Ellen Meiskins Wood, in her essay “The Agrarian Origins of Capitalism” discussed the vulnerability to commodification as “exposure” to the capitalist market. Strong organic communities, and high levels of what Polanyi caslled embeddedness, along with plain self-sufficiency in the basics — food, water, shelter — are barriers against this “exposure. That is why the capitalist state, not itself an accumulator of capital, but the facilitator for the system as a whole, has — contrary to the libertarian fantasies about “free” markets — employed coercion to strip away those barriers and increase market exposure (and thereby vulnerability to commodification). The most famous case is Enclosure, but the instances are actualy too numerous to count.
Archive for the ‘Excerpts from My Favorite Books’ Category.
[MacKinnon is still describing Engels' theory of gender from "The Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State." -SG] When the home was the center of productive activity, the fact that women labored in the home was superceded by the marketplace as a productive center, the fact that women labored in the home ensured male suprmeacy. This may describe the status of women once commodity production takes over social production, and women are excluded from it. But it explains neither that exclusion on the basis of sex nor its consequences for social power.
Out of defensiveness, some will protest that MacKinnon has “attacked” Engels. But the critique of Engels by MacKinnon happened decades and decades after Engels published OFPPS, and the questions she raises are actually relatively straightforward and should have been expected in any rigorous critique. Those questions should have been raised from inside the Marxist tradition as part of its critical method, which MacKinnon herself uses as a yardstick. Her critique is not constructed as an “attack” on Engels, unless any critique is labeled an attack. It was made necessary by the failure of Marxists to critique themselves on gender, and the propensity to deploy this text in lieu of a serious engagement with the questions raised by radical feminism/womanism.
“According to Engels, women’s status is produced through social forces that give rise to ‘the origin of the family, private property, and the state.’ He assumes that answering the question, ‘How did it happen that women were first subordinated to men?’ is the same as addressing the question ‘Why are women oppressed and how can we change it?’ He equates the temporally first with the persistently fundamental.
The first map of the human species was drawn according to ‘him’ and ‘her’, in that produced configuration of sexuality known as gender. Gender is the original dividing line within humanity; all constructions of humankind, whether within humainty or between humanity and nature, are inscribed by it.
by Jessica Benjamin
Submerged beneath the universal claims of [the] individual… is not only his historic and cultural specificity, but also his gender. Whilemost modern theory has considered the masculine identity too self-evident to be mentioned (the patriarchy of gender would compromise his individuality), it is, nevertheless, retained as an “option”: when necessary, it can always be mobilized to exclude or devalue women.
By Linda Kintz
…By dismissing arguments that are not articualted in the terms with which we are familiar, we overlook the very places where politics come to matter most; at the deepest levels of the unconscious, in our bodies, through faith, and in relation to the emotions. Belief and politics are rational, and they are not.
By Patricia Williams
The following is from a memo Williams wrote to her law school administrators, regarding the content of law school exam scenarios, some of which she lists, e.g., ” – a tax exam that asks students to calculate the tax implications of Kunta Kinte’s master when the slavecatchers cut off his foot.
Edited by Joy James & Tracy Sharpley-Whiting
Despte agitational movements, the concept of African Americans participating in political decisions has historically been translated through corporate, state or philanthropic channels. A century ago, the vision and resources of the American Baptist Home Missionary Society (ABHMS) allowed wealthy, white Christian missionaries to create the black elite Talented Tenth as a shadow of themselves as influential, liberal leaders, and to organize privileged black Americans to serve as a buffer zone between white America and a restive, disenfranchised black mass.
By Maria Mies
My own questioning wemt further and deeper. Apart from the question of its origin [patriarchy], I wanted to know why such a brutal system did not disappear with modernity, or with capitalism, as both Marxists and liberals had predicted. What was, what is, the relationship between patriarchy and capitalism? Are they two systems? Are they one system? Is patriarchal exploitation and subordination necessary for an economic systembased on extended accumulation? Or could this accumulation also happen without heirarchical, exploitative gender relations? It was obvious that we could no longer be satisfied with the classical Marxist explanation that this relation was only a secondary contradiction whose solution would come after the primary contradiction — the class antagonism between labour and capital — had been resolved.