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SocialistFeministTheoriesoftheFamily

SocialistFeministTheoriesoftheFamily

byKathleenB.Jones


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Source: PRAXISInternational(PRAXISInternational),issue:3/1988,pages:284300,onwww.ceeol.com.

THE FAMILY AND POWER IN SOCIALIST-FEMINIST THEORY

Kathleen

Jones

Contemporary theorists have attempted to explain the relationship between the family and social change. Feminists, in particular, have addressed themselves to this task. Because of their contention that women have been defined in terms of their functions in the family, and that such definitions represent the persistence of patriarchalism in modern society, it was logical for them to explore the relationship between the family and the political system. 1 Feminist theorists explored the critical role of the family as a political institution. Within the family the sexual division of labor was reproduced, the ideology of acquisitive individualism was cultivated, differently for men than for women, and needs were structured in order to maintain the existing social order. In the course of these explorations, most feminists concluded that neither of the two major contemporary epistemologies of consciousness-formation - Marxism and Freudian psychoanalysis - was adequate to the task of explaining the politics of gender identification and family dynamics. That both orthodox materialist theories and classical psychoanalysis tended to remain silent to the woman question seemed to be the unanimous conclusion of feminist social theorists." The work of these theorists represented an important attempt to account for women's position in modern society in terms of the combined effects of the double determination by an hierarchical sexual order (gender identity) and the class system, where each of these two systems was defined as relatively autonomous of the other. The efforts of these theorists to move beyond the methodological strait-jacket of specific ideologies is laudable. Their works try to situate the family, and women's place within it, within the context of the mutually supportive though, they insist, discrete systems of gender identification and class relations. Yet these accounts of the ideological and economic "functions" of the family do not suffice as an explanatory model of the relationship between the family and the political economy of modern society. On the basis of the organizing concepts of feminist social theory, we have neither an adequate description of the dynamics of contemporary families, nor a coherent explanation of the material and ideological location of the family within the structure of late industrial capitalism. This paper will demonstrate that these problems are rooted in epistemological and methodological errors. Its central hypothesis is that there is a chronic confusion in feminist social theory between different levels of analysis. The critique of the ideology of patriarchy is confused with analysis of the actual structure of material reality which that ideology both obscures and partially legitimates. This means that evidence about social definitions of roles that women should perform and the functions that families ought to fulfill is confused with evidence that describes the actual roles of women and the empirical life of families. 3 Further errors are a
Praxis International 8: October 1988 02060-8448 $2.00

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function of the essentialistic treatments of the family as a concept that pervade much feminist work on the topic. Rayna Rapp expressed this as the "acceptance of the distinction between the family itself, and the larger world, " as either a preexisting enclave or survival of earlier productive modes, or as an effect of changes in the mode of production." In either case, the family is "naturalized," rather than being treated as an essentially contested historical and analytic concept." This essay will be divided into the following parts. The first section will review the account of the family offered by major feminist theorists. Particular attention will be paid to the concept of patriarchy as employed by these writers. The second section will describe the broad outlines of a methodology that can account for the historical forces altering definitions of the family. The extent to which heightened expectations regarding family life were inculcated universally and resulted in the reconstruction of everyday reality in the life of families of different classes, races, ethnic groups and regional locations will be the focus of section three. The fourth section will consider the way in which psychoanalysis might be employed to address some of the problems raised in earlier sections. Finally, the concluding section will suggest ways that contemporary capitalism produces contradictory effects which are expressed in the changing meaning and practice of personal life.

I
Radical feminist social theory seems unanimous in its conclusion that orthodox Marxist thought is defective when it is applied to the history of women's oppression. Marxism is wedded to an ontology of production, and women, Lorenne Clark contended, are not determined primarily by their relationships to the sphere of production, but by their relationships to the sphere of reproduction. Because the dynamics of reproduction were excluded methodologically from Marxist analysis, Marxism projected the problems of gender inequality onto its image of the socialist future." Socialist feminists have argued for the need to supplement traditional Marxist analysis. The operation of patriarchy, they argued, was a relatively autonomous system of male domination and was analogous to the structural reproduction of class relations under capitalism. Zillah Eisenstein proposed a social theory which would account for women's exploitation in terms of the integrated operation of the system of ''" capitalist patriarchy." The structures of capitalism and of patriarchy were distinct, but still in symbiotic relationship to one another. According to Eisenstein, patriarchal gender relations and the class system of capitalism were mutually supportive. Class relations were built upon the' 'sexual ordering of society, " and thus patriarchy operated within the parameters of a class system. The patriarchal ordering of sex roles, along with their legitimating ideologies, provided capitalism with a form of "political control" stabilizing the' 'economic class system."7 The charge that Marxist analysis was inadequate came to rest on the critique of the "primacy of production. ' '8 Because gender identity remained at least partially hidden by this paradigm, it was argued that no systematic theory of the family could be derived from a methodology which underscored "class exploitation as the primary contradiction. " Eisenstein contended that Marx reduced oppression to exploitation, thereby seriously limiting the explanatory power of his theory

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to account for the position of women and the importance of the family. The concept of exploitation, she argued, is derived from Marx's analysis of the economic relations of capitalism. Dependent as it is on the definition of wage labor's producing surplus value, it remains silent on the problem of labor in reproduction and household work, which produce no surplus value. Since these do not enter immediately into the calculus of capitalist equations, we have no measure of the exploitation of these' 'producers, " much less the social significance of their' 'work," to the maintenance of the capitalist system. Having subsumed relations of reproduction under the general rubric of relations of production, an account of women's oppression is missing from Marx's analysis. Thus, only a theory which successfully explores the double determination of women's position by both the hierarchical sexual order and the class structure of modern society would be acceptable. Given the institutionalization of patriarchy in the bourgeois family and the political economy such a theory would have to clarify the relationship between the family and the political economy." These criticisms implied that an adequate theory of the family would, then, treat the family as a complex totality of relations which represents in microcosm the diversity of the separate structures of women's situation; i.e., production, reproduction, sexuality and the socialization of children. Rather than criticize the family per se, and demand its abolition, socialist strategy would demand the diversification of the socially acknowledged relationships that are today forcibly and rigidly compressed into it. ID The most recent attempts to develop a theory of women's exploitation employ psychoanalysis to argue that the origin of women's plight lay in the process of gender differentiation. Going beyond an analysis of the political-economic functions of sex roles they suggest that it is in the "very psychology of femininity that women bear witness to the patriarchal definition of human society." 11 Nancy Chodorow offers a detailed account of women's mothering in an effort to locate those objectrelational experiences that give rise to "the psychology and ideology of male dominance. " 12 Socialist-feminist theory, therefore, situated the family, and women's place in it, within the context of the mutually supportive, though discrete, systems of patriarchy and capitalism. Patriarchy, defined as male supremacy, "provides the sexual hierarchical ordering of society for political control." Since it operates as a political system, it cannot be understood when reduced to its economic structure. Capitalism was defined as an "economic class system" which "feeds off" patriarchal hierarchies. Like that of the shark and the pilot fish, the relationship between capitalism and patriarchy could best be described as an ecological one. Although socialist feminist theory rejects the assumption that patriarchy is a purely biological system in favor of the position that gender roles are culturally determined, it remains inadequate in accounting for the centrality of the historically specific sexual division of labor under capitalism. Despite the assertion that patriarchy is integral to the capitalist system, socialist feminists only have suggested its parallel operation. 13 This "dual systems approach" 14 unjustifiably limits the scope of Marxist analysis to the explanation of economic' 'facts. " The theory of patriarchy appears as an ad hoc device used to explain the residual structural and ideological elements

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of gender relations for which Marxist analysis allegedly has not accounted. The most recent psychoanalytic efforts to account for gender divisions tend to substitute useful descriptions of the psychodynamics of gender differentiation for explanations of the functional and metaphoric significance of gender differentiation in advanced capitalism. 15 At best what we have is the juxtaposition of two sets of dynamics whose relationship is never adequately explored. Granted that the sexual division of labor stabilizes society through the family, while it organizes the realm of domestic work, the question remains why this particular form of political control endured under capitalism. Explaining this as a vestige of pre-capitalist patriarchy operating in a capitalist context only obscures the issue by making patriarchy a "transhistorical and autonomous system" instead of a "set of relations in a particular society. " 16 The allegation that male power is rooted either in a vague prehistoric psychology or derives from male domination of such institutions regulating reproductive processes as law or medicine is not a sufficient explanation for the existence of patriarchy. Moreover the more universally patriarchy is defmed, the more obscured the relations between biology and society become." The social organization of gender identity must be viewed as an historical problem, and subjected to a materialist analysis.

Materialist analysis should not be defmed narrowly as "economic" methodology. Rather, it grants priority to "concrete social institutions and practices, along with the material conditions in which they take place." 18 The complexity of Marxist analysis of the development of social relations under capitalism is worth careful consideration. The issue is not whether Marx himself offered a complete picture of women's condition, but whether his methodology is broad enough to enable contemporary scholars to accomplish this task. Understanding how society organizes its productive activities is fundamental to understanding the nature of society itself in any historical period. 19 This is not because there is some crude correspondence between economics and culture, but because human productive activity, or social activity as Marx calls it, expresses a relation between the producer and external nature, while it simultaneously represents the ways that an individual develops specific capacities and needs. Production is a "definite form of (individuals') activity, a defmite way of expressing their life, a definite mode of life' , .20 The development of specific social relations is conditioned by the unfolding of productive forces in any historical period. The importance of production is not that identity is reduced to a mere reflection of it, but that the life-process of individuals is how' 'they work, produce materially, and act under defmite material limitations, presuppositions, and conditions independent of their will" .21 Marx's emphasis on production is the attempt to provide a method of analysis that is historical and concrete, as opposed to speculative and idealist. The narrowing of the meaning of productive activity to its definition as wage labor is an historical premise of the development of capitalism. For Marx, the distinguishing feature of capitalist productive activity is that property relations become completely independent of the community. 22 In a market system, exchange

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relations, no longer limited by the kinship system of social organization, become the fundamental dynamic and organizing principle of society. Thus, the production of material life becomes the purpose of social intercourse itself. All other relationships, including relations in the family, become subordinate to the determinant relation to production. 23 It is, in fact, more precise to argue that different structures or ideologies of the family emerge simultaneously with changes in the productive mode. The theory that family forms reflect changes in the economy is inaccurate for two reasons. First, it arbitrarily and abstractly separates "the family" from the productive mode, i.e., from the historicallyspecific "life-process" that any epoch constructs. Second, it assumes "an essential family whose internal structure may vary and whose relations to the system of production may vary, but which nevertheless persists across these historical transformations. " 24 That "the family" has been an essentially contested concept is reflected both in contemporary controversies about adoption rights of homosexuals as well as the fact that, until the early eighteenth century, the word family was neither coterminous with eo-residents in households, nor limited to kin relations who were eo-residents." Rather, "family" has been used as a metaphor to express relationships that may include kin, but are not limited to relations among kin. In contemporary capitalist culture, family seems to carry expressive force primarily as a code that represents certain specific emotional bonds connected to "personal life". In early modern Europe, "family" signified all those joined together by their common subjection to a male head, or "pater-familias." The apparent disjunction between authority patterns, work relationships and emotional ties distinguishes the modern bourgeois family ideal. With the rupturing of feudal ties to the land and to kin, the "free" individual is born. Individual talent and initiative seem to replace the accidents of birth as the primary determinants of an individual's position in the division of labor. "To each according to his ability" becomes the credo of the day. A free market, free trade, free exchange and free labor facilitate the unlimited production and accumulation of wealth which characterizes the capitalist system. Nevertheless, the dependence of each individual on the market means that while certain arbitrary divisions of rank and status have been superseded, other equally arbitary distinctions have replaced them. Individuals seem freer but, in reality, have become less free "because they are to a greater extent governed by material forces. "26 The exigencies of exchange based on private appropriation of social wealthlimit the ability of individuals to escape from the "particular exclusive sphere of activity" which represents their position in the division of labor. The transformation of social relations effected by the development of commodity production is contradictory. On the one hand, the satisfaction of human needs is now more dependent than ever on the market system. At the same time that very market system acts as a "barrier" to the fulfillment of different needs for specified classes of individuals. Thus, the bourgeois system of production creates new needs for' 'the development of a totality of (individual) capacities. " But, it can only sustain itself as capital by fulfilling these needs within the terms set by private property. These insights can be applied to the study of the family and the social organization of gender. In precapitalist systems of production, the household itself was the

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productive mode. Work within it was divided along gender lines, but the inequality of status that existed resulted from the combined effects of prolonged child care and the primitive level of technology. 27 But as long as the household remained the primary locus of production, the restriction of tasks to one sex or the other did not contradict their reciprocal dependence. 28 Even when, in urban cultures, some husbands began to work primarily away from the home, wives were engaged either in home-centered labor, or in activities outside the home which were parallel to their household chores. In either case, the economic contribution of women's work was so critical to the livelihood of lower-class families that married women within this strata could be characterized best as "working partners in the family enterprise. "29 Equally important was the fact that personal life was rooted in the mutual labor of family members. 30 The concept of the family, family relationships, and the definitions of women's place in the family and in the economy were altered in major ways with the development of commodity production. The idea of the family as an aggregate of eo-residing kin came to be seen as the norm. Sexual polarity gradually replaced sexual complementarity as a feature of the division of labor. 31 Capitalist production was based on a disjunction between' 'material production organized as wage labor and the forms of production taking place within the family. " Consequently, the family's economic function was obscured, as its moral purpose was emphasized, and its symbolic significance as an emblem of "ernbourgeoisement' - a cultural norm distinguishable from both the aristocracy and the working class - was highlighted:
The contradiction between, on the one hand, the disruption and squalor caused by manufacture and urban development which were the bread and butter of the middle class and, on the other, the intense desire for order and moral superiority, was bridged by the romantic vision ... the romantic imagination indelibly fixed the image of the rose-covered cottage in a garden where womanhood waited and Manhood ventured abroad: to work, to war and to the Empire. So powerful was this dual conception that even the radical fringe subscribed. 32

III

The effects of the separation between' 'work" and' 'personal life, " however, varied with class and ethnicity. Among merchant classes of the late eighteenth century, for instance, requirements of large capital sums for investment necessitated the "disengagement of capital from family firms." The evolution of exogamous forms of kin-marriage conducive to capital accumulation altered the nature and structure of the family and authority patterns in critical ways:
In the MoSiDa (mother-sister-ciaughter) marriage, the only link to a potential patriarch is through women. . . In the sibling exchange there is no direct line of authority at all. . . In both these patterns authority loses its generational depth ... In such a situation the nuclear family and the authority of the father as its head becomes far more important than the authority of the kin-group and the grandfather. 33

Such families were clearly paternally controlled, because the husband was the legal owner of the family's property. But, in the strictest sense, they were not

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,'patriarchal" in terms of their relation to capital. Moreover, the exercise of paternal authority shifted to shaping the behavior of children to norms which were institutionally determined." As the socialization of the young began to define the female sphere, the mother's role in the inculcation ofvalues became critical. Despite the social significance of childrearing, women, as individuals, remained legally and economically subordinate to their husbands." This, of course, varied by class and race. The rationalization of sexuality which accompanied the rise of industrialization was represented in the' 'Cult of True Womanhood. " Women, protected from the corrupting influence of the masculine world of ' 'work, " were viewed as the proper guardiansof the moral sphere. True femininity was defmed by standards of behavior and a set of activities that reflected bourgeois values. The ideal woman tended to "home and hearth," while her husband occupied himself with business and public affairs. Though these ideals were unrealizeable for the majority of the population, they nonetheless were universalized." Within the working class, the impact of industrialization had different effects. In the early stages of development of the British textile industry, for example, whole families moved together into the mills." In the United States, too, recruitment to the labor market initially was age and sex neutral. The subsequent development of industry intensified the specialization and differentiation of labor, thereby reducing traditional work opportunities for some women. Unions contributed to the process of restricting most paid labor to men by arguing that female employment had a depressing effect on men's wages. 38 Among skilled workers, increased wages decreased the necessity for the wives of those male workers to work outside the home. At the same time, hazardous working conditions led to the opposition of organized labor to married women's employment on the grounds that it led to higher rates of infant mortality. 39 Toward the end of the nineteenth century in the U. S., both the increasing mechanization of industry and successive waves of immigration increased the competition for jobs. These forces, coupled with the enlargement of the sphere of consumption which the stability of capitalism required, widened the division of labor between men and women of the working class, both within industry and within the family.40 Moreover, the alienating effects of work placed an increased burden on the family to serve as a place of retreat and release. That women's position in this case, even employed women, was defined largely in terms of their familial roles is not a reflection of the persistence of a patriarchal ideology, but of the particular quality of the emergent needs of personal life which were structured and/or restrained by market forces. One cannot rely on patriarchy to explain the centrality of gender differences in a capitalist system of production. Market relations undermine the operation of a patriarchally organized social system because the exchange of labor substitutes for the exchange of women as the basic social bond. Gender differentiation remains significantas a form of social control because the capitalist division of labor requires a more dichotomized organization of gender identity as a necessary support. Despite the fact that the rationalization of productive processes appears to undermine gender hierarchies, the differentiation of tasks and' 'spheres" of activity on the basis of gender is built into the very definition of work and its purposes under capitalism. As Davidoff and Hall put it:

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Manhood was to become part of the central claims to legitimate middle class leadership ... Manhood also implied the ability and willingness to support and protect women and children. Men would enter the market as free agents but would thus preserve the moral bonds of society in their private and philanthropic activity."

This connection of masculinity with the ability to support women and children who were defined as dependent operated as a strong ideological support for the sharpening of a sexual division of labor even among the working classes where, class obstacles notwithstanding, masculinity came to be equated with having an occupation. The flip side of this was the necessity to hold, or aspire to the holding of, the "substance of domesticity. "42 Any careful analysis of the transformation of family life under capitalism must consider the difference between prescriptive ideals of family life reflected in the literature and public policies of the time, and the reality of everyday experience. Feminist theorists have not always heeded the warnings of social historians and thus they have mistaken ideological dicta about femininity and the family for the actual behavior and values of a specific time." In addition, they have made ideology an independent variable instead of considering cultural norms within the class-specific context of changing, often contradictory, social relations. For instance, if mothering was viewed as ultimate fulfillment of woman's nature in the early nineteenth century, and if childrearing literature of the times affirmed the mother's predominance, it is to the very real changes in the social context of mothering that we should look for an explanation of this phenomenon, rather than to an unalloyed patriarchalist mentality. For reasons that are rooted in the capitalist organization of work and its gender coding, the development of industrialization triggered a greater differentiation of parental roles. There was, in other words, a split between the punitive and the nurturing aspects of authority. Fathers were generally associated with the former, and mothers with the latter, although the mother's role in the socialization of children along sex-differentiated lines into "proper" norms of behavior did not exempt her from some measured participation in the inculcation of disciplinary codes. The advice manuals of the time, properly analyzed, are records of this shift towards more exclusive and intense relations between mothers and their children in a more discrete and specialized milieu." At the same time they should be read as attempts to legitimate the changing status of women in terms which essentially fit the demands of the burgeoning capitalist order. Tracts on the "proper" methods of childrearing, like attempts to instill "proper" work habits, should be understood as part of the process of inculcating in whole classes of people the behavioral norm and values of industrial civilization." Nevertheless, the extent to which these canons were internalized and practiced by the audiences for whom they were intended cannot be ascertained from the pronouncements themselves. For many, economic and cultural exigencies, as well as racial discrimination, proved insurmountable barriers to the realization of ideal (bourgeois) family life. 46 In order to understand the consequences of what has been called the "emotional intensification of family life" on developing forms of gender identity, we must explore the impact of the changed relation between the family and the outside world as this was mediated by class and race. This requires a methodology that moves

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beyond the assumption that attitudes about' 'women's proper place" accurately reflect, in an uncontradictory way, universal behavior. Marx observed that the development of private property contributed to the evolution of a "separate domestic economy. ' '47 According to the law of capital, work performed within this "domestic economy" of the private household, though economically significant, is not productive labor. Housework, falling outside the general domain of social production defined by capitalist exchange relations, is "valueless." Nevertheless, women's work in the home remains determined by the capitalist mode of production." Capitalist social relations of production, which derive from its ontology of work as wage labor, structure the economic dependence of all who are wage-less workers, housewives included, on the market system. The connection between housework and the economy of capital is obscured by the fact that the labor time embodied in the goods and services produced at home is not sold in the marketplace. Also, the fact that the advent of modern technology seems to have diminished the amount of time and energy spent on housework attenuates the relationship between housework and "work" itself. 49 The dominance of this ontology of productive labor arbitrarily focuses on one moment of what Marx called the circuit of production, which included not only production based on the appropriation by capital of surplus value created by labor, but also distribution and consumption. This dominance obscures the complexity of the way that production depends upon consumption for the realization of surplus value. It also ignores the way that capitalist consumption creates a very specific subject who has a need for the "products" of capitalism; a subject whose particular needfulness is mediated by a whole range of social relationships - the 'relational' element of class - and whose specific social identity comes to be defined by "particular desires and pleasures ... [that are] represented as cultural products." 50 Because of these relational dimensions of class, each of these moments has important ,'gender boundaries" which represent the ontological distinctions of hierarchy and "otherness" that capitalism both requires and threatens to erode. In other words, gender, as a metaphor of difference and classification, and as the representation of the sociallocation and life experience of actual men and women, becomes central to the way that class belonging is coded. It is in this sense that the importance of the conceptual distinction of family life from economics per se can be appreciated as one of the means of constructing class identity within a market society. Nevertheless, although the private household seemed isolated from the productive sphere, family life structured and was permeated by market relations. "Most production for profit was through the family enterprise . . . The forms of property organization, and authority within the enterprise framed gender relations through marriage, the division of labor and inheritance practices." 51 In addition, the development of the forces of production gradually displaced education, recreation, and a variety of "welfare" services onto the market directly, or onto social institutions (hospitals, schools, social service agencies)." The paramount change was the family's redefinition in terms of an ethos of "personal life." The family came to be idealized as the "primary institution in which the search for personal happiness, love and fulfillment takes place. " The growth of wage labor intensified the weight of meaning attached to personal relations in the family. 53 This was made more pronounced by the development of the family as an important market

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for industrial commodities. The result was that women's isolation in the family was reinforced. At the same time, of course, the subordination of women's own "personal needs" to their traditional role as maintainers of the family's stability was submerged between the ideology of "personal life" and the constricted forms in which it was contained. In order to have a measure of the real impact of these changes on the quality of family life it would be necessary to demonstrate the specific ways in which socialization expectations and behaviors were modified by alterations in the structure, the relation and the representation of the family to the larger social system. Without empirical evidence to verify the significance of changing forms of family life, one is left with a model of social change that presumes the universality of the conjugal family and its congruence with the industrial capitalist order. 54 We need to test the idealization of family life against the experience of real families in order to explore the ways that different classes and races adapted to or resisted the demands of a changing world." Furthermore, if a sexual division of labor is institutionalized in capitalism because of the specific impact of commodity production on family life, we need to account for why it is structured so that the division of roles between men and women in the family seems at once paradoxical and more rationally compelling than before. Psychoanalytic methodolgy offers a theoretical method for approaching this problem. Psychoanalysis calls attention to the way that the asymmetrical organization of parenting affects the development of the ideology of male superiority as well as submission to the requirements of production. Mothering in the isolated context of the nuclear household creates a "sexual division of psychic organization and orientation" and thereby underlies the personality structure which perpetuates the social organization of gender. 56

IV
Psychoanalysis enables us to chart the course of character development and to observe how changes in the process of identification alter personality. In other words, psychoanalysis allows us to observe how the internalizationof cultural norms reverberates in the psyche. In particular, it points to the significance of familial relations to psychological processes of gender personality. But a psychodynamic account does not provide us with a complete enough account of the ways that changes in the social structure affect the organization of parenting and, in turn, "create ... differential relational needs and capacities in men and women that contribute to the reproduction of women as mothers." 57 Although it is a commonplace assumption of some psychoanalysts that the child's internalization of object-relations has been altered significantly by the relative exclusivity of its early attachments to the mother, there has been little evidence offered to suggest how the situation has changed over time. On the contrary, as Lasch argued, most of the evidence seems to suggest that even in pre-bourgeois society, infants were left exclusively in the care of women. In some cases, the degree of sexual segregation that existed was greater than in contemporary bourgeois society." Nor does the father's absence alone explain the change, since fathers historically often were "absent" from nurturing functions. Rather, it is the gradual

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erosion of the material base for family authority, coincident with the growth of industry, which alters identification processes. Fathers not only participate less in family life, but the quality of their interaction with their children is apt to be one-sided. The image of the father as the one meting out punishment is untempered by any other practical everyday experience of the father. Consequently, children growingup in such families lack an integrated ego, and remain dependent on external authority. Fragility of self-concept results from extended dependence on exclusive maternal involvement, so the argument goes. Even if this account of the impact of contemporary family structure on character development is accurate, we need to know how typical it is of family life in all classes and races. 59 But were we to have this information, it still would not enable us to conclude that the difficulty lies in the parenting relation itself. The claim that the' 'social organization of parenting produces sexual inequality" or that the "social rootedness of mothering" helps explain the reproduction of a particular sex/gender system tends to lead implicitly to the demand for equal parenting without recognizing the class, not to mention sexual preference, blindness of such proposals. Such a demand rests upon changes in the structure of production which would have to be accomplished before the practice of shared parenting could extend beyond the narrow sphere of professionals, with flexi-time schedules, who now practice it. 60 Ironically, shared parenting, in the absence of structural changes in the organization of production, could exacerbate class conflicts even as it modifies sexual inequalities within the more affluent strata of society. If the earliest relationships between mothers and children are fraught with tension and conflict, what needs to be explored is the specific way that capitalism deforms personal life even as it creates it as a possibility for more people. The transformation of the work process itself - the separation of "work" and "life" -led to the ideology of the family as an autonomous sphere which satisfied the laborer's needs for human comfort. If both sexes were degraded systematically at work, then it might be argued that the ability of the family to survive as a viable institution was undermined. Therefore, it became imperative to the stability of capitalismthat a sexual division of labor be enforced. "The apparently autonomous individual man, celebrated in both political economy and evangelical religion, was almost always surrounded by family and kin who made possible his individual actions. "61 The retreat from paid employment of one sex or the other to attend to the domain of personal needs became integral to capital itself, both functionally and ideologically. Women were identified as the chosen sex in ideological tracts of the 18th and 19th centuries which stressed the ways that women's "natural" reproductive and child rearing roles, enhanced by arguments about the "cultural capital" that women were responsible for developing, limited both women's direct participation in the economic enterprise and the labor force. Employers too, relying on the assumption that women's paid employment was transient in nature, engaged in the common practice of paying women workers on a scale substantially below men's. Finally, the action of unionists who, fearing that the depressed wages of women would threaten both the adequacy of wages paid to men, as well as the struggle within the craft unions to maintain control of their trade, worked to exclude women from the paid labor force. The combined effects of these variables dictated women's place within the home. Though this pattern varied with class, race and

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ethnicity, nevertheless it grew to become both a pattern and a goal of the industrial capitalist order. This dynamic was reinforced by mass consumption which spread capital to the sphere of personal life itself, though not without contradictory effects. In the early twentieth century the inordinate demands placed on the family and on women in it to meet the needs of personal fulfillment strained the institution itself. Developments within the productive process, however, increased both the necessity and the opportunity for women's paid employment. Married women's employment increased between 1890 and 1920 in the U. S., especially in clerical fields. Nevertheless, the radical potential of these changes once again was contained by a gendered response to the exigencies of the productive mode. Social reformists reacted to this situation with an array of legislative programs designed to save the family. Social welfare services were extended and protective legislation was passed. The net effect of these programs on the family was to undermine its autonomy by integrating it more completely with the political-economic system. Protective legislation actually reinforced the segmentation of the labor market along sex lines. For women who needed to or wanted to work outside the home, the regimentation of a gender division of labor within the home meant that paid work was simply added on top of primary responsibility for maintaining the sphere of domesticity. The outpouring of expert advice to the housewife/mother concerning the performance standards of her' 'natural" roles eroded the autonomous control of women over the territory that had been ceded to them and heightened their sense of dependence, as well as increasing levels of guilt for "working"mother, at precisely the moment when household chores were becoming less burdensome, at least for the more affluent classes.

v
From this review of the history of the development of the modern ideology of the family it is evident that the creation of the bourgeois ideal of family life is not attached merely to a pre-existing patriarchalism, but is rather the mode within which modem ideas of gender are expressed. If women's roles are associated more narrowly with nurturing activities, and if the sign of productive labor is associated more narrowly with market activity and wage labor, the question is not whether care-giving activities are represented by the primacy of production, because clearly they cannot be "seen" within this metaphor. The point is, rather, to understand how the definition of women's work provides productive labor with its rationale, and its real contradiction. The contradiction between personal life and social production is crystallized in the situation of women in modem capitalist society. The capitalist system requires a sexual division of labor in part because, given the alienating effects of work itself, the main available arena within which personal needs can be met is defined, ideologically, as the family .A particular kind of family is the necessary complement to gendered definitions of class. For this family to be an effective retreat, within the limits set by capital, it is imperative that women in it, upon whom the nurturing responsibilities have devolved, be untainted by the distortions of alienated labor. Hence, the division between what Parsons called "expressive" and "instrumental" functions within the family is rooted in the capitalist organization of work which

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cannot be understood apart from these gendered divisions. Moreover, as Rubin notes, the more alienated the labor of the wage earner is, the more stark the segregation of roles within the family may become. This separation serves to undermine the extent to which the family can offer any comfort at all. For the majority of families, the situation is made even more complex by the fact that the luxury of depending upon the wages of one earner is all but precluded by the realities of economics. This fact reverberates in the inner life of working class families. Tensions caused by the respective partner's inability to live up to cultural expectations of appropriate gender roles are displaced from the social system onto each other, so that' 'each blame[s] the other for failures to meet cultural fantasies." 62 In middle class families this strain partly is mitigated by the fact that the wife's earnings constitute a much smaller percentage of family income, except among professional couples. Within families of this class, however, affluence itself affects the woman's role. Housework becomes more routinized, less physically demanding. Even child care does not make up for the difference. The key to women's experience in this class is the isolation of "women's work" itself from the social fabric and the standards of value of the "outside" world. Though the woman expresses herself in a wide range of roles, and hence, appears to have more latitude and freedom than does the man, the freedom is constricted:
From the outside she appears freer than a man working for someone else and without any affection in his job. But because this caring work goes on in a context of a society where work is predominantly divorced from care, because she is isolated in the home, bearing the load of all the sentiment which is out of place in the man's work, and because the division of labor which relegates caring to women and brands women as inferior, distortion is inevitable. 63

The contradictions behind all the factors, personal and "economic," contributing to the changing sex composition of the labor force are highlighted especially in the increased labor force participation rates of the fastest growing sector of the labor force: women with pre-school age children. The autonomy of the division of roles within the family is threatened most by this group of woman workers. To the extent that its autonomy is preserved, it is women who still bear the brunt of the responsibility: their work outside the home is simply added on top of their work within it. Even today, the percentage of time spent sharing household labor by husbands with employed wives is not different significantly from the amount of time contributed by husbands with wives who are full-time homemakers." In sum, the very separation between personal life and work which the capitalist system institutionalized, and which required a strict division of roles in the family along sexual lines, now appears to be in the process of being undermined by the dynamics of capitalist production itself. The marginality of the economic security of the working class, the strains implicit in the housewife's work as it is increasingly commodified, and the changing composition of the work force all threaten the family's ability, within its traditional form, to serve as a viable support system within the market economy. The instability of the capitalist system makes the family's function to nurture personal needs all the more critical. At the same time, this very instability crystallizes the contradiction between personal life and work upon which capitalism is founded by altering the traditional sexual division of roles

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within the family without, however, fundamentally restructuring the sphere of production or the family itself. Because the system of production remains organized essentially so that personal needs are met outside it, women continue to bear the responsibility for meeting these needs. Yet capitalism demands that the family function as a seemingly autonomous sphere of privatized personal life, capable of maintaining itself on the withered ground that monopoly capital allows. Thus, the demand for the recognition of women's place in the family - for the acknowledgement of how the ontology of productive labor is constructed by its distance from the ontology of care-giving - challenges the ability of capitalism to humanize society within the limits of commodity exchange.
NOTES

* The author wishes to thank Jean Elshtain, Howard Kushner and Paul Thomas and the reviewers and co-editors of Praxis, for their critical comments and suggestions.
1. Susan Okin, Women and Western Political Thought, (Princeton, 1979). 2. For example, Shulamith Firestone rejected traditional Marxist analysis in favor of a "materialist view of history based on sex alone." The Dialectic of Sex, (New York, 1970), 5. Lorenne Clark reached similar conclusions in her essay, "The Rights of Women: The Theory and Practice of the Ideology of Male Supremacy, " in Contemporary Issues in Political Philosophy, ed. Shea and KingFarlow (New York, 1976),55. Zillah Eisenstein contended that class was not an adequate category on the basis of which to explore the history of women's oppression. "Developing a Theory of Capitalist Patriarchy," in Capitalist Patriarchy and the Case for Socialist Feminism, ed. Z. Eisenstein (New York, 1979), 24, 28. More recently, Catherine MacKinnon contended that Marxian categories were of limited relevance for the development of feminist theory because they failed to explain the structuring of sexuality, the basic social process that defined, directed and expressed the production of desire. Since this process operated independently of the mode of production to exploit women as the continued exploitation of women under' 'socialist" systems demonstrated - class-based analysis was inadequate to explain women's subordination. "Marxism, Method, Theory and the State," Signs 7, no 3 (1982). As far as Freud was concerned, most feminists argued that his pronouncements on femininity were ideologically motivated. Firestone, The Dialectics ofSex , and Kate Millett, Sexual Politics, (New York, 1970) are typical of this school. 3. I am not disputing the fact that ideology has a material component. Attempts to employ psychoanalysis in order to argue that origins of women's plight lie in the process of gender differentiation itself are at least partially successful at indicating the importance of the internalization of an ideology of femininity to the analysis of the political stablization of capitalism. Nevertheless, as this paper will show, even the accounts of this psychoanalytic school have their mechanistic shortcomings. cf. Nancy Chodorow, The Reproduction of Mothering, (Berkeley, 1978). 4. Rayna Rapp, Ellen Ross, and Renate Bridenthal, "Examining Family History," Feminist Studies, 5, no. 1 (Spring, 1979). 5. Cf. Michelle Barrett, Women's Oppression Today: Problems in Marxist Feminist Analysis, (London: 1980), 188; and Leonore Davidoff and Catherine Hall, Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class, 1780-1850, (London, 1987). 6. Clark, Contemporary Issue in Political Philosophy, 55. 7. Eisenstein, Capitalist Patriarchy and the Case for Socialist Feminism, 24, 28. 8. Seyla Benhabib and Drucilla Cornell, Feminism as Critique (Minneapolis, 1987,), 4. 9. Eisenstein, Capitalist Patriarchy and the Case for Socialist Feminism, 23-27. 10. Juliet Mitchell, Woman's Estate (New York, 1973), 151. 11. Juliet Mitchell, Psychoanalysis and Feminism (New York, 1975), 413. 12. Nancy Chodorow, The Reproduction of Mothering (Berkeley, 1978), 208. 13. Even the idea that patriarchy is an important ideological adjunct to the class system of capitalism may be incorrect, given the undermining of the patriarchal authority of the father by the process of what Lasch called the "socialization of reproduction," and what Marcuse had called "repressive

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desublimation." Christopher Lasch, Haven in a Heartless World (New York, 1977); Herbert Marcuse, Eros and Civilization (Boston, 1955). 14. Iris Young, "Socialist Feminism and the Limits of Dual Systems Theory, " Socialist Review, 50-51, (March-June, 1980, 169.) 15. Even Chodorow's argument that it is women's mothering which reproduces the social organization of gender and links it with the social organization of production presupposes the gender-differentiated split between affective and instrumental attributes of personality which it was supposed to explain. An important distinction between the materialist roots of the "social organizaton' of gender and the familial context within which gender differences are internalized is missing from her analysis. 16. Joseph Interrank and Carol Lassner, "Victims of the Very Songs They sing: A Critique of Recent Work on Patriarchal Culture and the Social Construction of Gender, " Radical History Review, 20 (Spring/Summer, 1979), 34. 17. Interrank and Lassner, "Victims of the Very Songs They Sing," 36. 18. Young, "Dual Systems Theory," 185. 19. Karl Marx, The German Ideology (New York, 1970), 42. 20. Marx, The German Ideology, 42. 21. Marx, The German Ideology, 46-7 , (emphasis added). 22. In all other societal forms "individuals are united by some other bond: family, tribe, the land itself, etc." Whereas in the bourgeois system individuals seem "independent of one another and are only held together by exchange." Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Collected Works V (London, 1973), 86-89. 23. This does not mean that the family is irrelevant. The point is that the structure, function and meaning of family relationships are qualitatively transformed with the extension of the division of labor predicated on private property. 24. Barrett, Women's Oppression Today, 195. 25. Davidoff and Hall, Family Fortunes, 31; cf. Barrett, Women's Oppression Today, 200. 26. Marx and Engels, The German Ideology, 73. 27. In fact, as some anthropologists have demonstrated, the division of social tasks along gender lines and the extent of inequality varied considerably among "traditional" societies. See Ann Oakley' s discussion of this in Woman's Work (New York, 1973). 28. EH Zaretsky, Capitalism, the Family and Personal Life (New York, 1976), cf. Peter Laslett, The World We Have Lost (New York, 1965); Phillipe Aries, Centuries of Childhood (New York, 1962); loan W. Scott and Louise A. Tilly, "Woman's Work and the Family in Nineteenth Century Europe," in The Family in History, 00. Rosenberg (Philadelphia, 1975); and Alice Clark, The Working Life of Women in the Seventeenth Century (London, 1919). 29. Scott and Tilly, "Woman's Work and the Family in Nineteenth Century Europe," 161. 30. Zaretsky, Capitalism, the Family and Personal Life, 29-30. 31. Davidoff and Hall, Family Fortunes, 181. 32. Davidoff and Hall, Family Fortunes, 27-28. 33. Peter Dokin Hall, "Family Structure and Economic Organizations: Massachusetts Merchants, 1700-1800," in Familyand Kin in Urban Communities: 1700-1800 ed. T. Haraven, (New York, 1979), 45-46. 34. Peter Dobkin Hall, "Family Structure and Economic Organization," 50. 35. Passage of married women's property acts by the various states during the first half of the nineteenth century altered the state of dependence to some extent for women who had property of their own. However, these reforms, together with liberalization of divorce laws, actually represented the permeation of marriage itself by contract relations. 36. Ann D. Gordon and Mari 10 Buhle, "Sex and Class in Colonial and Nineteenth Century America," in Liberating Women's History, ed. B. Carroll (Chicago, 1976),83-6. Though the "cult of domesticity" permeated the culture of the early nineteenth century, it was not without its contradictions. For a discussion of the impact of these ideals on middle class women's political activism see El1enCarol Dubois, Feminism and Suffrage (Ithaca, 1979); Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, "Beauty, the Beast and the Militant Woman: A Case Study of Sex Roles and Social Stress in Jacksonian America," American Quarterly, xxiii, (Oct., 1971), 562-84. 37. cf. Neal Smelser, Social Change in the Industrial Revolution: An Application of Theory to the British Cotton Industry (Chicago, 1959.)

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38. In 1836, the report of the National Trades Union Committee urged the exclusion of women from the factories because it produced' 'ruinous competition ... to male labor" resulting ultimately either in the discharge of male workers or the reduction of their wages "to a corresponding rate of wages with the female operative." John R. Commons, et al., (eds.) A Documentary History of American Industrial Society, vi, "The Labor Movement" (Cleveland, 1910), 195, cited in Alice Kessler Harris, "Women, Work and the Social Order," in B. Carroll, Liberating Women's History, 335. Ruth Milkman argued that there is strong evidence to suggest that the skilled craft and trade union were particularly effective in structuring the labor market along gender lines. Categorizing certain occupations as "female" and others as "male" helped restrict the labor supply, thereby enhancing labor's bargaining position. "Organizing the Sexual Division of Labor" Historical Perspectives on 'Women's Work' and the American Labor Movement," Socialist Review, 49 (Jan-Feb, 1980), 101-114. 39. cf. Margaret Hewlett, Wives and Mothers in Victorian Industry (London, 1958), esp. 99-122. 40. It also widened the division of labor between women of different classes and races. In 1890, while only 5 % of all married women were employed outside the home, one quarter of married black women were employed, as were two-thirds of widowed black women. Married women immigrants followed the blacks' pattern. But by the 1920's, changes in the compositionof the labor force increased the jobs available to native-born white women, at the expense of immigrant women and blacks, both because of the nature of the skills required for those jobs, and the cultural defmitions of different sorts of work. See Francine Blau, "Women in the Labor Force: An Overview, in Women: A Feminist Perspective ed. J. Freeman (Palo Alto, 1979), 2nd edition, 269-70; Kessler-Harris, "Women, Work and the Social Order," 334, 336, 337. 41. Davidoff and Hall, Family Fortunes, 199. 42. Davidoff and Hall, Family Fortunes, 269. 43. cf. Jay Mechling, "Advice to Historians on Advice to Mothers," Journal ofSocial History, 9, (Fall, 1975),44-63; Howard Kushner, "Nineteenth Century Sexuality and the 'Sexual Revolution' of the Progressive era," The Canadian Review ofAmerican Studies, ix, no. 1 (Spring, 1978), 34-49. 44. Nancy Cott, "Notes Towards an Intpretationof Antebellum Childbearing," Psychohistory Review, 6 (Spring, 1978), 9. 45. For an excellent discussion of the extent to which traditional work habits and values had to be supplanted see E. P. Thompson, "Time, Discipline, and Industrial Capitalism," Past and Present, . 38 (1967), 56-97. 46. For a good discussion of the situation of women of different classes in Latin American cultures, see Ann M. Pescatillo, "Latina Liberation: Tradition, Ideology and Social Change in Iberian and Latin American Culture," in Liberating Women's History, ed. B. Carroll, 161-178. 47. The German Ideology, 49. See also Grundrisse, (New York, 1973), 101. 48. There is a considerable literature on the debate among feminists concerning the definition of housework as "unproductive labor. " For a review of this literature see Natalie Sokoloff, Between Money and Love, (New York, 1980). . 49. In a provocative article Ruth Swartz Cowan argued that the ironic impact of labor-saving household technologywas to increase the burden of household chores. "A Case Study of Teehnological and Social Change: The Washing Machine and the Working Wife," in Clio's Consciousness Raised: New Perspectives on the History of Women, ed. M. Hartmann and L. Banner (New York, 1974), 245-253. See also Batya Weinbaum and Amy Bridges, "The Other Side of the Paycheck: Monopoly Capital and the Structure of Consumption," in Capitalist Patriarchy and the Case for Socialist Feminism, ed. Eisenstein, 190-205. 50. Davidoff and Hall, Family Fortunes, 30. See also Rosalind Coward, Female Desire (London, 1984). 51. Davidoff and Hall, Famity Fortunes, 32. 52. ef. Christopher Lasch, Haven in a Heartless World; Peter Laslett, The World We Have Lost (New York, 1963). 53. Zaretsky, Capitalism, the Family and Personal Life, 65. 54. This is the difficulty with William Goode' s by now classic treatment of the relation between changing economic systems and family patterns. See World Revolution and Family Patterns (New York, 1963).

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55. Interesting examples of the kinds of evidence which could provide historical depth for such an analysis is to be found in Diane Hughes, "Domestic Ideals and Social Behavior: Evidence from Medieval Genoa," in The Family in History, ed. Rosenberg, 115-143; and Laura Owen, "The Welfare of Women in Laboring Families: England, 1860-1950," in Clio's Consciousness Raised, ed. Hartman and Banner, 226-244. 56. Chodorow, The Reproduction of Mothering, 180-181. 57. Chodorow herself acknowledges this. The question is whether her account of the social structuring of parenting is a successful reformulation of the psychodynamic account in sociological terms. What is altogether missing from her analysis is the exploration of gender as a metaphor for the representation of specific activities, attributes and relationships. 58. Christopher Lasch, "The Emotions of Family Life, New York Review of Books. 59. cf. Claus Mueller, The Politics of Communication (Oxford, 1975). 60. Diane Ehrensaft notes that' 'inadequate maternity [sic] policies at the workplace, income and job inequalities between men and women, and lack of flexible job structures are among the reasons why the practice of shared parenting is not widespread, despite the fact that in some 28 % of American households, both mother and father are employed." "When Women and Men Mother," Socialist Review, 49 (Jan-Feb, 1980),41. It should be mentioned that Chodorow acknowledges that the social organization of gender must be considered in its relation to an economic context. Nevertheless, her analysis tends toward reductionist solutions to complex political-economic problems. The Reproduction of Mothering, 34, 211-19. 61. Davidoff and Hall, Family Fortunes, 33. 62. Lillian Rubin, Worlds of Pain: Life in the Working Class Family (New York, 1974), 178. 63. Sheila Rowbotham, Woman's Consciousness, Man's World (Middlesex, England, 1974), 178. 64. Survey cited in MS, (Feb, 1988). For women who are single parents, the situation is even more burdensome.