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Feminist Radical Political Economy: Reproduction and Production

Paper Session

Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020 10:15 AM - 12:15 PM (PDT)

Manchester Grand Hyatt, Old Town A
Hosted By: Union for Radical Political Economics
  • Chair: Jennifer Cohen, Miami University and University of Witwatersrand

The Role of Household Production in the Determination and Wages and the Growth of Capitalist Production

Paddy Quick
St. Francis College-Brooklyn


The maximization of surplus value in the capitalist mode of production can be
understood as the minimization of necessary labor, i.e. the labor necessary for the production/
reproduction of labor power. This includes the labor carried out by household members within
the working class. Wages thus constitute a necessary supplement to that household production.
The growth of capitalist relations of production can then be understood as a process of
commodification of that household production. This process is therefore essential for an
understanding of the capitalist mode of production rather than serving as a mere “addition” to it.

Precarity Beyond Paid Employment: Gender, Precariousness, and Life

Jennifer Cohen
University of Miami and University of Witwatersrand


This paper offers two suggestions for correcting the productivist bias in mainstream and
heterodox economics that limits thinking about economic precarity. The first is to carefully
define the terms precarious jobs, precarious work, and precarious lives; consider their relevance
for different demographics; and review the inequities they reinforce. The second is to adopt a
framework for understanding economic precarity informed by feminist radical political
economy: precarity of subsistence. In contrast to “precarious work,” “precariousness of
subsistence" takes into account both the production of commodities and the production of human
life. Displacing productivism with reproductivism, redefines work to include all work activities
and shifts the ways in which we think about precarity as it is experienced by women and men.
The condition of precarity may be generated by precarious jobs, household conditions, or other
forms of insecurity (e.g. the condition of life in a racialized carceral state). Precariousness of
subsistence more closely matches women’s experiences of precarity, which may be a condition
of life even for those who are not precariously employed. Because precarious subsistence
includes all work activities as valuable contributions to the ultimate aim of social reproduction, it
makes the gendered and racialized realities of precarity - not just precarious paid employment -
more apparent.
Keywords: feminist radical political economy, marxist economics, social reproduction,
JEL Codes: B20, B41, B5
JEL Classifications
  • B5 - Current Heterodox Approaches