[Marxism] Safe nurse staffing, permanent revolution, and women's liberation

Fred Murphy fred.r.murphy at gmail.com
Thu Jun 16 13:46:54 MDT 2016

Andrew, thanks for bringing this victory to our attention. Your post calls
to mind  Nancy Fraser's essay "Behind Marx's Hidden Abode" in *New Left
Review* 86 (Mar-Apr 2014):

"Structurally, moreover, the division between social reproduction and
commodity production is central to capitalism—indeed, is an artefact of it.
As scores of feminist theorists have stressed, the distinction is deeply
gendered, with reproduction associated with women and production with men.
Historically, the split between ‘productive’ waged work and unwaged
‘reproductive’ labour has underpinned modern capitalist forms of women’s
subordination. Like that between owners and workers, this division, too,
rests on the break-up of a previous world. In this case, what was shattered
was a world in which women’s work, although distinguished from men’s, was
nevertheless visible and publicly acknowledged, an integral part of the
social universe. With capitalism, by contrast, reproductive labour is split
off, relegated to a separate, ‘private’ domestic sphere, where its social
importance is obscured. And in this new world, where money is a primary
medium of power, the fact of its being unpaid seals the matter: those who
do this work are structurally subordinate to those who earn cash wages,
even as their work also supplies necessary preconditions for wage labour.

"Far from being universal, then, the division between production and
reproduction arose historically, with capitalism. But it was not simply
given once and for all. On the contrary, the division mutated historically,
taking different forms in different phases of capitalist development.
During the 20th century, some aspects of social reproduction were
transformed into public services and public goods, de-privatized but not
commodified. Today, the division is mutating again, as neoliberalism
(re)privatizes and (re)commodifies some of these services, while also
commodifying other aspects of social reproduction for the first time. By
demanding retrenchment of public provision while at the same time massively
recruiting women into low-waged service work, moreover, it is remapping the
institutional boundaries that previously separated commodity production
from social reproduction, and thus reconfiguring the gender order in the
process. Equally important, by mounting a major assault on social
reproduction, it is turning this background condition for capital
accumulation into a major flashpoint of capitalist crisis. ...

"What counts as an anti-capitalist struggle is thus much broader than
Marxists have traditionally supposed. As soon as we look behind the
front-story to the back-story, then all the indispensable background
conditions for the exploitation of labour become foci of conflict in
capitalist society. Not just struggles between labour and capital at the
point of production, but also boundary struggles over gender domination,
ecology, imperialism and democracy. But, equally important: the latter now
appear in another light—as struggles in, around and, in some cases, against
capitalism itself. Should they come to understand themselves in these
terms, these struggles could conceivably cooperate or unite."


On Thu, Jun 16, 2016 at 9:42 AM, Andrew Pollack via Marxism <
marxism at lists.csbs.utah.edu> wrote:

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> Yesterday the State Assembly in New York passed a bill sought by nurses
> which will force hospitals to have safe staffing levels, i.e. to have as
> many nurses as their patients need.
> ​ [snip]

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