malcolm's last post on marxist-feminism

Malcolm.MacLean at vuw.ac.nz Malcolm.MacLean at vuw.ac.nz
Sun Nov 13 16:17:32 MST 1994


On November 9, Tom (tgs at cunyvms1.gc.cuny.edu) wrote:

>Malcolm.
>Two problems I have with your analysis
>
>1) AS Lulu has already argued, analyses like yours reduce all
>>base/superstructure
>models to "mono-causal" explanations. I have no problem with saying or arguing
>that patriarchal attitudes and oppressions have an autonomy from the capitalist
>economic system, the capitalists' corporate media, etc.  But the questions you
>leave begging, are a) why does patriarchy achieve such a strong hold when
>it does in history--i.e., with the development of class society and the state.
>Why does it become so powerful?  Because  it serves the rising ruling class,
>which, according to Reich, is the tribal chieftan--aspiring state power wielder
>and surplus collecter, who begins to enforce a system of dowries, systems of
>inheritance, etc. and thus domestication of women and children and their
>demoralization.

Exactly my point.  These developments serve to _reinforce_ patriarchal
power, but neither is dependent on the other to survive.  Capitalism and
patriarchy _are_ relatively autonomous but mutually interdependent with the
result that they take on different forms under different circumstances.

>2) You reduce "class location" to common culture, a la Weber's substitution
>of status for class.  Class is not a matter of culture; if you make it so
>then the concept becomes meaningless.

If you think that is what I have done, then you have misread my case
regarding the effects of women's economic and class locations.  It is not
an argument equating class with culture - nothing could be further from my
intention or outlook.  My argument is that working class men and women have
significantly different class cultures - not that they are different
classes.  They are both working class, but there are significant difference
between the way they see and relate to the world.

It is a continuation of my argument in favour of historically and
locationally (spatially) specific interpretations.  In the case of analyses
of the world of working class people and actions based on that
interpretaion, Tom, you will recall that I said that the assumption of a
common (ie, gender free) working class culture ("common existence and
series of relationships") leads to the exclusion of working women through
their discursive absorption into a male working class.

In other words, the problem I saw with the debate as it was, and seems to
be largely continuing, is that its totalizing format is denying differences
within the working class.  Ironically, these are the very differences you
recognise within the bourgeoisie when you write:
>You do admit
>that the bourgeoisie exist, don't you?  (Damn right they do! - MM)  But do
>they >share a completely
>homogenous culture?  Do Wealthy  bankers enjoy the same culture as small
>factory owners in shithole towns in Pennsylvania.

In the words of Billy Bragg "You can borrow ideas but you can't borrow
situations" ('North Sea Bubble' from _Don't Try This At Home_, Liberation
Records).  All I want us to do is to back off from the all embracing,
encompassing tone so as to allow the application of ideas to different
situations.

Yours, in opposition to analytical monolithism

Malcolm MacLean
malcolm.maclean at vuw.ac.nz

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Everyone talks of freedom, but there are few that act for freedom, and the
actors for freedom are oppressed by the talkers.
                                                 Gerard Winstanley
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To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call
on them to give up a condition that requires illusions.
                                                 Karl Marx
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A revolutionary organization must always remember that its objective is not
getting people to listen to speeches by expert leaders, but getting them to
speak for themselves.
                                                 Guy Debord
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