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by Cinzia Arruzza
With a prologue by Penelope Duggan
An accessible introduction to the relationship between the workers’ movement and the women’s movement. The first part is historical, the second theoretical. Historical examples range from the mid-19th century to the 1970s and include events, debates and key personalities from China, Russia, the USA, France, Italy, Spain and Britain. It shows time and again, the controversial, often difficult relationship between feminism and Marxism.
The theoretical questions discussed include the origins of women’s oppression, domestic labour, dual systems theory, performativity and differentialism. Women’s oppression is a structural element of the division of labour and one of the direct factors through which capitalism not only reinforces its ideological domination but also organises the exploitation and reproduction of labour. The integration of patriarchal relations and capitalism has led to their radical transformation – in the family, in terms of women’s place in production, in sexual relations and with respect to sexual identity.
Marxism needs to probe complex processes: ongoing transformations and crises, a global context creating an increasingly feminised workforce, and changing relations between men and women. It is a mistake to submerge gender into class or to believe that freedom from exploitation automatically brings about women’s liberation and the ending of sexual roles. It is equally wrong is to think the class question can be removed and gender made the main enemy. The author believes passionately in the need to combine gender and class politics.