Social Reproduction at the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research starts Thursday, June 8th at Verso Books, 20 Jay St, Brooklyn, NY 11201. Sign up here.
“Abolition of the family!” demanded Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in the 1848 Manifesto of the Communist Party. For Marx and Engels, the bourgeois family was a site in which capitalist social relations were reproduced; abolishing capitalism meant dismantling the traditional family form as well. Since this opening salvo against the family, feminists and other social theorists have taken up kinship, care, and the private home as objects of inquiry and critique, arguing that their demystification is necessary for understanding how social forms are sustained and reproduced.
This seminar will survey some key literature in these conversations to illuminate the mechanisms by which society replicates itself. In the 1960’s and ‘70’s, radical feminist Shulamith Firestone and “wages for housework” theorist Sylvia Federici diagnosed biological reproduction, reinforced by biomedical expertise and domestic technologies, as a key axis around which Euro-American societies organized labor and oppression in the twentieth century. Furthermore, black feminists and critical race theorists like bell hooks and Patricia Hill Collins elaborated these frameworks to consider how the reproduction of race, gender, and the family are mutually reinforcing. The legacy of these histories persist in the phenomenon of the “second shift” – housework layered on top of waged work – and the affective labor that has infiltrated our contemporary gender- and race-segregated economy. Taken together, these theorists and others will help us work through how gender, race, class, and workers are reproduced, and how new forms of labor, identity, and subjectivity emerge in the process of reproducing societies.