Jack Saturday

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Anti-Wage-Slavery, Pro-Freedom Quotations Of The Week 459-461

In more than a third of American households, women are now the chief breadwinners. This reversal of traditional roles was accelerated by a brutal two-year recession, in which 75 percent of all jobs lost were held by men.
Even in homes where both spouses work, one in four wives now earns more than her husband. That’s partly because of rising education levels among women, falling salaries in manufacturing and blue-collar jobs and the growing need for both spouses to bring home a paycheck. Wives’ earnings, said Kristin Smith, a professor of sociology at the University of New Hampshire, have become “critical to keeping families afloat.”
Should Old Articles Be Forgot
New York Times

Published: December 28, 2009

The institution of employment is a barrier
to democratic freedom and citizenship in two ways. First, economic enterprises have an undemocratic structure, a point that I shall not pursue here. Second, as feminist scholars have demonstrated, the relationship between the institutions of marriage, employment, and citizenship has meant that the standing of wives as citizens has always been, and remains, problematic.

The Anglo-American social insurance system was
constructed on the assumption that wives not only were their husbands’ economic dependents, but lesser citizens whose entitlement to benefits depended on their private status, not on their citizenship. Male “breadwinners”, who made a contribution from their earnings to “insure” that
they received benefits in the event of unemployment or sickness, and in their old age, were the primary citizens. Their employment was treated as the contribution that a citizen could make to the well-being of the community.

Ackerman and Alstott acknowledge this in their criticism of “workplace justice” (pp.6-7), and their recognition that unconditional retirement pensions would be particularly important for the many older women whose benefits still largely derive from their husbands’ employment record (1999, pp.145-46). That is to say, only paid employment has been seen as “work”, as involving the tasks that are the mark of a productive citizen and contributor to the polity.

Other contributions, notably all the work required to reproduce and maintain a healthy population, and care for infants, the elderly, the sick and infirm – the caring tasks, most of which are not paid for and are undertaken by women –have been seen as irrelevant to citizenship.
Democratizing Citizenship:
Some Advantages of a Basic Income

Carole Pateman

Coming back to the United States, it has very strong roots in the American working class movements. So if you go back to, say, the 1850s, the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, right around the area where I live, in Eastern Massachusetts, in the textile plants and so on, the people working on those plants were, in part, young women coming off the farm. They were called "factory girls," the women from the farms who worked in the textile plants. Some of them were Irish, immigrants in Boston and that group of people. They had an extremely rich and interesting culture. They're kind of like my uncle who never went past fourth grade -- very educated, reading modern literature. They didn't bother with European radicalism, that had no effect on them, but the general literary culture, they were very much a part of. And they developed their own conceptions of how the world ought to be organized.

They had their own newspapers. In fact, the period of the freest press in the United States was probably around the 1850s. In the 1850s, the scale of the popular press, meaning run by the factory girls in Lowell and so on, was on the scale of the commercial press or even greater. These were independent newspapers -- a lot of interesting scholarship on them, if you can read them now. They [arose] spontaneously, without any background. [The writers had] never heard of Marx or Bakunin or anyone else; they developed the same ideas. From their point of view, what they called "wage slavery," renting yourself to an owner, was not very different from the chattel slavery that they were fighting a civil war about. You have to recall that in the mid-nineteenth century, that was a common view in the United States -- for example, the position of the Republican Party, Abraham Lincoln's position. It's not an odd view, that there isn't much difference between selling yourself and renting yourself. So the idea of renting yourself, meaning working for wages, was degrading. It was an attack on your personal integrity. They despised the industrial system that was developing, that was destroying their culture, destroying their independence, their individuality, constraining them to be subordinate to masters.
Noam Chomsky
Conversations with History


  • Just to let you know that I think your blog is amazing. Much "work" (!)has gone into it and deep feelings too.
    Thank you !!
    My blog is Blue Eyed Ennis.If you ever feel like a visit drop by.

    By Blogger Philomena Ewing, at 4:55 AM  

  • Speaking of the Industrial Revolution, here's an article from the latest issue of the Onion on its effect on employment:

    By Blogger Markus, at 3:04 AM  

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