It is this reduction of personal relationships to relations of production (i.e. the family) that underlies the growing isolation of individuals within capitalism. The individual becomes isolated not only from outside society but also from other family members with whom he/she has a relation based on production and not the individual him/herself. Thus while capital, at the formal level, offers each individual great freedom of choice over with whom to exchange within the relations of reproduction it is illusory, because this « freedom » is matched by minimal real opportunity for individual relationships.
Leopoldina Fortunati, The Arcane of Reproduction : Housework, Prostitution, Labor and Capital; Autonomedia, 1996, p. 25
C’est cette réduction des relations personnelles à des relations de production (c-à-d la famille) qui sous-tend l’isolation croissante des individus sous le capitalisme. L’individu deviennent isolés non seulement de la société extérieure, mais aussi des autres membres de leur famille avec qui il/elle entretient une relation basée sur la production et non sur l’individu lui/elle-même. Dès lors, alors que le capital, au niveau formel, offre à chaque individu une grande liberté de choix en ce qui concerne avec qui il peut échanger à l’intérieur d’une relation de reproduction, il s’agit d’une illusion, puisque cette « liberté » est compensée par une opportunité réelle de relations individuelles minimale.
the family can be considered the capitalist form of relationships of reproduction between individuals
Leopoldina Fortunati, The Arcane of Reproduction : Housework, Prostitution, Labor and Capital; Autonomedia, 1996, p. 19
« La famille peut être considérée comme une forme capitaliste de relations de reproductions entre individus. »
Nothing, in fact, has been so powerful in institutionalizing our work, the family, and our dependence on men, as the fact that not a wage but “love” has always paid for this work.
Silvia Federici, « counterplanning from the kitchen” (1975), in Revolution at point Zero : Housework Reproduction and Feminist Struggle, p. 37
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
the formation of a multinational working class has its origins in the history of women as a section of the class. Women began, particularly since the war, to take their own direction in an increasingly homogeneous and diffuse way. Hence, the emergence of a new quality of political power, as expressed by this class, has to be attributed to, and defined in terms of the new processes of autonomy opened up within the class by its various sections and particularly by woman.
Above all by women’s refusal to procreate.
During the second half of the Sixties, all European coun- tries registered a dramatic fall in the birth rate8 that cannot be wholly attributed to the increased availability of contraceptives.9 The birth rate fell particularly steeply among those sectors that formerly had proved to be less successful in controlling their fertility10
Women were better able to reject State controls over procreation the more they resisted pressure from within the family, from the elderly, from husbands, from other children.
This rejection and resistance can be found to a greater or lesser degree in all countries irrespective of whether the number of women in waged work is high or low, whether the country is one of immigration or emigration and whether the women are “native” or immigrants themselves.
Thus the family, the centre of unpaid work and personal dependence, has emerged as the primary terrain on which women have managed to resist and to organize themselves at a mass level.
The more women succeed in freeing themselves from the constraints of the family the more they will be able to succeed in emancipating themselves from conditions that limit their ability to improve their lives.
Mariarosa DALLA COSTA, “reproduction and emigration”