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The discovery of “unpaid work”: the social consequences of the expansion of “work”

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  • Susan Himmelweit
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    Abstract

    This paper questions the dichotomy of work/nonwork. It examines the way in which the category of work was expanded by feminists and economists to include much domestic activity, and considers some of the consequences of this expansion. It argues that the discovery of unpaid “work” involved an uncritical application and validation of a concept of work abstracted from a model of commodity producing wage labor in manufacturing. However, this concept excludes much of what is distinctive about domestic activities, such as their caring and self-fulfilling aspects. Inequality between households has become a conduit for the construction of needs in a form in which “work,” and in particular work for money, is needed to satisfy them. Some consequences of this tendency are examined together with the policy concerns which would need to be addressed in order to mitigate its deleterious effects. The development of a feminist economics which transcends the polarization of life into “work” and “nonwork” is argued to be vital in this process.

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    File URL: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/714042229
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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Taylor & Francis Journals in its journal Feminist Economics.

    Volume (Year): 1 (1995)
    Issue (Month): 2 ()
    Pages: 1-19

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    Handle: RePEc:taf:femeco:v:1:y:1995:i:2:p:1-19

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    Web page: http://www.tandfonline.com/RFEC20

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    Related research

    Keywords: Caring; domestic labor; household; housework; labor; work;

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    Cited by:
    1. Zdravka, Todorova, 2009. "Employer of Last Resort Policy and Feminist Economics: Social Provisioning and Socialization of Investment," MPRA Paper 16240, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. David Brennan, 2006. "Defending The Indefensible? Culture'S Role In The Productive/Unproductive Dichotomy," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(3), pages 403-425.
    3. Margaret Lewis & Kimmarie McGoldrick, 2001. "Moving Beyond the Masculine Neoclassical Classroom," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 7(2), pages 91-103.
    4. Ailsa McKay, 2001. "Rethinking Work and Income Maintenance Policy: Promoting Gender Equality Through a Citizens' Basic Income," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 7(1), pages 97-118.
    5. Susan Donath, 2000. "The Other Economy: A Suggestion for a Distinctively Feminist Economics," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 6(1), pages 115-123.

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