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Nancy Fraser, “Contradictions of Capital and Care,” New Left Review 100 Jul-Aug 2016

The ‘crisis of care’ is currently a major topic of public debate. [1] Often linked to ideas of ‘time poverty’, ‘family-work balance’, and ‘social depletion’, it refers to the pressures from several directions that are currently squeezing a key set of social capacities: those available for birthing and raising children, caring for friends and family members, maintaining households and broader communities, and sustaining connections more generally. [2] Historically, these processes of ‘social reproduction’ have been cast as women’s work, although men have always done some of it too. Comprising both affective and material labour, and often performed without pay, it is indispensable to society. Without it there could be no culture, no economy, no political organization. No society that systematically undermines social reproduction can endure for long. Today, however, a new form of capitalist society is doing just that. The result is a major crisis, not simply of care, but of social reproduction in this broader sense.

I understand this as one aspect of a ‘general crisis’ that also encompasses economic, ecological and political strands, all of which intersect with and exacerbate one another. The social-reproduction strand forms an important dimension of this general crisis but is often neglected in current discussions, which focus chiefly on economic or ecological dangers. This ‘critical separatism’ is problematic; the social strand is so central to the broader crisis that none of the others can be properly understood in abstraction from it. However, the converse is also true. The crisis of social reproduction is not freestanding and cannot be adequately grasped on its own. How then should it be understood? My claim is that the ‘crisis of care’ is best interpreted as a more or less acute expression of the social-reproductive contradictions of financialized capitalism. This formulation suggests two ideas. First, the present strains on care are not accidental, but have deep systemic roots in the structure of our social order, which I characterize here as financialized capitalism. Nevertheless, and this is the second point, the present crisis of social reproduction indicates something rotten not only in capitalism’s current, financialized form but in capitalist society per se….

See also Nancy Fraser, “Behind Marx's Hidden Abode: For an Expanded Conception of Capitalism,”
New Left Review 86 Mar-Apr 2014.

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