By Erika B.
Some might say that Tacocat’s song “I Hate the Weekend” fails to credit the hard work the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America labor union put into earning the five-day work week. However, I say that the song brings to light the incredible need for a revolution of social reproduction.
The Tacocat line, “They were made for the working stiff / With a two day fun permit / Let loose like our life depends on it,’’ articulates how the free time, or weekend, of the working class is actually the bare minimum investment made by companies in human capital. A “two-day fun permit” to recharge, self-care, and treat yourself is a small gesture to satiate the exploited working class.
Unless one comes from a place of privilege, the average person spends a good amount of time during their weekend catching up on housework, social obligations, yard work, child care, etc., since the work week barely allows time for eating a meal let alone grocery shopping.
While most people view weekends as an escape from their workplace, social reproduction theory clearly demonstrates how the exploitation of the capitalist class doesn’t stop at quitting time. An inherent social contradiction exists within the capitalist system. The relationship of the economic sphere and the social sphere is one of dependency. Nancy Fraser describes this relationship as “Neither intra-economic nor intra-domestic, it is a contradiction between those two constitutive elements of capitalist society.” Capitalists not only depend on working class people to produce surplus for profit, they also depend on the forces that produce the worker.
So who or what produces the worker?
The answer to this question has been dynamic throughout history. In the contemporary setting of capitalism, the forces that produce the working class are often highly commodified, individualized, and scarce in resources. A few examples being lack of affordable healthcare, public education, and decent housing. Of the examples mentioned, they all depend on care work which is often performed by people of color, women, and migrant workers. The inherent crisis of care within capitalism stems from the devaluing of care work via exploitation and oppression of the most marginalized in society.
Liberal reforms to improve social conditions of the most marginalized are grossly inadequate to respond to the growing social crisis currently. Liberals only do enough to attenuate the frequency of crisis cycles, rather than acknowledging they are perpetuating a system full of contradictions. Often, electoral campaigns to improve social conditions leave out the very people they are aiming to project. The agency for marginalized groups of people to self-organize a social order that breaks the cycle of oppression and colonialism is completely unrecognized and deemed impossible.
However, that is not the case. Movements that build working-class power outside the capitalistic system, national borders, and racial divides (as opposed to organizing within the system i.e. electorally) directly challenge the global capitalist class. Tenant unions, teachers unions, workplace walk-outs, standing with indigenous communities to protect natural resources are all examples of building class power at the boundary between the economic and social spheres.
A chip in the armor that keeps the whole system running, revolutionizing care work and addressing the crisis of care is the only way the left can defeat the capitalist forces that maintain a global system of oppression and exploitation. If the goal of socialists is to reorganize the relations between production and reproduction, then socialists should aim to amplify and prioritize struggles led by those whose labor or voice aren’t acknowledged in a system that only values profit. Without an intersectional, socialist, feminist lense to leftist organizing, systems of oppression will continue to pervade the lives of working-class people.
If we want more than just a “hall pass from our job”, we have a world to win.