Servants and feminism

Charles Brown CharlesB at
Thu Dec 3 13:03:29 PST 1998

In _Women,Race and Class_, (1981;Vintage) Chapter 13 "The Approaching Obsolescence of Housework: A Working Class Perspective", Angela Davis says:

One of the most closely guarded secrets of advanced capitalist societies involves the possibility - the real possibility- of radically transforming the nature of housework. A substantial portion of the housewife's domestic tasks can actually be incorporated into the industrial economy. In other words, housework need no longer be considered necessarily adn unalterably private in character. Teams of trained and well-paid workers, moving from dwelling to dwelling engineering technologically advanced cleaning machinery, could swiftly and efficiently accomplish what the present-day housewife does so arduously and primitively. Why the shroud of silence surrounding this potential of radically redefining the nature of domestic labor ? Because the capitalist economy is structurally hostile to the industrialization of housework. Socialized housework implies large government subsidies in order to guarantee accessibility tothe working-class families whose need for such services is most obvious. Since little in the way of profits would result, industrialized housework - like all unprofitable enterprises - is anathema to the capitalist economy. Nonetheless, the rapid expansion of the female labor force means that more and more women are finding it increasingly difficult to excel as housewives according to the traditional standards. In other words, the industrialization of housework, along with the socialization of housework,is becoming an objective social need. Housework as individual women's private responsibility and as femal labor performed under primitive technical conditions, may finally be approaching historical obsolescence. (end quote)

John Henry


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