It is the essence of capitalist ideology to glorify the family as a “private world,” the last frontier where men and women “keep [their] souls alive,” and it is no wonder that this ideology is enjoying a renewed popularity with capitalist planners in our present times of “crisis” and “austerity” and “hardship.”20 As Russell Baker recently stated in the New York Times, love kept us warm during the Depression and we had better bring it with us on our present excursion into hard times.21 This ideology that opposes the family (or the community) to the factory, the personal to the social, the private to the public, productive to unproductive work, is functional to our enslavement to the home, which, in the absence of a wage, has always appeared as an act of love. This ideology is deeply rooted in the capitalist division of labor that finds one of its clearest expressions in the organization of the nuclear family.
The way in which the wage relation has mystified the social function of the family is an extension of the way capital has mystified waged labor and the subordination of our social relations to the “cash nexus.” We have learned from Marx that the wage hides the unpaid labor that goes into profit. But measuring work by the wage also hides the extent to which our family and social relations have been subordinated to the relations of production—they have become relations of production—so that every moment of our lives functions for the accumulation of capital. The wage and the lack of it have allowed capital to obscure the real length of our working day. Work appears as just one compartment of our lives, taking place only in certain times and spaces. The time we consume in the “social factory,” preparing ourselves for work or going to work, restoring our “muscles, nerves, bones and brains”22 with quick snacks, quick sex, movies, all this appears as leisure, free time, individual choice.
Silvia Federici, “counterplanning from the kitchen”, in Revolution at point Zero : Housework Reproduction and Feminist Struggle, p. 35-36