They call it love: wages for housework and emotional reproduction

Gotby, Alva (2019) They call it love: wages for housework and emotional reproduction. Doctoral thesis, University of West London.

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Abstract

This thesis is a study of two sets of literature on capitalism, gender, and emotion. Firstly, it explores the writings of the Wages for Housework (WFH) movement – a network of Marxist feminist activist groups, founded in 1972, whose activity was centred on women’s reproductive labour. Secondly, this thesis draws on the body of writing on emotional labour. Coined by Arlie Hochschild in 1983, this term describes the work of producing emotional states in another person. While WFH were attentive to emotional aspects of reproductive labour, their writings mention emotional labour only in passing. Hochschild’s work concentrates on emotional labour in particular service occupations, but neglects broader issues of social reproduction. Synthesising these bodies of work, I introduce the concept of emotional reproduction, thus applying the WFH perspective to the theme introduced by Hochschild. Emotional reproduction denotes processes across waged and unwaged forms of labour, intended to enhance the relative emotional wellbeing of a recipient, to the extent that they are able to participate in waged labour. These processes often take place in the private sphere, and are constructed as a typically feminine activity. I argue for the importance of understanding these processes as a form of labour, which is integral to capitalist social reproduction. Through the notion of emotional reproduction, this thesis offers an account of gendered subjectivity. It highlights the construction of gendered and historically specific forms of skill, which are essential for emotional labour. I argue that the feminised skill for emotional labour tends to be exploited, in both waged labour and in many family arrangements. This labour, however, is simultaneously made invisible through the hegemonic understanding of subjectivity as personal autonomy, which obscures modes of emotional dependency. The final two chapters of the thesis outline the political perspective of a Marxist feminism focused on the constitution of collective subjectivity through the refusal of emotional labour. Through the demand for the abolition of gender and the family, I offer an account of what resistance to current forms of emotional reproduction might look like. These involve contesting contemporary understandings of family, as well as building our collective capacity for other types of sociality.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: Social sciences > Politics
Social sciences > Economics and economic history
Depositing User: Camille Regnault
Date Deposited: 12 Dec 2019 12:38
Last Modified: 12 Dec 2019 12:38
URI: http://repository.uwl.ac.uk/id/eprint/6606

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