Value, Gender and Social Reproduction
Lecture by Amy De’Ath, organized by Jeff Diamanti and Jan Overwijk
Key developments in feminist and queer theory by Cinzia Arruzza, Rosemary Hennessy, and Kevin Floyd have approached questions of gender and sexuality through the lens of ‘the cultural’. Building on the Lukácsian critique of reification, these critics have sought to revise and develop the outmoded field of ideologiekritik with new analyses of how gendered social relations are defined by commodity exchange. This talk aims, in part, to show how insights and concepts from this work can help to extend and deepen a Marxian critique of gender and social reproduction in ways that may be especially useful for grasping, at a systemic level, what is often understood only in terms of gratuitous or symbolic violence.
At the same time, I will suggest that any theory of social relations based at the level of exchange or circulation falls short of accounting for the relationship of gender to capital’s general laws of motion, and thus for gender’s continued existence. Far from theoretical nitpicking, this point has significant consequences for social reproduction feminism because a focus on the reification of gender at the level of exchange necessarily occludes a consideration of how gender is produced through reproductive activities that, as we shall see, are first and foremost defined by their unpaid and unsubsumed status – in other words, their dissociation from exchange. Linking Hennessy’s account of the production of need to the insights provided by Marxian critiques of value—insights which pertain both to value’s form-determining capacities and to its status as a temporal form of wealth—I aim to show how an account of gender based on value, rather than exchange-value, provides a unique and more robust framework for understanding the production of gender in capitalism.
Amy De’Ath is Lecturer in Contemporary Literature, Culture and Theory at King’s College London. She is currently at work on her first academic book, Unsociable Poetry: Antagonism and Abstraction in Contemporary Feminized Poetics.