Revolution at Point Zero
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Revolution at Point Zero

Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle

Silvia Federici

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eBook - ePub

Revolution at Point Zero

Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle

Silvia Federici

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About This Book

Written between 1974 and 2016, Revolution at Point Zero collects four decades of research and theorizing on the nature of housework, social reproduction, and women’s struggles on this terrain—to escape it, to better its conditions, to reconstruct it in ways that provide an alternative to capitalist relations.

Indeed, as Federici reveals, behind the capitalist organization of work and the contradictions inherent in “alienated labor” is an explosive ground zero for revolutionary practice upon which are decided the daily realities of our collective reproduction.

Beginning with Federici’s organizational work in the Wages for Housework movement, the essays collected here unravel the power and politics of wide but related issues including the international restructuring of reproductive work and its effects on the sexual division of labor, the globalization of care work and sex work, the crisis of elder care, the development of affective labor, and the politics of the commons.

This revised and expanded edition includes three additional essays and a new preface by the author.

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1bell hooks, “Homeplace: A Site of Resistance,” Yearning: Race, Gender, and Cultural Politics (Boston: South End Press, 1990).
3Donna J. Haraway, Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (London: Routledge, 1990), 181–82. On pages 180–81, Haraway writes, “Feminists have recently claimed that women are given to dailiness, that women more than men somehow sustain life, and so have a privileged epistemological position potentially. There is a compelling aspect to this claim, one that makes visible unvalued female activity and names it as the ground of life. But the ground of life?”
1A first step in the writing of this history is Leopoldina Fortunati’s “La famiglia: verso la ricostruzione” which looks at the major transformations the war produced in the organization of the Italian and European family, starting with the growth of women’s autonomy and rejection of family discipline and dependence on men.” Describing World War II as a massive attack on the working class and a major destruction of labor-power, Fortunati writes that “it tore the fabric of the reproduction of the working class undermining in an irreparable way whatever benefit women found in sacrificing for the interest of their families. In this sense, the pre-war type of family remained buried under the rubble.” In Mariarosa Dalla Costa, Brutto Ciao (Rome: Edizioni delle Donne, 1976), 82.
2On this topic see Dolores Hayden, The Grand Domestic Revolution (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1985).
3For a discussion of Italian Operaismo and the autonomist movement as its filiation, see Harry Cleaver’s Introduction to Reading Capital Politically (Edinburgh: AK Press, 2000).
4See Karl Marx, “Wages of Labour,” in Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844.
5See Ariel Salleh, Ecofeminism as Politics: Nature, Marx, and the Postmodern (London: Zed Books, 1997); Maria Mies, Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale (London: Zed Books, 1986).
6Midnight Notes 10 (Fall 1990).
7See “The New Enclosures,” Midnight Notes 10 (Fall 1990); George Caffentzis, “The Work Energy Crisis,” in Midnight Notes 3 (1981); Midnight Notes Collective ed., Midnight Oil: Work, Energy, War, 1973–1992 (New York: Autonomedia, 1992).
8“Mariarosa Dalla Costa,” in Gli Operaisti, eds. Guido Borio, Francesca Pozzi, Gigi Roggero (Rome: Derive/Approdi, 2005), 121–22.
9On this topic, see Team Colors, “The Importance of Support Building Foundations: Creating Community Sustaining Movements,” Rolling Thunder 6 (Fall 2008): 29–39.
Counterplanning from the Kitchen
1Carol Lopate, “Women and Pay for Housework,” Liberation 18, no. 8 (May–June 1974), 8–11.
2Mariarosa Dalla Costa, “Women and the Subversion of the Community,” in The Power of Women and the Subversion of the Community, Dalla Costa and Selma James, 25–26.
3See “Wages against Housework” in this volume.
4“The demand to pay for housework comes from Italy, where the overwhelming majority of women in all classes still remain at home. In the United States, over half of all women do work,” 9.
5Mariarosa Dalla Costa, “Community, Factory and School from the Woman’s Viewpoint,” L’Offensiva (1972): “The community is essentially the woman’s place in the sense that women appear and directly expend their labor there. But the factory is just as much the place where is embodied the labor of women who do not appear there and who have transferred their labor to the men who are the only ones to appear there. In the same way, the school embodies the labor of women who do not appear there but who have transferred their labor to the students who return every morning fed, cared for, and ironed by their mothers.”
6Lopate, “Women and Pay for Housework,” 9.
7Dalla Costa, “Women and the Subversion of the Community,” 28–29.
8Dalla Costa, “Community, Factory and School.”
9Karl Marx, Capital, vol. 1 (London: Penguin Books, 1990), 644.
10Lopate, “Women and Pay for Housework,” 9: “It may well be that women need to be wage-earners in order to achieve the self-reliance and self-esteem which are the first steps toward equality.”
11Lopate, “Women and Pay for Housework,” 11.
12We are now working on the birth of the nuclear family as a stage of capitalist relations.
13Dalla Costa, “Women and the Subversion of the Community,” 41.
14Lopate, “Women and Pay for Housework,” 11: “Most of us women who have fought in our own lives for such a restructuring have fallen into periodic despair. First, there were the old habits—the men’s and ours—to break. Second, there were the real problems of time…. Ask any man how difficult it is for him to arrange part-time hours, or for him to ask for special time schedules so that he can be involved equally in childcare!”
16Lopate, “Women and Pay for Housework,” 11: “The essential thing to remember is that we are a SEX. That is really the only word as yet developed to describe our commonalities.”
18Lopate, “Women and Pay for Housework,” 10.
19Ibid.: “The elimination of the one large area of capitalist life where all transactions do not have exchange value would only serve to obscure from us still further the possibilities of free and unalienated labor.”
20Ibid.: “I believe it is in our private worlds that we keep our souls alive.”
21Russell Baker, “Love and Potatoes,” New York Times, November 25, 1974.
22Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 717.
23Selma James, Sex, Race and Class (Bristol: Falling Wall Press and Race Today Publications, 1975), reprinted with a postscript in Sex, Race, and Class: The Perspective of Winning: A Selection of Writings, 1952–2011 (Oakland: PM Press, 2012) 92–101.
24Lopate, “Women and Pay for Housework,” 11.
26Fortune (December 1974).
27Lopate, “Women and Pay for Housework,” 9.
30Ibid., 10.
The Restructuring of Housework and Reproduction in the United States in the 1970s
1Gary Becker, “A Theory of the Allocation of Time,” Economic Journal 75, no. 299 (1965): 493–517.
2Alfred Marshall, Principles of Economics (London: Macmillan and Co., 1938), 207.
3Gary Becker, The Economic Approach to Human Behavior (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976), 89.
4Milwaukee County Welfare Rights Organization, Welfare Mothers Speak Out (New York: W.W. Norton, 1972), 79.
5Daniel P. Moynihan, The Politics of a Guaranteed Income (New York: Random House, 1973), 17.
6The text of the proposal reads: “Congress should approve a Federal floor under payments to provide an adequate standard of living based on each State’s cost of living. And, just as with other workers, homemakers receiving income transfer payments should be afforded the dignity of having that payment called a wage, not welfare.” National Plan of Action adopted at the National Women’s Conference held in Houston in November 1977.
7Also from the viewpoint of consumer expenditure on household appliances, the 1970s have experienced no growth (compared with the ’60s) and a decline compared with the ’50s. It is also questionable whether more technology can liberate women from work. It has often been the case that labor-saving devices have increased women’s work. See Ruth Cowan, More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave (New York: Basic Books, 1983).
8This point is argued by Valerie Kincaid Oppenheimer in The Female Labor Force in the United States: Demographic and Economic Factors Governing Its Growth and Changing Composition (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1976).
9Juanita Morris Kreps, Sex in the Marketplace (Policy Studies in Employment & Welfare) (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1971), 68.
10In New York, welfare benefits are frozen to 1972 levels (adjusted in 1974), though the cost of living has doubled in the last eight years.
11It was calculated that a full-time housewife is worth $6,000 a year, a low figure compared with the $13,000 of the Chase Manhattan Bank study, and the $20,000 of a contemporary study by economist Peter Snell.
12By 1976, women’s entrance into the labor force reached figures the Department of Labor did not expect until 1985.
13It is important here to mention the proposal for a revised unemployment insurance debated during the Ford administration. Although not openly admitted, it aimed at cutting unemployment benefits for those persons—read housewives—who had just “left the home.” It also proposed that unemployed persons with working spouses should not be counted as recipients of unemployed benefits. Persons “whose lack of education or previous job experiences renders them unqualified” would also be excluded from unemployment insurance. Eileen Shanahan, “Study on Definitions of Jobless Urged,” New York Times, January 11, 1976.
14Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Work in America (Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1975).
15Compare the sales of the service industry with the sales of household appliances. The increase of services sales (compared with appliance sales) doubled in less than ten years. 1965: 6.3 percent; 1970: 8.7 percent; 1975: 11.8 percent; 1976: 11 percent.
16The present collapse of the birth rate plays an important role in current discussions of immigration policies. See Michael L. Wachter, “The Labor Market and Illegal Immigration: The Outlook for the 1980s,” Industrial and Labor Relations Review 33, no. 3 (April 1980): 342–54.
17This was the case of five female wor...

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Citation styles for Revolution at Point Zero
APA 6 Citation
Federici, S. (2020). Revolution at Point Zero ([edition unavailable]). PM Press. Retrieved from (Original work published 2020)
Chicago Citation
Federici, Silvia. (2020) 2020. Revolution at Point Zero. [Edition unavailable]. PM Press.
Harvard Citation
Federici, S. (2020) Revolution at Point Zero. [edition unavailable]. PM Press. Available at: (Accessed: 15 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Federici, Silvia. Revolution at Point Zero. [edition unavailable]. PM Press, 2020. Web. 15 Oct. 2022.