Apposite after a 70-hour working week this week… It’s Sunday afternoon and I still feel exhausted.
1. It’s the 21st century – why are we working so much? by Owen Hatherley
Guardian, 1 July 2012
The right calls for hard work, the left for more jobs. The dream of mechanisation leading to…
Piling up the years
I awake in one place
And find the same face
Or counting the time
Since my parents died
Certain less is theft
Than was spent -
I am employed
Whose ore I coin
How to join
Lid to coffer
Pillar to groin
Each day hinges
On the same offer.
The point about the return of a domestic servant class is crucial, of course, as it reflects so many shifts in global capitalist accumulation – transnational migration and its regulation in Western countries and the feminization of that migration. There is also the dramatic increase in the numbers of women entering the workplace – partially as a result of equal-rights legislation in the West – who are not in a position to do double-duty in the home as well, especially not with young children and the costs of child-care. This narrative is in fact an allegory of the fortunes of liberal or equality feminism which succeeded in many cases in removing gender from the terms of workplace exploitation, only to displace it to a raced and illegalized class of ‘other women’ as the welfare state melted away in the neoliberal era. In this sense, the commodification of domestic labour violently enforces the class relations, and class divisions, of feminism, but should be seen as one of the series of defeats suffered by working-class social movements in neoliberalism, which has turned back the clock for women in specific ways as in line with a general social regression, rather than a defeat to be laid at the door of the limited vision held by liberal mainstream feminism – and the power of the latter may be read strictly as a symptom of the power of the former.
This is not a whinge or a rant, but a question posed as openly and ingenuously as it’s possible to do. It won’t be long, but I thought it was worth writing about.
In the Space Project, a temporary education and organising space in Leeds, people have been running a reading group on (The) Crisis – discussing and learning about this current depression and why, when and how crises of capitalism occur. It’s been ‘successful’ in terms of the fact that quite a lot of people have come (between 20-35 at each session) and some interesting conversations have been had, people are sharing knowledge and experiences and questions and occasionally arguing. Yesterday, it was the fourth session, ‘Feminist Perspectives on Crisis’, which I was helping facilitate. Three of us involved in the reading group were there. Three others came. And there we were, the six of us.
I am not going to mount a defence of why a feminist analysis is relevant to our understanding and reactions to the crisis, but I nevertheless hope it’s illustrated by the following outline of the hour-or-so long discussion we had, which was one of the best conversations I’ve had the pleasure of having.
Reading E.P. Thompson’s ‘Time, Work-Discipline and Industrial Capitalism’ (1991) and a new piece by Escalate Collective, Salt, it occurs to me that to talk about time is hard, though perhaps it doesn’t always seem so. Note how often you mourn the passing of time, your lack of it, as though it is what it does, rather than what we do - by choice or compulsion- that makes it run so quickly, or so slowly. These days, people speak of ‘the times’ a great deal; or perhaps we always did. It’s the times that are hard, one might say, displacing blame. We often think of our time as personally hard-won and wrested (‘I took a 3-day weekend’) but not of collective, often violent struggles to do so – it was only recently that I was introduced to the phrase ‘Anarchism: from the people who brought you the weekend’ (NB: the term’s first recorded usage is in 1879).