Karl Marx said that all human society was built on labour – the physical and mental work through which we transform the world around us. For generations, Marxists have seen struggles over work as central to any kind of revolutionary movement: campaigns for higher wages, fewer hours, and better labour conditions. Struggles to transform everyday life were often seen as separate, and sometimes less important.
But a divided understanding of the world leads to divided movements, with labour struggles and liberation campaigns keeping their distance from each other. Today, activists from a range of campaigns see the need for a joint understanding of how exploitation and oppression are constituted together, and demand unity in the struggles against them.
Building on the work of activists and writers involved in movements for women’s liberation, trans liberation, and against racism, Marxists are developing ideas such as Social Reproduction Theory to break down these divisions.Our lives outside of waged work are rich and complex, full of mental, physical and emotional labour which takes place in our homes, on the street, in our virtual worlds and in our everyday interactions. More than ever, we purchase our ‘free’ time from other people, saving time by paying someone to deliver our shopping, plan our meals and find us compatible romantic partners. All this work – our own and other peoples’ – contributes to crafting us into skilled, curated and well-adjusted individuals who enter the labour market as valuable commodities.
Join this one day conference to explore how Marxism can help us make sense of and transform everyday life. We’ll be talking about education, gender, racism in our cities and borders, and the pervasive neoliberal pressure of personal branding.
“The revenge of every day life…” is a one day conference that will bring together anti-capitalists from a range of revolutionary perspectives to discuss how capital is changing the world around us, and how to fight back.
Editor, Social Reproduction Theory
Co-author of Marxism and Social Movements
Author of How Revolutionary were the Bourgeois Revolutions? and rs21 and RISE member
Writer, activist and rs21 member
Plan C, feminist, militant, mother and researcher
Health worker and trade unionist, rs21
Writer and anti-fascist activist
An introduction to social reproduction theory
In our capitalist economy, labour is just another commodity to be bought and sold – and produced. But unfortunately for capitalists, labour is firmly attached to human beings, who are complex and unpredictable. Social reproduction theory is about making sense of how human beings are ‘produced’ in the broadest possible sense, from the fulfilment of our basic needs to the emotional and mental skills we need to navigate the world.
- The university is a factory… but what kind of worker does it produce?
Is it in the interests of capitalism to produce university graduates with highly developed critical faculties? Or simply semi-skilled workers who have learned discipline and a purely technical education? We examine the role that our educational institutions are made to play in the production of the neoliberal workforce, drawing on the experiences of higher and further education workers.
- Healthcare and immigration: a tangled web
In the early days of capitalism, there was a choice between spending money on health care to look after the workforce, and finding new sources of labour to exploit. Today health care and immigration are intricately connected: the NHS was built by migrant labour, and yet health workers are under pressure to deny care to undocumented migrants, and government immigration policy threatens to restrict the supply of trained doctors and nurses. Why are health and immigration so tangled up?
- Whose streets?
Money flows through London from all over the world, making it one of the wealthiest places on earth, and one of the most unequal. Last year, as council housing blocks all over the city were found to unsafe in the wake of the Grenfell fire, plans in the City for a new skyscraper taller than the Shard were announced. How is this unequal urban reality produced? And how much more unequal can the city become before it begins to break down?
- The global women’s strike
Feminism is at the heart of social reproduction theory, which began as a way of integrating insights from the women’s liberation movements into Marxism. Although the idea has come a long way since, the role of women’s labour – either recognised in workplaces or hidden in the so called ‘private sphere’ is crucial to the way oppression and exploitation are structured.
- The production and reproduction of ourselves
How are we complicit in the process of turning ourselves into marketable commodities? Through the curation of our online identities, to the expression of our gender and the self-exploitation we endure to further our careers, to what extent are we doomed to conform to market pressures in our own self-development?
- Post 2008: the latest phase of neoliberalism or a new phase of capitalism?
As well as workers and commodities, capitalism needs the production of a stable financial climate in which to operate, made up of institutions, regulations and norms of behaviour. Ten years after the global financial crisis, what state is this climate in today?
Social reproduction theory: the future of Marxism?
In this closing session, we ask – what’s next? Where does all this take us as Marxists, activists and organisers? If Marxism can be a tool for understanding how exploitation and oppression are linked through the production of labour, what does this mean for those of us trying to challenge both?