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The Sexual Division of Labour in Feudal England
The creation of a political economy of sexual divisions has undoubtedly been one of the most significant intellectual outcomes of the recent feminist revival. The call in the early seventies for the development of an historical and materialist (though not always Marxist) account of sexual division, oppression and conflict met with an immediate and enthusiastic response, so that the last few years have seen the emergence of a prolific literature exploring the articulation of capitalism with the sexual division of labour and its attendant relations of sexual authority and subordination. Attention has been drawn to the home as a centre of production as well as of consumption, socialization and psychological retreat; and the question of reproduction, in all its senses, is now a central concern of many Marxist studies of the workings of capitalism. Women’s responsibility for childcare and housework no longer passes unnoticed—a natural, unchanging phenomenon unworthy of serious consideration—but has come to be considered in both historical and comparative perspective. As yet, however, most of the work in this vein has been historical in conception rather than in detail. For example, the ‘domestic labour debate’, which has sought to establish the essential relationships between domestic labour, wage labour and surplus production under capitalism, has been conducted at a very high level of theoretical abstraction with little regard for historical variations in the form of capitalism.  Elsewhere, studies of the impact of industrialism and capitalism on the position of women may have adopted a more substantive approach, but have nevertheless tended to represent this process in the most broad and general terms. 
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