If you are having trouble with the NLR website, please provide details here, and we will try to improve the site accordingly.
Women’s Domestic Labour
This contribution to current debates about the political economy of housework has two specific objectives.  Firstly, it presents a critique of Wally Seccombe’s article in nlr 83, ‘The Housewife and her Labour under Capitalism’. Secondly, it looks at two questions currently under discussion amongst Marxist feminists concerning women’s domestic labour. Why have housework and childcare, in modern industrial capitalist societies such as Britain, continued to such a great extent to be the responsibility of women and organized on a private family basis? What are the pressures working for or against fundamental change in the economic role of women within the family in the current phase of British capitalism? Since Seccombe does not himself attempt to answer these questions, it may not be immediately obvious why they should be linked to a critique of his article. However, it is his failure to relate the theory of women’s domestic labour to questions such as these, which are of key political importance to socialists in the women’s movement, that forms the basis of this critique—rather than the existence of internal inconsistencies or obscurity in his arguments themselves. I shall begin by summarizing and criticizing the core of Seccombe’s article, which concerns the role of women’s domestic labour in value creation. There will then follow a more general examination of Seccombe’s political and theoretical framework, which is counterposed to the approach of socialist feminists. This will lead into discussion of why women’s domestic labour has retained such importance in the reproduction and maintenance of the labour force. In conclusion, I shall look at the possible pressures currently working for or against change in the role of domestic labour.
Subscribe for just £35 and get free access to the archive
Please login on the left to read more or buy the article for £3
- Margaret Coulson, Branka Magas, Hilary Wainwright: 'The Housewife and her Labour under Capitalism'--A Critique
- Fred Halliday, Jon Halliday, Gareth Stedman Jones, Lucien Rey: Communication on Women's Liberation
- Maxine Molyneux: Beyond the Domestic Labour Debate
- Wally Seccombe: The Housewife and Her Labour Under Capitalism
- Wally Seccombe: Domestic Labour: Reply to Critics