Marxist and Socialist Feminism Module

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Marxist and Socialist Feminism Module


Interdisciplinarity and interdisciplinarity have influenced feminist theory since its inception. Feminist theory has been reshaped by many mainstream theoretical approaches in its understanding of female oppression. The failure of liberal welfarism and radical patriarchal feminist agenda of women’s liberation paved the way for Marxist and socialist feminism. Marxist and socialist feminists claim that it is impossible for women to achieve true freedom in a class-based capitalist society where the powerless many, who produce wealth, are deprived of it. Private ownership of the means of production by a relatively small number of people, essentially all men, inaugurated a class system whose contemporary manifestations are corporate capitalism and imperialism.


  Reflecting on this situation reveals that not only larger social norms that privilege men over women, but capitalism itself is the cause of women’s oppression. The true emancipation of women demands that the capitalist system be replaced by a socialist system in which the means of production are owned by all. No longer dependent on men financially, women would be as independent as men.


Basic Principles of Marxism: Subordination of Gender Perspective under Class Perspective:

Marxism is based on the influential works by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (1848) in The.

In ‘The Communist Manifesto’, Marx (1859) ‘A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy’ and Engels’ ‘The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State’, classism rather than sexism is regarded as the root cause of women Is. Daman. For the Marxist, material forces – the production and reproduction of social life – are the prime movers in history. In other words, Marx believed that a society has a total mode of production—that is, its forces of production (the raw materials, tools, and labor that actually produce the goods) and its relations of production (the ways in which production is organized) – generates a superstructure (a layer of legal, political and social ideas) which in turn reinforces the mode of production (Tong, 2009).


Marx and Engels focused on class struggle as the driving force of history; He paid little attention to “gender class”. Shulamith Firestone, a radical feminist, following Marxist dialectics, claimed that the material basis of the sexual/political ideology of female subordination and male supremacy lay in the reproductive roles of men and women. She proposes to compensate for this by developing a feminist version of historical materialism in which sexual class rather than economic class is the central concept. Firestone stated that a major biological and social revolution would be needed to effect such human liberation.


According to Marxist feminists, women’s liberation can only be achieved through a radical restructuring of the current capitalist economy, in which much of women’s labor is uncompensated and invisible. Two types of labor exist in the capitalist system. Following Engels, Marxist feminists such as Margaret Benston and Peggy Morton emphasized that:

Productive labour: in which labor results in goods or services that have monetary value in a capitalist system and are thus paid for by producers.

  1. Compensation is given in the form of salary.

Reproductive labour: which is associated with the private sector and includes anything that people have to do for themselves that is not for the purposes of receiving wages (ie cleaning, cooking, raising children).

Engels- Origin of the family, private property and the state:


Although the fathers of Marxism did not take the oppression of women as seriously as they did the oppression of workers, Engels offered an explanation for the oppression of women. Engels – The


The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State’ (1845) showed how changes in people’s material conditions affected the organization of their family relations. Engels speculated that primitive hunting gathering; Libertarian societies could be not only matriarchal but also matriarchal societies in which women ruled at political, social, and economic levels (Tong, 2009). Only when the location of production changed did women lose their privileged position. Engels stated that a paradigm shift occurred with the advent of agriculture, the domestication of animals, and the breeding of herds. Somehow, the male-female power balance shifted in favor of the men, as the men learned to produce enough animals to meet the tribe’s needs for milk and meat. As the importance of men’s work and production increased, the value of women’s work, production and women’s status declined.

With the new social status, men suddenly wanted their own biological children (by establishing control over pre-existing free female sexuality) in order to inherit their wealth and exerted enormous pressure to transform society from matriarchal to patriarchal. Engels introduced

The “world-historical defeat of womanhood” as “the overthrow of the authority of the mother”

le sex” (Engels, 1845: 118-119). In this new family order, Engels said, the husband ruled by virtue of his economic power:

“She is the bourgeois and the wife represents the proletariat” (Engels, 1845: 118–119). Engels believed that men’s power over women lay in men’s control of private property. He believed that with the dissolution of the institution of private property, the oppression of women would stop.

From Marxism to Marxist Feminism:


Classical Marxist feminists work within the ideological field set by Marx, Engels, Lenin and other nineteenth-century thinkers. During the communist revolution of 1917 in Russia, women were invited to enter the productive workforce with the expectation that economic independence would increase the possibility for women to develop self-confidence and place themselves in meaningful human history (Tong, 2009). Will watch as producers. But found this troubling:

  1. The relegation of most women to low-grade “women’s work” (i.e., secretarial work; rote factory work; and service work, which includes cooking, cleaning, and caring for the basic needs of the young) as old, and null);


  1. Reaffirmation of the sexual division of labor through the creation of “female occupations” and “male occupations”;
  2. Paying less wages to women than those paid to men;
  3. Whether or not to use women as a “vast reservoir of labor force” depending on the states’ need for workers (Voronina, 1993: 107).


Like Marxists in general, Marxist feminists claim that social existence determines consciousness. Thus, Marxist feminists hold that in order to understand the unique character of women’s oppression, we need to analyze the relationship between women’s work status and women’s self-image (Holmstrom, 1984: 464).


According to Marx, capitalist ideology leads workers and employers to focus on the superficial structure of capitalism’s exchange relations (Schmidt, : 96–97) where workers gradually convince themselves that even if their money is earned through hard work, Earned from, there is nothing wrong in it. specific exchange relationship into which they have entered, but, as Marxists and socialist feminists see it, when a poor, illiterate, unskilled woman chooses to sell her sexual or reproductive services, it is likely that her choice is less than free. is more compelling in (Tong, 2009) .


Marx saw that every class-divided political economy (from the primitive communal state, slave society, pre-capitalist society to present-day capitalist society) contained the seeds of its own destruction. According to Marx, when these two groups of people, the haves and the have-nots, both become aware of them as classes, class struggle begins and eventually leads to the overthrow of the system that produced these classes. gives. As Marxist and socialist feminists seek to view women as a collectivity, Marxist teachings on class and class consciousness play a large role in Marxist and socialist feminist thought.


A Marxist answer to the question of women’s oppression would point to the sexual division of labor and the implications of this division for power differences between women and men. By Broadening the Marxist Concept of Reproduction to Include Domestic Labor and Child Care, Margaret Benston, Mariar

Feminists such as Rosa Dalla Costa, Selma James, Sylvia Walby and Clara Zetkin made major contributions.


Our understanding of the interaction of gender and the economy. He has emphasized the following ideas:

Socialization of Domestic Work:

Margaret Benston defined women as that class of people “responsible for the production of simple use-values in activities connected with the home and family” (Benston, 1969: 16). Focusing on the exclusion of women from productive labor as the most important. The source of female oppression, some Marxist feminists argued for the inclusion of domestic work within the labor capitalist economy. According to Benston, the feminist plan for women’s emancipation through bringing women into the productive workforce would be thwarted if it was not supported by simultaneous tasks of cooking, cleaning, and child care.

To be sure, she acknowledged, the socialization of domestic work allows women to do the same “female” work outside the home as they do inside the home, but with remuneration and recognition. Wage employment would increase the likelihood of men taking those jobs and thus the status of these jobs (Benston, 1969: 16).


Wages for housework:

Marxist feminist thinkers, Dalla Costa and James, claimed that women’s work inside the home produces surplus value (Dalla Costa and James, 1972). They argued that women’s domestic work was a necessary condition for all other labour, which in turn extracted surplus value. By providing not only food and clothing but also emotional comfort to current (and future) workers, women keep the cogs of the capitalist machine running. Therefore, Dalla Costa and James argued,

Employers of men must pay women wages for the housework they do (Dalla Costa and James, 1972).

Her suggestion drew much criticism from within and outside feminist discourse.

The complexities associated with the modus operandi of wage payment for domestic work make it untenable (not all or even most women in advanced capitalist economies are domestic workers; if they are to be paid wages for domestic work, employers may Will pay housewives. Husbands take less salary, if they have to go out Most small companies


business etc). Some feminists argued that if housework became remunerative, it could stifle women’s education and other productive intellectual pursuits, thereby reversing the process of female emancipation. This may push them more within the four walls of the house.


Comparative Price:

Marxist feminists have focused their attention on the unequal way in which the sexual division of labor operates within society in the capitalist world where men and women are paid differently for doing comparable work. A job that has a higher number of women is much less remunerated than a job that is dominated by men. Marxist feminists see this as having far-reaching consequences on reducing the feminization of poverty.


The Emergence of Socialist Feminism: A Synthesis of Marxist Feminism, Radical Feminism and

psychoanalytic feminism


In its search for origins, socialist feminism combines Marxist, radical and psychoanalytic feminism. Socialist feminism broadens the gender blindness of Marxist feminism in explaining the role of capitalism in the oppression of women on the one hand and the role of gender in subordinating women and the idea of patriarchy on the other hand includes the idea of radical feminism (Buchanan, 2011) ). While Marxists and radical feminists emphasized the wider social aspects of women’s oppression; Psychoanalytic feminists, in their respective interpretations of the oppression of women, have emphasized that the oppression of women is deeply rooted in the female psyche. Recognizing the Freudian Oedipus complex as the root of male rule, or patriarchy, some psychoanalytic feminists speculate that the Oedipus complex is nothing more than a product of men’s imagination – a mental trap that everyone, especially women, must avoid. Must try. Others such as Ortner, Dorothy Dinnerstein, and Nancy Chodorow accept some version of the Oedipus complex as the experience that integrates the individual into society. He postulated that dual parenting and dual participation in the workforce would alter the gender valence of the Oedipus complex (Chodoro, 1978). Authority, autonomy and sovereignty would no longer be the exclusive property of men; Love, dependence and exclusivity will no longer be the exclusive property of women (Tong, 2009). Socialist feminists thus see women’s liberation as a necessary part of a larger quest for social, economic, and political action.


From Marxist Feminism to Socialist Feminism:



Influenced by historical materialism, socialist feminists consider the sexism of each historical era and how the gendered division of labor is determined by the economic system of that time. Those conditions are largely expressed through capitalist and patriarchal relations. Socialist feminists thus reject the Marxist notion that class and class

Conflict is the defining aspect of history and economic development.


To understand socialist feminism, one has to understand practice. Praxis is a Marxist concept that refers to the ability of humans to consciously alter the environment to meet their needs. Socialist feminists, like Marxist feminists, believe that behavior is universal to all human beings. Unlike Marxist feminists, socialist feminists believe that practices have gender specific forms and extend to the private sphere of life. In contrast to Marxist feminist theory, socialist feminists believe that the home is not only a place of consumption, but also of production. Women’s work within the home, producing and raising children, as well as supporting men in cooking, cleaning, and other household chores, which allows men to work outside the home, all produce forms because they contribute to society at large. According to socialist feminists production should not be measured in dollars, but in social value.


Socialist feminists agree with both Marxist feminists that capitalism is the source of women’s oppression, and with radical feminists that patriarchy is the source of women’s oppression. Therefore, in the estimation of socialist feminists, the way to end the oppression of women is to kill capitalist patriarchy or the two-headed beast of patriarchal capitalism. Guided by this goal, socialist feminists seek to develop theories that explain the relationship between capitalism and patriarchy.

Socialist feminists have developed two different approaches to overcome the limitations of traditional Marxist feminism on the one hand and radical and psychoanalytic feminism on the other.

They are: a) Dual System Theory and b) Unified System Theory









Dual system theorists hold that patriarchy and capitalism are different forms of social relations and different sets of interests that, when they intersect, oppress women more. To fully understand the oppression of women, both patriarchy and capitalism must be analyzed first as separate phenomena and then as phenomena that are dialectically related to each other. While all dual system theorists describe capitalism as a material structure or historically rooted mode of production, only a few describe patriarchy as a material structure or historically rooted mode of reproduction or sexuality. Others describe patriarchy as a non-material structure, a broadly conceptual and/or psychoanalytical structure that transcends the contingencies of place and time (Tong, 1999).

A non-materialist account of patriarchy and a materialist account of capitalism: Juliet Mitchell is an example of dual system theorists who combined a non-materialist account of patriarchy with a materialist account of capitalism. Mitchell’s account of patriarchy was non-material because some aspects of women’s lives within the family are economic (the result of changes made to the mode of production in space and through time) while others are bio-social (women’s rights). the result of the interaction between a) biology and the social environment); And still others are ideological (the result of society’s ideas about the way women should relate to men). Despite changes in the mode of production, these bio-social and ideological aspects would essentially remain the same. Thus, even under socialism, women would remain oppressed to some degree


Unless the defeat of capitalism is accompanied by the defeat of patriarchy. She suggests that while the economic aspects of patriarchy can be changed through material means, its biosocial and ideological aspects can only be changed through non-material means—through the rewriting of the psycho-sexual drama (Tong, 1999).

A Materialist Account of Patriarchy and a Materialist Account of Capitalism: Heidi Hartman defines patriarchy as “a set of social relations between men that have a material basis”.


This material basis lies in men’s historical control over women’s labor power; This control is constituted by restricting women’s access to important economic resources and by denying women any control over female sexuality and especially female fertility. Men’s control over women’s labor force varies from society to society and over time (for example, it manifests as a woman’s need to please her husband or lover so that he can support her and her children). Do not leave; or as a woman’s need to please her boss so that he will not fire her).

Marxist analysis predicts that patriarchy will wither away in the face of capitalism’s need to make everyone a proletariat. A feminist analysis predicts that capitalism and patriarchy will reach some sort of compromise on the women’s question. Considering the current sexual division of labor, which results in women being underpaid and overworked, Hartmann concluded that men’s desire to control women is at least as strong as capital’s desire to control workers. Keeps Capitalism and patriarchy are not two heads of the same animal. They are two different beasts, each of which must be fought with different weapons (Tong, 1999).

Integrated Systems Theory:


According to R. Tong (1999), in contrast to dual system theorists, integrative system theorists attempt to analyze capitalism and patriarchy simultaneously through the use of a single concept. According to these theorists, capitalism is no more separate from patriarchy than the mind is from the body. This is a more ambitious form of socialist feminism than a dualist approach, because if there is an ideological lens through which all dimensions of women’s oppression can be filtered, then it may be possible to unite all feminists. Approach.

  1. a) Gender division of labor as a unifying concept: Young believed that feminists who wanted to avoid the pitfalls of the dual system approach to capitalist patriarchy needed to develop a new core concept for Marxist theory. She suggested that the gender category “division of labour” has the ideological power to transform Marxist feminist theory into socialist feminist theory, which


Powerful enough to accommodate Marxist, radical and psychoanalytic feminist insights in a unitary framework

According to Young labor analysis has the advantage of being more specific than a class analysis. A division of labor analysis requires a detailed, very concrete discussion of, for example, who gives orders and who takes them, who does motivational work and who does strenuous work, who works desirable shifts. And who works undesirable shifts and who is overpaid and who is underpaid. Division of labor analysis may better explain why women usually take orders, do harder work, work unwanted shifts, and get less pay.


Whereas men usually give orders. All these analyzes actually suggest that a Marxist class analysis can be complemented by a feminist division of labor analysis. As Young observed, capitalism is very conscious of the gender, race, and ethnicity of its workers. Since a large reserve of unemployed labor is necessary to keep wages low and meet unexpected demands for an increased supply of goods and services, capitalism has both implicit and explicit criteria for determining who is its primary, employed worker. Who will constitute the workforce and who will serve its own secondary, unemployed workforce. Capitalism has its own patriarchal norms to identify men as primary work force material and women as secondary work force material. Because women were needed at home in a way that men were not or so the patriarchy concluded that men were freer to work outside the home than women (Tong, 1999).

  1. b) Alienation as a Integrative Concept: Alison Jagger was working towards Integrative Systems Theory and as a youth she put forward a concept other than class as the quintessential Marxist concept. In her book ‘Feminist Politics and Human Nature’, Jagger identified the concept of alienation as one that would provide us with an adequate theoretical framework to accommodate the core insights of Marxist, radical, psychoanalytic and even liberal feminist thought.

Work under capitalism becomes a dehumanizing activity. Jagger organized a discussion of women’s alienation, fragmentation and fragmentation under the auspices of sexuality, motherhood and intellectualism. Under capitalism, in the same way that a wage worker is alienated, or separated, from the product she produces, a woman is also alienated from the product she works on: her body. A woman may think that she is beautifying herself by dieting, exercising, and dressing up, but in reality she is probably shaping and decorating her body for the satisfaction of men (Tong, 1999). Many times a woman talks little or nothing about the control and use of her body (voyeuristic gaze for rape). this process of objectification


The worker (she is merely a machine from which labor power is extracted) and the woman (an instrument of male satisfaction) are objectified and the unfair competition between them intensified.

Motherhood, like sexuality, is a different experience for women. According to Jagger, just as a worker becomes alienated from the product she produces, a woman becomes alienated from the product of her reproductive labor when she is replaced by someone else (family, husband/partner, state population policy, economic situation, cheap labour, social prejudices like son preference etc.), decide the number of children she should have.

Jagger continued; Since workers have no control over or identification with the process of production in highly technical assembly such as production under capitalism; Women are also alienated from the process of their reproductive labour. Obstetricians exercise complete control over the birthing process, sometimes performing medically unnecessary caesarean sections and/or anesthetizing the woman against her will. With the advent of the most sophisticated technological tools under new reproductive techniques, women are likely to be further alienated from the product and process of childbirth (Tong, 1999).



Raising children, like having children, is a different experience when scientific experts, (most of whom are men) not women, take charge of it. As Jaggar sees it, the pressure on mothers is immense, as they have to follow every diktat of the experts, with virtually no help. One of the most troubling features of a mother’s estrangement from her children is that her inability to see her children as individuals is equated only with her inability to see them as individuals. Proper motherhood hinders the development of friendships between women, as mothers compete with each other to produce and process complete babies.

Finally, Jagger stated that not only are many women alienated from their own sexuality and the product and process of motherhood, but they are also alienated from their own intellectual potential. A woman is made to feel so low about herself that she hesitates to express her views in public; For fear that her views are not worth expressing and for fear that she will come across as a hypocrite and not of knowledge.

To the extent that Young was convinced that a gendered division of labor is necessary for capitalism, Jagger believed that the use of a theoretical framework of alienation identifies the contemporary oppression of women as a specific phenomenon of the capitalist form of male dominance. Jagger concluded that although the overthrow of capitalism might end the exploitation of women as well as men in the productive workforce, it would not end women’s alienation from everything and everyone, especially from themselves.75 Only The overthrow of patriarchy will enable women to become full individuals (Tong, 2009).



Contemporary Socialist Feminism:

Like Young and Hartmann, Sylvia Walby

saw petr

Monarchy is situated in six somewhat independent structures: unpaid domestic work, wages, culture, sexuality, male violence and the state (Walby, 2003: 45). These structures, and their relative importance, varied from one historical era to another. For example, Walby noted that patriarchy repressed women mostly in the private sector of domestic production during the nineteenth century, and in the twentieth century mostly in paid labor and the public sector of the state. According to her, “the modernization of the gender system, i.e. the entry of women into the productive labor force alongside men, is creating a new political sphere of working women who are able to assert their perceived interests in policies to aid the reconciliation of home and work.” have been” (Walby, 2003:53).


Along with the invisibility of women’s work at home, contemporary socialist feminists have focused on the gender pay gap and the often oppressive nature of women’s work in the so-called global factory. According to Nancy Holmstrom, “The brutal economic realities of globalization affect everyone around the world – but women are affected disproportionately. Displaced by economic changes, women bear a greater burden of labor around the world as social services are cut.” whether in response to structural adjustment plans in the Third World or to so-called welfare reform in the United States. Women have been forced to migrate, are subject to trafficking, and the proletariat of newly industrializing countries There are classes… socialist feminism is the approach with the greatest potential to expose the exploitation and oppression of the majority of women in the world” (Holmstrom, 2003:3).




Socialist Feminism in the Indian Context:



Socialist feminism helps us to understand more aggressively the oppression of women in the caste and class ridden Indian society. A Dalit woman worker in a garment export unit is oppressed not only because of her proletarian position in the capitalist mode of production; She is often oppressed because of her weak caste and gender identity in a patriarchal system. They often find themselves in monotonous, long term, low paying jobs in controlled women intensive organization


minority by men. The global vulnerability of capital and the withdrawal of the state from the social sector under structural adjustments often exacerbate its vulnerability.

Criticism of Marxist and Socialist Feminism:

  1. a) The ‘economic determinism’ of Marxism and its inability to distinguish between economic class and sex class attract much criticism. Given the apparently unrestrained position of women in the workplace, it is somewhat difficult to understand why, in the early 1970s, many feminists, including some Marxist feminists, abandoned materialistic interpretations of women’s oppression. Instead they turned to psychological explanations for women’s oppression, explanations that could answer the question of why women’s status remained low regardless of the political and economic character of the society in which they lived.


  1. b) Juliet Mitchell rejected the claim of Marxist feminists that an economic revolution aimed at overthrowing capitalism would make men and women full partners. Just because women enter the productive workforce to work side by side with men, does not mean that women will return home in the evening arm in arm with men.
  2. c) Marxist feminism considered women as a part of the working class and placed more emphasis on the economic sphere rather than on the domestic front i.e. the experience of women outside the labor market. Solving women’s exploitation seems to be a very long way towards the eradication of capitalism as a revolutionary coup of capitalism is not likely to happen very soon.


  1. D) As Mitchell explained, attitudes toward women will never really change as long as both female and male psychology are dominated by gender symbols. Thus, patriarchy and capitalism have to be overthrown if society is to be truly humanized (Tong, 2009). Psychoanalysis was seen as essential to the understanding of gender subjectivity.


  1. e) Radical feminists have criticized capitalist forms of exploitation. Radical feminists argue that patriarchal forms of exploitation exist in all known societies, not just capitalist societies. Patriarchy predates capitalism which makes it a more important explanation of female exploitation and oppression (


  1. f) Cultural analysts and ‘postmodernists’ were explicitly critical of materialistic interpretations of women’s oppression. Discourse and language are considered essential to the interpretation of women’s identity and activity because there is no unity to “women” or “the oppression of women”, and different discourses have only produced different definitions. .

“Women.” (Jackson, “Marxism and Feminism,” p. 33) This type of reconstruction began

“Women” and the dominance of postmodern feminism.

  1. g) Feminism underestimates the importance of capitalist forms of exploitation in socialist forms of society

Feminism being neither revolutionary nor radical enough to provide a lasting solution to the problem of women’s economic and social exploitation

Feminism is criticized.







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