Inicio > Feminismo marxista, Teoría crítica acumulada > «Women and the Subversion of the Community»: Mariarosa Dalla Costa

«Women and the Subversion of the Community»: Mariarosa Dalla Costa

These observations are an attempt to define and analyze the “Woman Question,” and to locate this question in the entire “female role” as it has been created by the capitalist division of labour. We place foremost in these pages the housewife as the central figure in this female role. We assume that all women are housewives and even those who work outside the home continue to be housewives. That is, on a world level, it is precisely what is particular to domestic work, not only measured as number of hours and nature of work, but as quality of life and quality of relationships which it generates, that determines a woman’s place wherever she is and to whichever class she belongs. We concentrate here on the position of the working-class woman, but this is not to imply that only working-class women are exploited.

Rather it is to confirm that the role of the working-class housewife, which we believe has been indispensable to capitalist production is the determinant for the position of all other women. Every analysis of women as a caste, then, must proceed from the analysis of the position of working-class housewives. In order to see the housewife as central, it was first of all necessary to analyze briefly how capitalism has created the modern family and the housewife’s role in it, by destroying the types of family group or community which previously existed. This process is by no means complete.

While we are speaking of the Western world and Italy in particular, we wish to make clear that to the extent that the capitalist mode of production also brings the Third World under its command, the same process of destruction must be and is taking place there. Nor should we take for granted that the family as we know it today in the most technically advanced Western countries is the final form the family can assume under capitalism. But the analysis of new tendencies can only be the product of an analysis of how capitalism created this family and what woman’s role is today, each as a moment in a process.

We propose to complete these observations on the female role by analyzing as well the position of the woman who works outside the home, but this is for a later date. We wish merely to indicated here the link between two apparently separate experiences: that of housewife and that of working woman.

The day-to-day struggles that women have developed since the Second World War run directly against the organization of the factory and of the home. The “unreliability” of women in the home and out of it has grown rapidly since then, and runs directly against the factory as regimentation organized in time and space, and against the social factory as organization of the reproduction of labor power.

This trend to more absenteeism, to less respect for timetables, to higher job mobility, is shared by young men and women workers. But where the man for crucial periods of his youth will be the sole support of a new family, women who on the whole are not restrained in this way and who must always consider the job at home, are bound to be even more disengaged from work discipline, forcing disruption of the productive flow and therefore higher costs to capital. (This is one excuse for the discriminatory wages which many times over make up for capital’s loss.) It is this same trend of disengagement that groups of housewives express when they leave their children with their husbands at work.1 This trend is and will increasingly be one of the decisive forms of the crisis in the systems of the factory and of the social factory.

Women and the Subversion of the Community

1972

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