Re: Feminist critique: a little deeper (part II)

Mon, 9 Mar 1998 22:01:14 -0700 (MST)
Martha Gimenez (

On Mon, 9 Mar 1998, Charles Brown wrote:
............. snip ......................

> My thesis in this comradely critique ( I really do love Big Daddy
> Karl and Uncle Fred overall) is that the mode of reproduction (in the
> broad sense, including, but not limited to social institutions called
> "the" family) of human beings remains throughout human history even
> when classes arise equally fundamental with the mode of production in
> shaping society, even with the "new social relations" that come with
> "increased population." For there to be history in the sense of many
> generations of men and women all of the way up to Marx, Engels and us
> today, men had to do more than "begin to make other men." Women and
> men had to complete making next generations by sexually uniting and
> rearing them for thousands of years. Otherwise history would have
> ended long ago. We would be an extinct species. An essential
> characteristic of historyis its existence in the "medium" of multiple
> generations. Thus, with respect to historical materialism,
> reproduction is as necessary as production. The upshot is women's
> liberation must be put on the same footing with workers's liberation
> in the Marxist project. Not only that (to be continued)

I agree with your conclusion, that reproduction is as necessary as
production; But i disagree with your preceding interpretation. Language
is not dialectical but linear, so marx has to present the different
aspects or moments or premises of human existence in a linear fashiion,
one after the other, whereas production and reproduction, the production
of things and the reproduction of life and the production of language and
consciousness they all happen together, at once, they are aspects of the
same process. But these are metatheoretical assumptions and, as Kevin
Anderson stated in his message, we have to be aware of the different
levels of analysis Marx deploys in his arguments. Engels makes a similar
point in his book on The Origin of the Family,when he writes about the
twofold character of production, theproduction of means of existence and
the production of human beings themselves and goes on to say that both
determine social organization at any given time.

But these are very abstract, general statements from which it is
impossible to deduce anything significant about the relationship between
production and reproduction today without developing arguments at the
level of specific modes of production. Engels wrote that as classes
developed, the old societies based on kinship groups were replaced with a
society within which the system of the family is completely dominated by
the system of property. It is a general statement about class societies
in general which, again, requires to be made more specific which
perhaps replicates the subordination of the family indicated in the German
ideology. I interpret this "subordination" to mean not lack of importance
but a change in the relative dominance of kinship. Maurice Godelier, the
french anthropologist, suggests that in early, pre-class societies,
kinship relations are also relations of production and distribution and
they are the dominant and determinant relations.

Under capitalism, reproduction is subordinate to production; this is not
a rjection of the importance of women and their productive and
reproductive labor, but a recognition of the extent to which people's
ability to form families and reproduce is affected by their place in the
relations of production and the division of labor. Reproduction will be
dominant and determinant only in a society where production aims to the
satisfaction of needs, not to profit maximization.

I lack the time fully to address the issues you raise in your third
message. I will simply say that I have no problem with the use of "men"
instead of men and women for most of the time in their work it refers to
both. I will also add that Marx, does not consider that population growth
is the motor of history; he postulates a dialectical relationship between
production and reproduction, but i fail to see what is mysogynistic about
that. Finally, the language in the German ideology is confusing and i
think that at that time Marx and Engels had not yet fully differentiated
between class divisions and division of labor and sometimes they say
division of labor when they mean class divisions. If so, for them the
most important division of labor, that between manual and intellectual
labor, arises together with the development of class societies.

So how does this relate to the manifesto? It is 10 pm Colorado time
and time to stop writing. It is up to you, fellow seminar members to
continue the conversation.

The seminar has 99 members - wouldn't it be nice to hear from at least
half of them before the seminar is over?

in solidarity,

Martha E. Gimenez