Reflections on feminism, immaterial labour and the post Fordist regime

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Issue: 
Summer 2010
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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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