Social Reproduction: Between the Wage and the Commons

Source: Roar Magazine

Silvia Federici is a writer, activist and one of the most influential feminist theorists of her generation. Her contributions to the practice-based theory of reproductive labor and the commons are increasingly gaining the recognition they deserve within the academic and activist community, and will hopefully help lay the foundations of future collective projects geared towards the transformation of society beyond capitalist relations.

ROAR contributor Marina Sitrin recently sat down with Federici at her home in Brooklyn, NY to discuss the relationship between struggles over social reproduction, gender, work and the commons, particularly in today’s context of crisis and austerity.

Marina Sitrin: Social reproduction is being talked about a lot recently. Could you begin by describing the basic concept? You are one of the key writers and thinkers on this question, having challenged and expanded the concept as theorized by Marx.

Silvia Federici: The fact that the concept of social reproduction is receiving so much attention today is a good development. For too long there has been an exclusive concentration on production of the commodity, even though reproductive life and work are at the center of any transformative project. They are not only central to capitalist accumulation, but to any form of organization.

Social reproduction is a relatively recent term. In the 1970s, we spoke of it in terms of domestic work, referring to all the activities that reproduce our daily life and at the same time, in a capitalist society, also reproduce labor-power. Later, we expanded the concept: we saw that procreation is part of the reproduction of life and that “reproduction” has two sides, in contradiction with each other. On the one hand it reproduces us as people, and on the other it reproduces us as exploitable workers. The question we posed is how to turn reproductive work into a reproduction of our struggle.

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