Rogueish

09/09/12

What is my talent? Well, a bear can juggle and stand on a ball and he’s talented, but he’s not famous. Do you know what I mean?

Kim Kardashian

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03/18/12

Again, the per­for­ma­tive di­men­sion is cru­cial: the de­mand for wages was less about meet­ing ex­ist­ing needs than ex­pand­ing them, less about the sat­is­fac­tion of de­sire than its cul­ti­va­tion. What cam­paign­ers for wages for house­work wanted was, as they often re­peated, more time and more money. As a provo­ca­tion of po­lit­i­cal de­sire for more, the de­mand for wages clearly set it­self apart from fa­mil­iar modes of Left as­ceti­cism, a point its pro­po­nents were acutely aware of. “The left is hor­ri­fied by the fact that work­ers-male and fe­male, waged and un­waged-want more money, more time for them­selves, more power, in­stead of being con­cerned with fig­ur­ing out how to ra­tio­nalise pro­duc­tion” (Cox and Fed­erici 1976) 18). Rather than de­mand only what they think they are likely to be con­ceded, as other prac­ti­tion­ers of Left pol­i­tics might ad­vise, ad­vo­cates of wages for house­work aimed for what they wanted. In­deed, the de­mand for wages for house­work was some­times as­serted with a kind of joy­ful ex­ces­sive­ness, as ex­em­pli­fied in one tract billed as a “no­tice to all gov­ern­ments,” which con­cludes its an­nounce­ment of the de­mand for wages with a final de­c­la­ra­tion that reads rather like a ran­som de­mand: WE WANT IT IN CASH, RETROAC­TIVE AND IM­ME­DI­ATELY, AND WE WANT ALL OF IT” (Cam­paign for Wages for House­work 2000) 258). Whereas, the tract an­nounces, “we have brought up our chil­dren to be good cit­i­zens and to re­spect your laws;” now, the writ­ers warn, “we will bring them up to EX­PECT more.” Self-sac­ri­fice is re­jected as both strat­egy and ideal. “Our prob­lem,” Dalla Costa ar­gues, “is that we never have enough, not that we have too much” (Dalla Costa and James 1973) 43).

― Kathi Weeks, The Problem with Work: Feminism, Marxism, Antiwork Politics and Postwork Imaginaries

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03/18/12

Still less does the de­mand for wages re­sem­ble an ef­fort to per­suade, let alone to coax, en­tice, or se­duce. For ex­am­ple, those who de­manded wages were not look­ing for recog­ni­tion for women’s sac­ri­fices or self­less­ness. “Our power,” ex­plain two of the de­mand’s ad­vo­cates, “does not come from any­one’s recog­ni­tion of our place in the cycle of pro­duc­tion, but from our ca­pac­ity to strug­gle against it” (Cox and Fed­erici 1976, 6). Rather than in­habit the sub­or­di­nate po­si­tion of house­wife and try to use it to their ad­van­tage as moral high ground and a way to evoke ei­ther sym­pa­thy or guilt, they were more in­ter­ested in an­nounc­ing their power…. The de­mand was thus not only a de­c­la­ra­tion of rev­o­lu­tion­ary an­tag­o­nism, but a de­mand for power in at least two senses. First, in mak­ing a “de­mand for au­ton­omy” (James 1976, 26), the pro­po­nents of wages for house­work sought the con­di­tions-in this case, the in­come-that could se­cure for women a mea­sure of in­de­pen­dence from men, from cap­i­tal, and from the state. This is why pro­po­nents of the de­mand were crit­i­cal of those fem­i­nists who fo­cused not on less work and more money for women, but only on achiev­ing the “so­cial­iza­tion of house­work” through the pro­vi­sion of state ser­vices like child-care cen­ters or col­lec­tive kitchens: “In one case we re­gain some con­trol over our lives, in the other we ex­tend the state’s con­trol over us” (Fed­erici 1995) 193). But the de­mand for wages was not only a de­mand for au­tonomous power, it was also an oc­ca­sion to ac­quire and nur­ture that power; it is about “the au­ton­omy that the wage and the strug­gle for the wage can bring” (James 1975,18).

― Kathi Weeks, The Problem with Work: Feminism, Marxism, Antiwork Politics and Postwork Imaginaries

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03/18/12

There are sev­eral ways to con­ceive the de­mand for wages. One could de­scribe it as a pro­posal for re­form-specif­i­cally, a pol­icy or pro­gram de­signed to ra­tio­nal­ize the wage sys­tem by mak­ing up for some of its de­fi­cien­cies. Al­though this de­scrip­tion is ac­cu­rate to a de­gree, to get a sense of what is miss­ing from it, con­sider the dif­fer­ence be­tween a de­mand on the one hand and a re­quest or plea-a first step in an ef­fort to seek com­pro­mise or ac­com­mo­da­tion-on the other hand. Nei­ther the pol­icy pro­posal, with its aura of neu­tral­ity, nor the plea, with its so­lic­i­tous­ness, man­ages to cap­ture the style and tone of the de­mand for wages for house­work; none of them con­veys the bel­liger­ence with which this de­mand was rou­tinely pre­sented, or the an­tag­o­nism it was in­tended thereby to pro­voke. Al­though the de­mand for wages may have been, at least in part, a se­ri­ous bid for re­form, there seems to have been lit­tle ef­fort on the part of its pro­po­nents to be seen as rea­son­able or to meet oth­ers halfway, and lit­tle in­ter­est in work­ing within the logic of the ex­ist­ing sys­tem and play­ing by its rules.

― Kathi Weeks, The Problem with Work: Feminism, Marxism, Antiwork Politics and Postwork Imaginaries

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03/18/12

As was the case with the de­mand for wages for house­work as a per­spec­tive, the de­mand as a provo­ca­tion had util­ity be­yond the merely prac­ti­cal. What is often over­looked in as­sess­ments of the de­mand is its per­for­ma­tive di­men­sion: as a per­spec­tive, it func­tioned to pro­duce the fem­i­nist knowl­edge and con­scious­ness that it ap­pears to pre­sup­pose; as a provo­ca­tion, it served also to elicit the sub­ver­sive com­mit­ments, col­lec­tive for­ma­tions, and po­lit­i­cal hopes that it ap­pears only to re­flect. The col­lec­tive prac­tice of de­mand­ing thus has its own epis­te­mo­log­i­cal and on­to­log­i­cal pro­duc­tiv­ity. As not only a per­spec­tive but a provo­ca­tion, the de­mand for wages should be un­der­stood as an at­tempted claim and in­cite­ment of an­tag­o­nism, col­lec­tive power, and de­sire.

― Kathi Weeks, The Problem with Work: Feminism, Marxism, Antiwork Politics and Postwork Imaginaries

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[lbo-talk] Language & Wolf Children, was RE: (The 23%...)

02/25/12

Susanne Langer has a fine analysis of a “Wolf Child’ ‘discovered’ in France in the 1790s. The physician who took the young boy (around 18) into his home had a utilitarian conception of language and what motivated it. The by had come to love milk, and the physician tried to get him to say “milk” in order to get milk. Total failure. Then the boy became ill and died. During the final illness the boy kept murmuring “milk” to himself, apparently for the comfort of saying it and thinking about it.

Reminds me of Benjamin Noyes’ recent post on refusal of language as refusal of work (I believe the reference here is to Langer’s Philosophy in a New Key).

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