Clarifying Social Reproduction Feminism: Not Liberal, Not Idealist, It’s Socialist and Historical-materialist

The essay, “Traveling in the Wrong Direction” by British political philosopher Lorna Findlayson is required reading for socialist feminists. The first half is a brilliantly-written take-down of liberal feminism. The second half wobbles around, and reveals something very interesting, an analytical deficit in an otherwise powerful analysis:  A philosophical-Marxist (as opposed to political-Marxist) tendency to analyze capitalism as THE ruling class mode does not survey history, really take women’s socio-material global experience seriously, and does not consider that exploitative capitalism is a competitive option, always reliant on mass expropriation, in the arsenal of rivalristic regional ruling class strategy. Findlayson posits social reproduction strikes as an *alternative* to organized industrial action.

Findlayson needs some Jane McAlevey correction. Greta Thunberg’s individual action, the Climate School Strike, is not industrial action, and it is not the sole answer. But, as she indicates, it is a good form of collective action for a young person on the autism spectrum.

Findlayson is trying to equate social reproduction socialist-feminism with liberal feminism, in terms of strategic lameness and misdirection. But to pursue this reduction, she doesn’t see the strategic problem that is visible today: How do you counter a rivalristic, regional ruling class strategy that has always juggled a little bit of exploitation with a lot of expropriation?

In the late 19th century, industrial action, particularly in steel production, was effective because Western economies leaned on steel production at that time (Lawrence 2014).  At their most effective, industrial action was in truth collective action across working class communities. We just don’t see it because our delegated capitalist imaginations only recognize the exploited male labor, and so we’re gender blind.

Then there’s the issue: Western economies have moved on from the industrializing era. What does this mean for industrial action, or for smallholder political interests and strategy in regions that have been capturing global wealth?

Further, over the long haul, we have seen that capitalism cannot be dismantled simply by disrupting key nodes of exploitation, though conceived more broadly as building working-class communicative and egalitarian-cooperative capacity (by capitalist definition, disruptive; see also McAlevey 2016 for description), union-community action needs to be organized again–recognizing that militarization and policing is funded precisely to crush that organization. (Left Critics of the Left always uncannily forget about or black-box the massive repressive apparatus into which much of global wealth, energy, and human capacity is poured. This tradition of “Critical”/competitive kvetching (firing circle) Left “forgetting” always reads like a ritual that might easily be fanned by cops.)

By cohering a hierarchical economic alliance through selective exploitation, regional capitalists sell finance as a vehicle for expropriation, and they enjoin class-solidaristic, shifting-frenemy rivalries with each other. But the properly-capitalist exploitative mode is plodding as well as fungible and optional where there are other strategies–imperial war, for example–of pursuing elite rivalries for domination. Where there are other strategies is everywhere, all the time, because once you make money off of commodity production, you plunge it into higher-profit expropriative and rentier activities to keep your advantage and entitlements (See Pistor 2019, Piketty 2013). Exploitation and commodity production are a tool for organizing economy, society, and states under globalizing capitalist elites, and underwriting elite power expansion. Once the organization and underwriting have been accomplished, the real elite Power Resources are in taking, not making.

Industrial action cannot itself dismantle capitalism not only because capitalists possess the surveillance technology, the legal strategists, the economist marketeers and whips, the state, and layers of militarized police (as Adam Smith observed in 1776), not only because it’s far easier for less-numerous, habitually, socially class-solidaristic capitalists than workers to organize across space and scale, along with their supportive comprador class of lawyers and managers (as Adam Smith again observed in 1776, was demonstrated in the early 20th century strikes, and was analyzed by Bill Domhoff over his career), and not only because they possess the wealth to outlast resource-poor worker revolt, but also because erstwhile capitalists possess the economic degrees of freedom to shift to rents, extraction, and expropriation.

If workers and other smallholders in the West can be organized for internationalism, to solidaristically support Chinese and Indian worker revolt, that may well cause enough disruption to produce change, including some lessening of elite confidence. But we have learned that it will not be enough to direct change or maintain an egalitarian direction. Disruption is not the same as strategy, full human coordination capacity. We already have had neoliberalism producing change. What we need is to build the capacity to direct change strategically upon a temporary elite loss of confidence that industrial action could achieve, aiming to build up redistributive incentives. A key to collective agential change is agile, multipronged strategic capacity. Social Reproduction feminists are in one of the best positions to think strategically in this context, as I have indicated previously (Fridell 2017).

Socialist Social Reproduction feminism still has plenty of room for development, but it has been forwarded by some of the most powerful analysts of both logical structure and empirical variation, and, compatible with historically- and regionally-sensitive Political Marxism (per Meiksins-Wood), it holds out the promise of clarifying better anticapitalist strategy than is possible via idealist-discursive philosophy, including idealist-philosophical Marxism.

As Bourdieu suggested, idealist philosophy’s contribution to an egaliberte justice telos arrives when those philosophers turn their decisionist- genealogical and discursive-deconstructionist approaches on their own discipline…or even on conservative-liberal law and mainstream economics, if they cannot bear to critically analyze their own methods and knowledge’s structure and (given the encompassing historical context that philsophers are not interested in specifying) its effects. The neoliberal era is a long, conservatizing period in which junior managers and marketeers have aestheticized managing the variables they can control (for philosophers–critiquing equality-justice discursive logics), bereft of anything like Scenario Analysis–analyzing the optimal and worst case scenarios of how the products of that management interact with adjoining and governing incentives. For some reason in this conservatizing period, only financial managers have been allowed to assess management’s and products’ interactions with context.

To accomplish better socialist strategy, Social Reproduction feminism advances not idealist philosophy, but materialist philosophy. Historicist, socialist-feminist Social Reproduction scholarship and praxis, as well as new feminist indigenous theory, have reconstructed philosophical materialism as an egalitarian, internationalist form of cosmopolitanism supporting re-organization.

 

Bibliography

Benner, Erica. 2018 (1995). Really-existing Nationalisms. Verso.

Bezanson, K. and M. Luxton, eds. 2006. Social reproduction: Feminist political economy challenges neoliberalism. McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Bhattacharya, T., ed. 2017. Social Reproduction Theory: Remapping Class, Recentering Oppression. Pluto.

Federici, Silvia. 2018. Re-enchanting the World: Feminism and the Politics of the Commons. Pm Pr.

Federici, Silvia. 2004. Caliban and the Witch: Women, The Body, and Primitive Accumulation. Autonomedia.

Finlayson, Lorna. 2019. “Traveling in the Wrong Direction.” London Review of Books

Finlayson, Lorna. 2015. The Political is Political: Conformity and the Illusion of Dissent in Contemporary Political Philosophy.

Fraser, Nancy. 2017. “Roepke Lecture in Economic Geography— From Exploitation to Expropriation: Historic Geographies of Racialized Capitalism.” Economic Geography 94(1): 1–17.

Fraser, Nancy. 2013. Fortunes of feminism.

Fraser, Nancy and Axel Honneth. 2003. Redistribution or Recognition?

Fraser, Nancy and Linda Gordon. 1994. “Dependency Demystified: Inscriptions of Power in a Keyword of the Welfare State.” Social Politics 1(1): 4-31.

Fraser, Nancy and Linda Gordon. 1992. “Contract vs. Charity: Why Is There No Social Citizenship in the United States?” Socialist Review 22(3): 45-67.

Fridell, Mara. 2017. “The Social-Democratic Small-State Strategy and Immigration: Sweden in the 21st Century.” World Review of Political Economy. Vol. 8, No. 3, Small States in the Multi-polar World (Fall 2017), pp. 390-415.

Kollontai, Alexandra. 1916. Society and Motherhood.

Lawrence, Andrew G. 2014. Employer and Worker Collective Action: A Comparatie Study of Germany, South Africa, and the United States. New York: Cambridge University Press.

McAlevey, Jane. 2016. No shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age.

Meiksins-Wood, Ellen. 2014. “Capitalism’s Gravediggers.” Jacobin, December 5.

Pistor, Katharina. 2019. The Code of Capital: How the Law Creates Wealth and Inequality.

 

Queer-constructionist Political Economy?

Seriously, though, I don’t get the promotional friendship between Melinda Cooper and the US East Coast-networked leftists, their combined attempt to mischaracterize and discredit Nancy Fraser, as if she were an opponent of queer constructionism.

Where Fraser, as a philosopher, did a philosophical analysis of how neoliberalism co-opted the antimarxist liberal and postmodern feminism that developed upon a conservative philosophical tradition championing the justice telos of difference against the justice telos of egaliberte, Cooper just appropriates some of the 1990s family sociology and political soc work, tosses in a couple superficial gestures to Marx, and tacks it onto a hatchet job on Fraser. Australia has the worst academic production incentives. Maybe it would seem fresh and necessary if you were a Political Scientist and thought queer social constructionism was birthed in the 2016 H. Clinton multijurisdictional campaign. Cooper’s latest is the most manipulative, orchestrated, bad-faith academic work I have seen coming out of the social sciences in recent years. Because the empirical history retelling is so derivative, it seems like it was done just to sell the denunciation, maintain the conservative elite + patronaged-exception political coalition.

Every time I see a reviewer scratch “Masterful” or “Magesterial” next to Cooper’s cheap appropriation smacked onto a wildly-bad faith denunciation, I grow curiouser and curiouser. Is this about Political Science just co-opting Political Sociology work, and Political Scientists rallying behind that? After all these years, I finally worked out how much the tenured Arts academy (not just commercial science faculty) is a collection of people seeking patronage from (or contributing to the campaigns and interests of) political parties, foreign states and defense industry, banks, etc. Is this a security institutions thing–some attempt to hush down the political, antimarxist role of academic poststructuralism in the academy? Why is Cooper so well networked into the Anglo-American Atlantic–to the point where a quick ‘n’ dirty, basic, redundant lit review is hailed as “magesterial”? Usually, Australians are networked into the Commonwealth. Curiouser & curiouser.

Maybe Cooper gets carte blanche for some reason after “Life as Surplus”? Maybe she just earned publishing house-backed credit as someone who can crank out books. Again, quality is at issue.

For obdurate reasons of ontological difference, Queer social constructionism is not a logical fit with political economy. Micro constructionism (discursive essentialism) and macro-constructionism (political economy) can make space for each other, but they cannot fuse. All Cooper did to bridge the ontological incompatibility was fake a shared epistemology–by appropriating it. This is clearly not sustainable, because it required not producing knowledge but stealing the work of and then denouncing all the people who did the empirical work, the social science social reproduction feminists, whom Cooper dismissed by reducing and subsuming them under their philosophical-interpretive ally,  Fraser. This is not scholarship; it’s gaming. While I understand that ambition’s at play here, it’s really not going to work to demand that older feminists in particular submit like good cis-het girls to queer-careerists humping their leg, because to be a mature female feminist is also to work with being existentially queered, and it always has been. It’s not a choice. It’s not a strategy. It’s not a brand.

For leftists, it is not worth selling out all the socialist feminists who do the social reproduction empirical and theoretical work, have done it since Kollontai (1915), just to try to fake like there’s a viable, hybrid queer-constructionist political economy tradition or agenda to market. Don’t force it. If you need a queer path to political economy to fill out the cocktail party or to compete with a Coca-Cola commercial, some slightly-less-mercenary queer careerist can plagiarize Stephanie Coontz and Sarah Diamond (not queer enough 4 U ?) without profoundly disrespecting all the sex-heterogeneous socialist feminists and their work.

By contrast…The great things about Fraser are that as a philosopher she pays attention to the empirical, craft work of feminist social scientists without appropriating it. She does her own work. And b) her work is rigorous, reflective, coalitional and politic, informed by experience, and a reorienting, politically-necessary intellectual intervention that guides and clarifies ideas. Like a philosopher is supposed to. It’s not just a weathered French academicism–pre-scripted, delegated, conservative imperial market-state reproduction strategy–slap-dash and slathered with bluster, a la Cooper.

Egalitarian Sexuality Bibliography

Toward a theory of the macro-social construction of gender:

 

Kristen Ghodsee on better sex under socialism:

Ghodsee, K. 2017. Why women have better sex under socialism, and other arguments for economic independence.

Henwood, D. 2018. Interview with K. Ghodsee, “Why women have better sex under socialism.”

Miller, Jane. 2018. “Want better sex? Try socialism,” review of Ghodsee’s “Why women have better sex under socialism.”

Baker, Katie JM. 2013. “Cockblocked by Redistribution: A Pickup Artist in Denmark.” Dissent.

Kollontai, Alexandra. 1916. “Preface,” to the research study Society and Motherhood.

Conservatives’ War on Women

Refuting conservatives’ War on Moms (war on social reproduction):

“According to a 1995 U.N. Human Development Report, ‘If more human activities were treated as market transactions at the prevailing wages, they would yield huge monetary valuations–a staggering $16 trillion… Of this $16 trillion, $11 trillion is the non-monetized, ‘invisible’ contribution of women.’ The work of moms–both of moms who are in the labor force and those who are not–is significant

…with equal resumes and job experiences, mothers (today are) offered $11,000 lower starting salaries than non-mothers (Fathers, on the other hand, (are) offered $6,000 more in starting salaries than non-fathers). Since over 80 percent of women in our nation have children by the time they’re 44 years old, this means the majority of women in our nation are disadvantaged by discrimination at some point in their lives…(W)ith the cost of raising children so high, three-quarters of moms are now in the labor force. And many moms go in and out of the labor force at different times in their lives, sequencing their careers, thus making the distinction between moms who are in the labor force, and moms who are outside of the labor force nearly irrelevant. Many moms have been both”
(K. Rowe Finkbeiner, April 2012).

Finkbeiner points out that 50% of the workforce is now female (Coincidentally, 50% of the population is female.), in major part because the economy has been structured, via the asset-price / cost of living increases and consumer debt that capital depends on, to induce all adults to work to live within the constraints of capitalism. No, it’s not the abject slavery of having no access to money within capitalism (the classic middleclass dependent housewife fate); but (with all due respect to Gertrude,) coercion is coercion is unfreedom is vulnerable to exploitative manipulation by despots.

“But the brouhaha over Hilary Rosen’s injudicious remarks is not really about whether what stay-home mothers do is work. Because we know the answer to that: it depends. When performed by married women in their own homes, domestic labor is work—difficult, sacred, noble work. Ann says Mitt called it more important work than his own, which does make you wonder why he didn’t stay home with the boys himself.

When performed for pay, however, this supremely important, difficult job becomes low-wage labor that almost anyone can do—teenagers, elderly women, even despised illegal immigrants.

But here’s the real magic: when performed by low-income single mothers in their own homes, those same exact tasks—changing diapers, going to the playground and the store, making dinner, washing the dishes, giving a bath—are not only not work; they are idleness itself. … So there it is: the difference between a stay-home mother and a welfare mother is money and a wedding ring. Unlike any other kind of labor I can think of, domestic (reproductive) labor is productive or not, depending on who performs it” —Katha Pollitt, quoted by Corey Robin (April 2012).

Temma Kaplan argues that capitalists are in some historical periods, such as the present, confident about the supply of labor. When confident about the supply of labor, capitalists dismantle welfare, that is, they destroy reproductive social supports as well as democratic supports, and privately pocket “the savings” (the surplus).

As the wealth surplus is hoarded and destroyed, most people are impoverished, and these extreme conditions force particular adaptive relational strategies. Conservatives not only withhold the massive build-up of wealth; they buy popular support for their rule by paying off men with Little King privileges–abuse of women. Hey, it’s free. The poor consequently cannot build cohesive, productive, developmental cross-gender relationships; they cannot build supportive families and communities. It’s a wonderfully self-replicating hierarchical system for the elite. And it means poor women raise kids alone.

“Single women raising children alone or with other women who were not necessarily blood relatives became one of the possible working class family forms back to the 16th century…(P)oor women raising children alone or with kin and friends has been the model for one kind of proletarian family in certain places around the globe for centuries. It has been the family structure of poverty under capitalism.” –Kaplan, Temma. 2002. “The Disappearing Fathers Under Global Capitalism,” pp. 152-157 in Holmstrom, Nancy, ed. The Socialist-feminist Project. NY: MR.)

Decreeing– legislating!–that by submitting to patriarchy, by any means necessary, women will solve poverty = shooting the fish you stuck in your own poverty barrel. It preserves and champions inequality, surplus hoarding and capitals destruction, the sociopathic freedoms of the elite, and poverty, while playing with poor, disrupted, radically-constrained  women’s miseries. It solves no problems. It’s nothing more than bullying. It is conservatism.

Kaplan’s social-feminist theory, BTW, is obviously perfect for explaining Trump and Rightwing populism, and explaining slavery-state antichoice policy in 2019. It also suggests that population reproduction policy is not immaterial to the development of conservatism, as the pro-immigration Open Borders coalition has been trying to insist.

Feminism & Neoliberalism: Dovetail Development

Nancy Fraser on the co-development of the latter-20th century feminist movement and neoliberalism as a form of capitalism.

Neoliberalism wants cheap women workers.

Pillars of 2nd wave feminism (against state-organized capitalism) that melded with neoliberalism, post-1970s, to create the degraded form of feminism characteristic of the conservative age:

1) Critique of economism/focus on distributive justice –> cultural determinism, glorifying political-economic ignorance.
2) Critique of androcentrism, male family wage–> uncritical embrace of wage labour.
3) Critique of managerialism/technocracy/nation-state as arena of political contestation

–>market over state, deregulation, welfare state retrenchment.

It’s not just that feminism has been hijacked by capital.

There is an affinity between feminism & neoliberalism that enables their coalition: They both oppose traditional authority. Ideally, feminists oppose the traditional authority of elders, fathers, husbands; capitalists oppose traditional authority that slows or broadly redistributes profit accumulation. But capital has the resources and some feminists have the motivation to efface those specificities, or to cohere when the specifics overlap; and it’s capital’s terrain.

Current trends in feminist neoliberalism:

1) Today, feminism is less a critique of capitalism, and more of a contribution to neoliberalism, eg. microcredit finance as “answer” to poverty.

2) Gender and sexuality departments in universities are used to pioneer academic proletarianization, privatization and other neoliberal policies.

3) With the explosion of surveillance states, especially the US, feminist anti-male violence politics and policies are used as a tool to enforce US-centric state monopoly on violence and conservative policy orthodoxy within the capitalist World-system.

4) Feminist obeausity entrepreneurs oppose pro-working class food, health, and transit movements.

5) Neoliberal feminists continue to insist that we have to valorize popular political-economic illiteracy, which, they hold, is within a properly female domain, whereas they hold that political-economic literacy is “male.” This conceptualization translates in practice into the Victorian Progressivist/feminist assumption that a competent, educated woman’s work is properly low-paid/unpaid caregiving and hegemony transmission, wherefrom eventually elect women are promoted into caregiving and cultural management.

6) “Polyvocality” busywork keeps the young women fussing, fretting and preening about in the house, forever perfecting cocktail party guest lists and chiding each other about their manners, even as the house is being systematically dismantled by bulldozers, and plundered by Christian patriarchs, bankers, and oil men. It’s a prefigurative technique; it’s not political engagement. It’s a partial gesture, thats game-changing effectiveness requires social preconditions.

I agree strongly with Nancy Fraser’s dead-on observation that feminists (maybe because we come from different political and material vantage points) have not in this conservative era figured out how to oppose traditional authority in a way that makes feminism distinct from neoliberalism (that is, US-centric global monopoly capitalism).

While feminists who acknowledge this prefer to claim that feminism is just weaker than conservatism, and there is truth to that, it is also true that mainstream, liberal feminist politics and policies cohere feminists to neoliberal initiatives as well.

Eisenstein, Hester. 2009. Feminism Seduced: How Global Elites Use Women’s Labor and Ideas to Exploit the World. Boulder: Paradigm.

Eisenstein essentially takes up Viriginia Woolf’s enlightened charge in “Three Guineas” (1938).

and cites Johanna Brenner: “(M)ainstream feminist goals are entirely compatible with the economic doctrines of corporate globalization” (ix).

Judith Orr (2010) reviews the feminist terrain from England.

But for one anti-neoliberal feminist example, Naomi Wolf is always in there, drawing the line in the sand between capitalist class political projects and feminist commitments. You may prefer the (co-optable, acontextual) brand of female “purity” offered by liberal or radical feminism, but I really appreciate the dirty public role Wolf takes on in these controversies.

Prominent, reliable anti-neoliberal feminists include:

Nancy Fraser
Ellen Meiksins-Wood
Selma James
Judith Orr
Johanna Brenner
Hester Eisenstein
Naomi Wolf
Angela Davis
Barbara Ehrenreich
Julie Matthaei
Amy Goodman
Marilyn Waring
Jacqui M. Alexander
Chandra Talpade Mohanty
Pnina Werbner
Frances Fox Piven
Arlie Hochschild
Juliet Schor
Holly Sklar
Diane Elson
Mariane Ferber
Julie Nelson
Mimi Abromowitz
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
Kim Phillips-Fein
Stephanie Coontz
Lani Guinier
Brooksley Born (?)
Naomi Klein
Sasha Lilley
Kate Drabinski
Emily Drabinski
Karen Orren (?)

Historical left-feminists:

Alexandra Kollontai
Alice Field
Jenny Marx Longuet
Eleanor Marx
Annie Besant
Silvia Pankhurst
Virginia Woolf
Raya Dunayevskaya
Dora Monefiore
Clara Zetkin
Dolores Ibarruri
Lena Morrow Lewis
Harriet Taylor
Evelyn Reed
Kate Millett
Bernice Shoul
Teresa Ebert
Marlene Dixon

TBC…

What will feminists replace traditional patriarchal authority with, besides the orthodox, male-dominated US-centric market daddy wagon we’ve way too often been hitched to and steered by since the 1970s?

Neoliberal feminism is not so much an abeyance institution as it is a technique for advancing conservative initiatives that feast on the blood, sweat and tears of women– while letting feminists feel those familiar feminine feelings: righteous and altruistic and busy…and exhausted and frustrated. This is a central problem to feminism that should no longer be pussy-footed around in the interest of maintaining a vagina- and queer sexual identity-centered coalition.

 

It does not increase women’s freedoms to answer “We shall replace the capitalist capitan of our hearts with polyvocality,” the idealist, romantic, pluralist “substitute” for sometimes-coalitional, sometimes-contentious political democracy, and a diluted, denatured and anxiously-respectable form of resistance. Which is not to say polyvocality isn’t difficult. Indeed, under present might-makes-right social relations, polyvocality can never be substantively accomplished to challenge the order. That difficulty doesn’t mean it is the prime lever to order change.

We don’t exit hierarchical, exclusionary, patriarchal “gang” relations by urging an interdependent pluralistic voluntarism (AKA  polyvocality). There’s an alluring micro-macro homology to that theory–and it’s too easy, and the US has shown that the valorization of pluralism cannot counter social human organization and power within a hierarchy building, surplus accumulating framework.

Instead Enlightenment’s champions fight together, over centuries, to found institutions that systematically, broadly redistribute  resources, surplus, status, and power (This is the Frodo Baggins theory: Concentrated power is a burden that corrupts. Control tyranny by distributing power to those least capable of (ab)using it, and keep it moving around. I’m sorry, it’s very nerdly; but essentially, in this view, Lord of the Rings is an Enlightenment story about how you get to communism. It should be rewritten by a socialist-feminist.), and we fight to beat back organized, capital-backed coalitions of conservatives–people who specifically want to restrict power, status and surplus to a small group most able to abuse it.

This is a long haul. Sometimes it requires disruption; sometimes it requires coalition-building and alternative institution building. Because there is an outside context of motivated power that systematically rapes and pillages, you cannot (figuratively) expand the acequias outside the remote interstices (figuratively, Northern NM) unless you repeatedly fight the long fight, as well as build alternative institutions and culture. Here is where historical-materialist feminists do not buy the capitalist portrayal of communism. Yes, communists fight, and that is needed. Pacified alterity cannot induce change by itself, because surplus-accumulating power is complex enough and flexible enough to absorb it; and it is not enough to celebrate the marginalized existence of pacified alterity within a dehumanizing, environmentally-destructive system. We need to re-engage strategic, contentious politics, to disrupt, as historical political sociologists Frances-Fox Piven and Domhoff will agree.

As Lichterman says, it is strategic not to reify specific individuals and groups as opponents, so that we can recognize the moment’s coalition opportunities; but we always have to be able to recognize the conservative difference and oppose it. We understand that egalitarian liberation requires a role for creative, contentious collective strategy when we recognize, as Zizek notes, that an order, including patriarchy, mobilizes its defenders.  The twentieth century’s basic passion, “the belief that politics was the key to our truths as well as our myths,” (Hobsbawm 2012) has not been superceded, only suppressed for class warfare purposes.

 
Polyvocality is necessary, but so extremely insufficient, that by itself, it does more harm (contributes to tyranny) than good (moves us toward broad egalitarian, developmental relations). Within the context of organized conservatism, the process and goal of polyvocality, and the prefigurative politics of polyvocality tend to deliver not polyvocality but conservatism, in the form of neoliberalism (conservatism-cum-liberalism). This is because the capitalist market grotesquely amplifies the voice of the powerful, the accumulators. In a putatively-polyvocal (pluralist) regime, the automatically-amplified voice will drown out all others. Like voting, polyvocality is an utter and complete mirage under capitalism. It prettily promises that immediately we can model and deliver equal and sufficient liberation for all, and with herculean effort it may provide a freedom here or there, at a scale sufficient to keep the ladies busy with manners and guest list projects while egalitarian freedoms are crushed en masse. Not unlike white women’s traditional role in the US South. So far, polyvocality’s chief accomplishment is to support capitalist class cohesion, and insofar as feminists subscribe to it, to subsume non-elite women under the project of multicultural capitalist class cohesion. Polyvocality alone cannot reduce women-exploiting, women-crippling business as usual.
 
You cannot move toward either political or cultural democracy if you are studiously neglecting and forever deferring to disrupt the egregious, overbuilt, institutionalized, hierarchically-structured relationships of tyranny and domination–our relationships within the oikos, our relationships to the surpluses extracted and amassed, and to those who control them–that structure our everyday lives. That neglect is the result of making the wrong (respectable, proper) coalitions.
 

Polyvocality has to be a preservation practice of monastery communities, and a second-tier goal, after feminists have stopped forming “coalitions” with (being co-opted by) capital’s primitive accumulation and exploitation initiatives, and have instead embraced the long hard road of forming capitalist order-disruptive, organization-building coalitions with the working class, which is not male (even if conservatives have had some of it wishing it were). It’s obvious that US working class institutions are heavily to blame for this coalition failure–but they’re nearly obliterated now. 


The point I am making in this post:
Feminists need a socialist backbone not because socialism is a more transhistorically-essential political program; not at all. Feminists need a socialist backbone because without a critique of capital, in a capitalist context, feminism will be emphatically subsumed by and subordinated to conservative surplus and power accumulation projects that eviscerate feminist achievements and obstruct feminist goals.


The conservatives are showing us that in the US, time and time again, they can invoke and wield Little King politics that promise, no matter what else might be going on, that every dispossessed American can join together with the political-economic elite in ruling with an iron fist over women as a group. That political strategy cannot be beat back and held down unless feminists can join together with socialists to advance, both with some prefigurative politics and with plenty of non-innocent, political conflict, both the egalitarian distribution of the wealth society collectively creates and post-feudal freedoms for all.

Women who have emerged from abuse know–You cannot overcome systematic abuse with a culture of “egalitarian” respect and listening, practiced by only one side, the abused. Now consider this difference in this analogy: We cannot exit our abusive relationship (based in surplus and power accumulation)–We cannot exit our planet, and find a more supportive “women’s shelter” planet. Ours is the long, hard battle not just to maintain a distinct, better vision of human relations, but to engage in conflict, to subdue, and to conquer the oppressor–as the political-economic opportunity strikes (as he loses coherence, confidence, hegemonic monopoly), and put him on a new track, within which he is motivated and compelled to share in the reproductive provisioning and to share resources, status, and power.

At that point the idealists–the anarchists and postmodernists have an important role to play in fostering reinforcing polyvocal culture and art. The monks and nuns of prefigurative politics will take care of themselves today. We need to be fostering, valorizing, and protecting organizers, strategists, communist horizon theorists (including socialist-feminists), monkeywrenchers, and fighters.