Reflections on feminism, immaterial labour and the post Fordist regime

Summer 2010

In the many articles and books written in recent years on the topic of precarious labour, immaterial and affective labour, all of which are understood within the over-arching frame of post-Fordist regimes of production, there is a failure to foreground gender, or indeed to knit gender and ethnicity into prevailing concerns with class and class struggle. I seek to rectify this by interrogating some of the influential work in this terrain. I draw attention to those accounts which have reflected on gender and on changes in how feminists and sociologists nowadays think about the question of women and employment. I ask the question, how integral is the participation of ‘women’ to the rise of post-Fordist production, and what kind of role do women, especially young women now play in the urban-based new culture industries? By prioritising gender I am also critiquing its invisibility in this current field of new radical political discourse associated with writers like Hardt and Virno (eds 1996) and Hardt and Negri (2000). I argue for a more historically informed perspective which pays attention to the micro-activities of earlier generations of feminists who were at the forefront of combining forms of job creation with political activity (eg women’s book stores and publishing, youth-work or ‘madchenarbeit’, child care and kinderladen ) under the auspices of what would now be called ‘social enterprise’.

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