Why is feminism controversial

Capitalism and alternatives

Feminist criticism of capitalism is not a completely new approach, on the contrary: It can look back on a tradition [1] whose basic ideas can be impressively demonstrated by the example of Harriet Taylor Mill (1807–1858). In the publications she wrote together with John Stuart Mill, she combined her economic analysis with a perspective of freedom, equality and justice in the gender relationship: "The goal of progress should not only be to bring people into relationships where they can do something without each other, but to make them able to work with or for one another in mutual relationships that do not need to degenerate into dependency. "[2] What is primarily related to working conditions here can also be transferred to living conditions as a whole: Freedom is not understood as demarcation from and distancing from others, which would correspond to the ideal of bourgeois autonomy, but freedom in reciprocal ties to others, without these ties resulting in dependencies that establish hierarchies and power asymmetries.

This tension between autonomy and attachment permeates the feminist debate as a whole. [3] But it also raises fundamental questions that are relevant to a feminist critique of capitalism: What is the significance of attachment and sociality for an economic organization based on individual benefit maximization? How do individual benefit maximization and social responsibility relate to one another? Who bears the follow-up costs in an economic system that fundamentally ignores commitment as a prerequisite for sociality and responsibility - for the health and well-being of people, for the state of the natural environment, for global justice - and relegates it to the realm of the non-economic?

The construction of the homo oeconomicus as an autonomously acting subject that makes its decisions according to its individual preferences and according to the greatest possible individual benefit in an anonymous market, has been criticized many times from a feminist perspective. [4] Analogous to the analysis of the market as an institution that is anything but detached from social conditions, but firmly embedded in social relationships, normative orientations and cultural values, [5] the feminist-economic perspective examines the embedding of economic processes in the gender hierarchy. The latter not only shapes decisions on the market based on a narrow economic understanding. In a broad understanding of economics as social provisioning - "that is, the production and reproduction of human material life" [6] - gender relations structure the context, that is, the embedding of the economy in an order of evaluations, symbols, inequalities and asymmetries that are hierarchized along the "gender" axis. The naturalization of gender, [7] that is, the interpretation of the gender difference as a natural fact, represents a fundamental problem for feminist-economic analysis and practice: on the one hand, this naturalization declares the gender order to be an extra-economic fact, and on the other, reinforces it the thesis of the embedding of economic processes in social institutions the non-economic character of the gender order. In other words, the reproduction of society is seen as a social or political, but not as an economic, phenomenon.

Feminist analyzes of the capitalist mode of production and consumption

The starting point of feminist analyzes of capitalism is social reproduction, i.e. the social organization of (re-) production of labor. This includes generative reproduction - giving birth and raising the next generation - and everyday reproduction - the regeneration of the ability to work through material and immaterial services. In a broader sense, the care of people who are no longer able to work and who cannot take care of themselves because of illness or old age must also be included. Because not all feminist economists have a positive connotation of the somewhat technical-sounding term "social reproduction" and its derivation from the Marxist theoretical tradition, the terms "care" and "care economy" have largely prevailed in the current debate about responsibility and care work. [8th] The philosopher Cornelia Klinger suggested the German term "Lebenssorge" in order to be more precise about what it is all about. [9] I mostly use the paraphrase of the obligation to care and the assumption of responsibility for people who cannot take care of themselves.

Feminist criticism of capitalism encompasses various theoretical currents, from institutional economics to Marxist and eco-feminist to postmodern positions. Current feminist-economic voices speak in connection with current crisis analyzes of capitalism - overproduction crisis, banking crisis, environmental crisis - of the crisis of social reproduction. Feminist economists use this to describe the undersupply of people with attention and care, who are primarily time-consuming and inaccessible to the rationalization efforts of the capitalist mode of production - and which should not be due to the content of reproductive work. [10] Social reproduction work is provided both unpaid in private households and - mostly poorly - paid via the labor market (also in the form of undeclared work). Characteristic for this form of work is that it cannot be postponed, the necessary interpersonal empathy and its high level of commitment. The crisis of social reproduction means that through the expansion of the capitalist exploitation logic, care work is also being reshaped by the economic imperative of acceleration, rationalization and intensification of work.

For both sides, the carers and those who are cared for, the crisis of social reproduction can be felt in the overload and excessive demands of those people who are responsible for care work. [11] Under the given conditions of the gender hierarchical division of labor, the vast majority of these are women: women do by far the largest share of unpaid family work and not only look after children, but also ensure the availability of male labor for the labor market despite their own gainful employment. [12 ] It is also women who largely take over social reproduction in the field of gainful employment, be it in care and school education, be it in the care of the sick and the elderly. A frequently chosen way out of the overload caused by the worrying crisis is the delegation of reproductive work in one's own household to migrant or ethnicized women. [13] This is a clear indication that a proportion of the unpaid life care work by men is not taking place, despite a long-running debate about the gender division of labor.

Central to the feminist analysis of capitalism, feminist economists of different origins agree, is the view of social reproduction as an area of ​​equal value and just as economically relevant as market-mediated, so-called productive gainful employment - productive because it is here that goods and added value are produced. From a macroeconomic perspective, investments in social infrastructure, i.e. education, care and nursing, are considered to be consumptive expenditure and unpaid work in private households, if it is seen as work at all, as reproductive. There is a lively debate in the feminist discussion about these terms and the associated premises, which I will briefly address below.

ReProductivity as an analytical concept for feminist-ecological research

The term "reproduction" triggered controversy among feminists early on: Why should only the production of goods and commodities for exchange be viewed as "productive", but not the "production" of life and the maintenance of living processes? And thought further: Why is only the processing of nature considered productive, but not nature as such? These questions form the starting point for the feminist-ecological analysis of social relations to nature in capitalism. This combines the ecological criticism of the exploitation and overexploitation of natural resources with the feminist criticism of the exploitation and social appropriation of the (unpaid or underpaid) work done by women in social reproduction. [14] This work is economically invisible and its importance is grossly underestimated because it is the work of women and it is thus brought closer to nature: women are assumed to be due to their potential childbearing ability, for the care of people who do not to be able to take care of themselves, to be "naturally" predestined. Or, to put it another way: women were born with care competencies "by nature", they do not need to be learned and developed and therefore also do not need to be paid. They are taken for granted - and de facto no society, capitalist or not, would be able to survive without the work of women for social reproduction.

From a feminist-ecological perspective, social relations to nature in capitalism are characterized by a double relationship of domination, by the submission and exploitation of nature and the work of women, which is declared to be nature. At the same time, there would be no (over) viability in capitalism without the productive forces of nature - and here the potential childbearing ability of the woman's body comes into focus again. The re-productivity [15] of the female body is what preoccupies feminists at their core. How should this fundamental difference - the only socially and economically relevant biological difference between male and female bodies - be dealt with analytically and politically?