, which is necessary to the free relation of exchange specifically because it is private. A calling into question of this free exchange that Marx considers an “essential formality”. In some extreme cases, which are at the same time neither atypical nor marginal, monetary circulation is even, in part, abolished, as for the French “working poor” who goes to the « Secours populaire » or to the « Restos du cœur »17, or for the American who gets food stamps.
Labor-power, the property of the worker, has become the property of capital which the worker must maintain and deliver at their owner’s will. The worker does not “keep” their labor-power “while alienating it”, but this relation itself holds its reversal: the worker alienates it and, in doing so, remains its “guardian”.
The contract is then totally altered, together with the restructuring which took place from the middle of the 70s until the middle of the 90s. As we said, the endless segmentation of the diverse durations in the use of a particular labor-power, as well as the segmentation of its payment, the turnover of the fractions employed, means that the primary purchase already took place; the ownership contract was already signed. On the one hand, surplus-labor, while making necessary-labor superfluous, still needs it in order to grow. On the other hand, necessary labor is a condition for surplus-labor insofar as that surplus-labor eliminates it, makes it “superfluous”. The contradiction between necessary labor and surplus-labor is a contradiction between necessary-labor and itself: it exists in order not to exist. Used or not, it has already been bought. With the overall purchase of labor-power, the labor marker internalizes this contradiction of necessary labor (as continuity between the “indispensability” of labor and its “constant excess”).
The family, as the physical space of the reproduction of labor-power, which used to have responsibility for the social function of reproduction, is reduced to be the receptacle of this addition. It is the intervention of the state which is the middle term between the two extremes: first, the individual labor-power and second, the available overall labor-power. The first is now only an aliquot part of the second. Its determinations (value, qualification) do not exist in themselves, in a primary way, in this individual labor-power. Individual labor power exists only as a fraction of this overall labor-power whose reproduction is socially fixed by capital, through the state. It first fixes labor powers formally- rules of use- before really fixing labor power through its overall purchase. At the same time, the control that the social services impose on the poor is increasing: for example, the threat to take away the children if this new familial framework is “deficient”. The state, this middle term, reconstructs the family and controls it to make sure it is able to be this space of reproduction.
Is the worker still the “owner of its labor-power”? Because it socializes the exchange between labor-power and its productive consumption, capital calls into question its basis: the existence of the free worker and the existing place for its reproduction, the family.
The contradiction between surplus-labor and necessary-labor, the redefinition of the family, the transition from a private appropriation to a collective appropriation of women: all these are linked but are not one and the same. It is always in the terms appropriate to each case that “labor exists as a problem.”
Théorie Communiste, 2011
- 1. The distinction between "contingent individual" and "objective individual" is reviewed by Marx in Formes antérieures à la production capitaliste. This text is often published with Grundrisse.
- 2. The apparatus of violence includes rape, but also love, care, softness, concern for others, being a body.
- 3. God created Brigitte Bardot, not woman.
- 4. The increase in population as principal productive force drives the contradictions in all modes of production, but the capitalist mode of production is the first whose problem with population and labor is intrinsic to its dynamic and not a rupture in its regeneration : The alternation of the full world and the empty world of the feudal system ; antique colonial expansion ; the different solutions to the pressure on the milieus of the "primitive communities" ; the frontlines pioneered by the asiatic mode of production.
- 5. From this point of view, we cannot agree with certain aspects of the approach of the text “Misery and Debt”. The process of the “temporal contradiction” outlined there is not founded on the development of value. Without taking into consideration the conditions of the absolute increase of the mass of profit, this text treats the “general law of accumulation” through rising organic composition as a physico-technical law. When all is said and done, we do not know what blocks expanded reproduction to the point of not being able to absorb capital and liberated labor. The technical-physical lines of emerging/declining industrial sectors cannot all be understood homogenously through a unified evolution of organic composition, mass, and rate of profit. The law of population of the capitalist mode of production is governed by the relation between necessary labor and the capacity of capital to transform superfluous time into surplus labor. The text is written as if these discrete processes did not unfold in an economy where they are internally defined by the relations of value and profit.
- 6. It is difficult but imperative to abandon a behaviourist understanding of the contradiction between men and women, an unerstanding which is composed of a sum of individual practices and psychology. The contradiction between men and women is not measured in the balance between shared household chores and slaps. "Reproduction is the foundation of the social relation of the sexes" (Paola Tabet : L’arraisonnement des femmes). The ground, the substance, and the dynamic of the contradiction between men and women can, in the capitalist mode of production, develop for themselves. Its dynamic, on the ground of this reproduction, is labor in the capitalist mode of production: always necessary, always in excess. The contradiction between men and women does not merge with the class struggle, but the pairing is not random, neither theoretically or historically.
- 7. There is still a necessity to show the specifically character of each category. However when the finger points at the moon, it's the moon at which we should gaze, not the finger. Thus, they are not the concepts of value, the market, or the division of labor which should be critiqued because they are sexed, but the reality which is realized adequately by and through these categories.
- 8. To demand equality and the absence of difference in name a group and by the action of a group which we have defined as private [particulier]. (Joan W. Scott La citoyenne paradoxale ; titre original Only paradoxes to offer Harvard University Press, 1996)
- 9. We take here again a “dialectical model,” used by Marx in relation to the passage from the possibility to the reality of crisis: « Les économistes qui nient la crise s’en tiennent uniquement à l’unité de ces deux phases (phase de production et phase de circulation, nda). Si elles étaient uniquement séparées sans être unes ("sans faire un tout" – traduction Rubel dans Ed. Pléiade, t.2, p.478), c’est alors précisément qu’il n’y aurait pas de possibilité d’établir de force leur unité ("le rétablissement violent de leur unité serait impossible" - idem), pas de possibilité de crise. Si elles étaient uniquement unes ("si elles faisaient un tout" - idem), sans être séparées, il n’y aurait pas de possibilité de les séparer de force ("leur séparation violente serait impossible" – idem), ce qui est encore la crise. La crise c’est l’établissement par la force de l’unité entre des moments promus à l’autonomie ("unité faite de moments individualisés" – idem) et l’autonomisation par la force de moments qui sont essentiellement uns ("de moments qui font essentiellement un tout" – idem) » (Théories sur la plus-value, Ed. Sociales, t.2, p.612).
- 10. To reflect naively on the expression political economyy is a contradiction in terms. It is only in the 17th century that « political » began to be added to « economy ».
- 11. The theory of the "welfare trap," "poverty trap," or "unemployment trap," argues that in some cases getting a job with wages subject to tax and government levy can disadvantage a person more than staying at home, unemployed.
- 12. Paritarian institutions are non-profit joint institutions composed of représentatives of both employees and employers. (translator’s note).
- 13. A place where the differences co-exist but are not integrated.
- 14. “The worker’s means of consumption leave the production process as a result and as a product, but they never enter it as such, because they are a finished product directly entering workers’ consumption after the exchange (…) It is the only moment of the circulation of capital where consumption directly intervenes” (Marx, Grundrisse)
- 15. “The form of mediation inherent to the capitalist mode of production (the buying and selling of labor-power, author’s note) allows the perpetuation of the relation between capital which buys labor, and the worker who sells it, but it is only formally distinct from the more or less direct modes of subjection and appropriation of labor by the owners of the conditions of production (our emphasis)” (Marx, Missing Sixth Chapter)
- 16. RSA and ASS are relatively new schemes of French unemployment benefits that, compared to the previous schemes, are putting a lot more pressure on the unemployed to find a job, and that allows them to receive some benefits while having a job.(translator’s note)
- 17. Associations who offer free meals .(translator’s note)