Ensuring Care through Exclusion of a Workforce?

Thursday, 19 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Virginia Kimey PFLÜCKE, B-TU Cottbus, Germany
Capitalist societies are structured by the separation of the private and public sphere. While the commodification of unpaid work keeps pulling women into household-related services, it takes shape very differently from what materialist feminists as Silvia Federici had demanded in the 1970s: The ‘wages for housework’-campaign sought to shake up capitalist reproduction by including the unpaid work of the proletarian housewife into wage labor. Today, the rising number of domestic employees as well as their poor working conditions are instead contributing to a global care crisis.

Analyzing paid domestic work in the context of authoritarian neoliberalism today, it shows that the home has long been a site for class struggles. In Spain, over 700.000 people work in private households today and their number keeps rising. Only a third of the workforce is registered, almost half are migrants, and over 90 percent women. Their marginalization within the workforce and labor regulation seems to ensure the provision of social reproduction within a society in crisis.

Building on critical feminist political economy, this paper interprets the labor relation of domestic workers in Spain from a historical-sociological perspective: Delineating the exclusion of the servant from basic rights of citizenship in the 19th century, I then analyze the interplay of ideological and economic processes in Franco- and post-Franco Spain through archival documents, statistics and interviews gathered in 2015. I elaborate the role of religion, gender ideology, workers’ organization as well as the politics of austerity in the (un-)making of a female working class.