Social Reproduction - Abstracts in English

Gergely Csányi, Ágnes Gagyi  and Ágnes Kerékgyártó: Social Reproduction. The Source of Life in Capitalism

The process during which the reproduction of life is integrated into capitalist production is usually referred to as reproduction, social reproduction, or reproductive labour. These concepts include the process during which capitalism transforms and makes use of the practices of love, sex, care and housework in a way that they fit the logic of capitalist accumulation. In our paper, we summarise the theoretical history of social reproduction: following the original concept of social reproduction of Marx and Engels, we look at ensuing waves of research using and critiquing this concept - feminist research, world-systems-focused research, research focusing on informal labour, peasants, or the exploitation of nature. Then we pose the question of what we may gain from these approaches for the understanding of Eastern-European social relations.


Wally Seccombe: The Housewife and her Labour Under Capitalism

One of the significant figures of the 'domestic-labour debate' in the United States of the 1970s was Wally Seccombe, who was among the firsts to understand the centrality of housewives' labour to capitalism through Marxist terminology. He consistently applied the value theory of labour to the reproduction of labour itself, challenging both Marxist and bourgeois economic approaches which did not consider domestic labour as a structural part of the capitalist mode of production, and therefore participated in making the labour and position of housewives 'invisible'. For Seccombe, the fundamental and unsolved duality of domestic labour is that while it constantly creates value through the reproduction of commodified labour, it is not recognized as productive labour since it is not directly related to capital and does not produce surplus value. Therefore, domestic labour is not renumerated by any wage, which has important consequences for the social position, conscience and possibilities of the housewife. Reproductive work necessary for the sustainment of her husband, her children and herself is presented as a natural female obligation and charity, masking the fundamental deception of capitalism that wage is in fact not meant to be for labour, but for the reproduction of the labour force. Domestic labour signifies her total material dependence from her husband and her isolation from the public sphere, which together limit her possibilities to represent her own interests and to take part in collective resistance. Between the industrial and the domestic domain lies therefore the most remarkable fault line of the working class, which turns members of the same household silently against each other and excludes housewives from the sphere of collective organization and struggle.


Wilma Dunaway: The Semiproletarian Household over the Longue Durée of the Modern World-System

Wilma A. Dunaway is a researcher affiliated with the Fernand Braudel Center Research Working Group on Households, Labor Force Formation and the World-Economy. A particular conception of the household, helping to grasp the process of the accumulation of capital at world-system level, was developed in this working group, as a result of the critiques of Wallerstein's early historical works. This conception, also applied in this study, exposes the household as the fundamental site for the reproduction of the labor force, which combines various forms of labor, and integrates into the capitalist world-system by maintaining hierarchy between these forms. Through the maintenance of this hierarchy, the household allows capitalists to extract surplus from the household itself, and renders the reproductive or informal labor of women publicly invisible. Here, Dunaway puts forward a systematic analysis of how these two processes take place.


Gergely Csányi and Szabina Kerényi: The Myth of the "Good Mother"  in Hungary from the Perspective of the Global History of Reproductive Labour and the Market

Based on Foucault's theory of the soul, as well as the methodological insights of Fernand Braudel and world-systems analysis, in our paper we demonstrate how the myths of the good and the bad mother were created by certain actors during the various cycles of the capitalist world system, and how these myths have been embedded into the logic of capitalistic accumulation. We show how these myths, on the one hand, contributed to securing the unpaid reproductive labour necessitated by accumulation, and on the other hand, supported a new market segment from the 19th century onwards. First we present an outline of the history of the myth of the good mother at the core of the world system, then we summarise the socialist myth of the good mother. Finally, we use empirical examples to illustrate the contemporary Hungarian myth of the good mother.  


Kathryn Russell: A Value-Theoretic Approach to Childbirth and Reproductive Engineering

Social and technical changes in reproduction are drawing childbirth into the marketplace. People are creating new relations that separate genetic, gestational and social parentage. Reproductive engineering makes options of in vitro fertilization, embryo transfer, surrogacy, and fetal tissue transplants. This paper explores an analogy between childbearing and social labor, arguing that the labor theory of value gives insight into the social functions of childbirth under capitalism. The valorization of childbearing is consistent with other ways of socializing the reproduction of labor power despite the capitalists need for an autonomously functioning private household sector. A value-theoretic approach is necessary to reveal how childbearing is being placed in material relation with other forms of labor under capitalism. Neither reproductive engineering nor biological difference are themselves sources of oppression for women, but when found in a historical context where value can be extracted, childbearing can become a form of alienated labor.


Nancy Fraser: Contradictions of capital and care

Nancy Fraser tracks the reconfiguration of the relations of social reproduction under successive regimes of accumulation-'separate spheres', male breadwinner, dual-income household. Are the exactions of financialized capitalism now serving to undermine its lifeworld?

Anikó Gregor: Not Lost, Only Transformed? An Attempt at Applying the Concept of Neoliberal Neopatriarchy to the Case of Hungary

The article aims to apply the concept of neoliberal neo-patriarchy (Campbell 2014) through the example of elderly care and its contextual problems in present day Hungary. According to the theory of neoliberal neo-patriarchy, gender inequalities have been maintained in spite of  economic growth and the spread of women in the labor market, contrary to what classic modernization theories had hypothesized. However, as we know from the work of Fraser (2016) and others, in absence of the rethinking and restructuring of the gendered division of reproductive labor, there is an internal tension within the logic of neoliberal capitalism: the woman who is projected to be present on the labor market is the same woman who is expected to perform a variety of reproductive tasks. In the public form of neoliberal gender regime (Walby 2011) the market, namely women from a lower social class, will be the ones undertaking this work, while in the domestic neoliberal gender regime female members of the family will perform it. Based on the results of a recent Hungarian study entitled Women's Affairs 2018 (Gregor and Kováts 2018) I present how, due to the lack of social services, middle aged Hungarian women are left with the tasks of caring for the elderly, thereby enhancing the reproduction of unequal gender relations in society.


György Mészáros: The Political Economy of LGBT+ Identities and Activism in the Semi-Periphery

This article aims to form a critique of the identity-based approach of the mainstream LGBT+ activism to place LGBT+ identities and activism to another, political-economical and anti-systemic frame and to analyse the EU's mainstream approach together with its Hungarian counterpart. To complete this task the essay analyses some relevant texts and offers autoethnographic Reflections.

As the analysis of the international documents (such as the Yogyakarta Principles) and of the websites of the largest European LGBT + organizations (ILGA Europe, IGLYO) reveals, the mainstream LGBT+ activism applies a human rights frame and an identity politics-based liberal approach. This frame is followed by the Hungarian LGBT+ activism that often combines it with a discourse that contrasts the progressive "Western" liberal world with the backward "Eastern" world. This ideology focuses on the self-definition of the subject and builds rights and political activities on it, and understands the notion of gender in the dimension of identity. By this approach subjects are bounded to the structures of neoliberal capitalism, and LGBT+ identities are commodified. In the semi-periphery, this is topped by a self-colonizing tendency that presents the "Western" world as a superior one.

At the same time anti-systemic authors have shown how gay (LGBT+) identity is embedded into the system of capitalist production and reproduction. LGBT+ identities are the products of capitalism, and its power relations are both reproducing the heteronormative model (especially in the semi-periphery) and incorporating the progressive, free, neoliberal "gay" subjects. Consequently this study argues that material relations should be considered in building the resistance to heteronormativity and capitalism.


Fanni Dés: "He Gave Me 470 and Choked Me Just a Little Bit" - Women Living in Poverty Between the Semi-Periphery and the Core. Hungarian Women Selling Sex in Zürich

My paper concentrates on women living in poverty originating from semi-periphery countries

commuting to core countries to the sex industry. I analyse the phenomenon in the context of

the theory of Claudia von Werlhof (2007), which is based on Wallerstein's (1974) world-

systems theory and focuses on the relation system of economy and sexuality. Through a case study, my aim is to point out the structures of oppression through which the countries located at core regions exploit women living in poverty originating from semi-peripheral regions, leading to women from semi-periphery countries ending up in the sex industry in core regions. My aim is to answer the following questions through ten interviews conducted with Hungarian women who sell sex in Zürich: (1) how do these women end up selling sex illegally in a Western-European city where prostitution is decriminalized? (2) What are the economic and power constraints that lead to these women sell sex in a Western-European city? (3) How does the feminization of poverty encourage women's migration, and a form of commuting where the aim is not to settle down in the host country, but to maintain a life at the country of origin? My further goal is to make the experiences of Hungarian women living in prostitution visible based on feminist empiricism.


Ágnes Gagyi: Informal Economy, People's Self-Organizing and "Postneoliberal" Leftist Regimes in Latin America

In Neoliberalism from Below-first published in Argentina in 2014-Verónica Gago examines how Latin American neoliberalism is propelled not just from above by international finance, corporations, and government, but also by the activities of migrant workers, vendors, sweatshop workers, and other marginalized groups. Using the massive illegal market La Salada in Buenos Aires as a point of departure, Gago shows how alternative economic practices, such as the sale of counterfeit goods produced in illegal textile factories, resist neoliberalism while simultaneously succumbing to its models of exploitative labor and production. Gago demonstrates how La Salada's economic dynamics mirror those found throughout urban Latin America. In so doing, she provides a new theory of neoliberalism and a nuanced view of the tense mix of calculation and freedom, obedience and resistance, individualism and community, and legality and illegality that fuels the increasingly powerful popular economies of the global South's large cities.