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Dominique Meeùs
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Bibliographie : table des matières, index des notions — Retour à la page personnelle
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Michèle Barrett , Women’s Oppression Today, 2014

Michèle Barrett , Women’s Oppression Today : The Marxist/Feminist Encounter, Verso, 2014, 336 pages, ISBN : 978-1-78168-013-1.
Réédition de Barrett 1980.
Comparaison avec les éditions antérieures

C’est l’article de Ross Speer (2015) qui a attiré mon attention sur ce livre que je ne connaissais pas et qui introduit quelques idées nouvelles.

Foreword :
Re-encountering Marxist Feminism

For the last few decades, however, the 1970s has been remembered by feminists as the time when we ‘made mistakes’, as perhaps necessary, but by many accounts, distressingly naïve point on the road to our more enlightened and sophisticated present.

Kathi Weeks, p. ix.

La naïveté et les erreurs sont caractéristiques de l’époque, pas seulement du féminisme. J’ai développé ce point ailleurs, où je considère que ce n’est pas toujours tellement mieux aujourd’hui. Je suis surpris de son optimisme sur le présent. D’une part, un certain nombre d’erreurs en économie marxiste, persistent, ainsi que l’économisme, la réduction du matérialisme historique au moment actuel, au mode de production capitaliste. D’autre part, toutes les sophistications ne sont pas éclairantes.

Introduction to the 1988 Edition

The left’s political interest in feminism is underwritten by the critique of economism that has dominated the Marxist intelligentsia in recent years. A new political generation, reared on a rather relative selective reading of Louis Althusser and Nicos Poulantzas, and even more significantly shaped by the revival of interest in the work of Antonio Gramsci, has been disposed to see the reduction of all political and ideological phenomena to their supposed economic determinants as the worst and most vulgar error of Marxism. So when the autonomous women’s liberation movement sprang up in the late nineteen sixties — as far as socialists could see, out of nowhere — no wonder it was seized on as a walking falsification of economism.

P. 2-3.

Attention, le livre est de 1980 et ceci de 1988. L’engouement pour certains auteurs nouvellement à la mode est alors récent et reste, je pense minoritaire. Par ailleurs, il n’est pas vrai que les féministes d’avant le livre (1980) aient montré l’erreur de l’économisme. Elles se sont toutes précipitées, de Margaret Benston et Mariarosa Dalla Costa à Lise Vogel et Michèle Barrett elle-même, dans l’impasse de la réduction au capitalisme, de l’économisme, ou les deux (toutes avec des erreurs en économie du capitalisme) et cela n’a pas cessé après 1980 ; c’est encore souvent le cas aujourd’hui. (Pour Michèle Barrett, voir, entre autres, p. 182-183, que je cite plus bas.)

1
Some Conceptual Problems in Marxist Feminist Analysis (p. 8)

L'analyse marxiste du capital est considérée comme sex-blind selon Hartmann 1979 (p. 8). (Et j'en suis d'accord.) Difficile de prendre ça comme point de départ d'un féminisme marxiste. D'où la nécessité de considérer du point de vue du matérialisme historique, « in the light of gender divisions which preceded », ce qu'il y avait avant.

What then might be the object of Marxist feminism ? In the most general terms it must be to identify the operation of gender relations as and where they may be distinct from, or connected with, the processes of production and reproduction understood by historical materialism. Thus it falls to Marxist feminism to explore the relations between the organization of sexuality, domestic production, the household and so on, and historical changes in the mode of production and systems of appropriation and exploitation. Such questions are now being addressed by Marxist feminists working in anthropology, the sociology of development, and political economy. This book, however, deals with the relations of gender and the oppression of women in a contemporary capitalist society. In this context a Marxist feminist approach will involve an emphasis on the relations between capitalism and the oppression of women. It will require an awareness of the specific oppression of women in capitalist relations of production, but this must be seen in the light of gender divisions which preceded the transition to capitalism and which, as far as we can tell, a socialist revolution would not of itself abolish.

P. 9.

Pour la reproduction, elle se réfère à Althusser (p. 10), mais il serait intéressant (Althusser le fait sans doute) de remonter à Marx lui-même.

Pour le patriarcat (p. 11), elle cite une édition de 1971 de Millet 1970. Cela correspond à la citation des p. 39-39 que je donne de Millett 1983 en français.

Elle commence à mettre de l’ordre, de manière critique, dans certains concepts ou démarches. Elle critique ainsi le fonctionnalisme et le réductionnisme.

Functionalism, where it occurs in Marxist as in other explanations, presents various dangers. Aside from the generic difficulty of establishing the imputed ‘function’ of a particular social process, there is the tendency to assume that any such function, once established, can explain the very existence of that process. This is the error of teleology — the view that the explanation of an object lies in a search for its original ‘purpose’. It precludes the possibility that no purpose, or function, is relevant to our understanding, and it also precludes the possibility that the function an object now has is different from one it may have previously had. Hence, a functionalist approach necessarily militates against an historical account of social structures and processes. More importantly, from a Marxist point of view the danger of functionalist approaches lies in their over-emphasis on the smooth, at worst conspiratorial, reproduction of dominance and subordination and their failure to recognize the concrete historical conflicts and contradictions that characterize the formation and development of social relations. In seeing, as in their Marxist guises they normally do, the exploitation of one group by another as the unfolding of an inevitable plan, functionalists tend to ignore the historical struggles that have led to their own analyses in the first place.

P. 23.

Ça me fait penser à « la fonction crée l’organe », dans certaines conceptions de l’évolution.

Elle admet que, même si une justification réductionniste, fonctionnaliste est douteuse, sa conclusion puisse à l’occasion être juste. (Elle revient sur le fonctionnalisme au chapitre 3.)

Reductionism, however, has been a more fundamental problem in Marxist analysis of women’s oppression. […] The problem with the argument that ‘women’s oppression is functional for capital’ is not so much functionalism as reductionism — in this case because gender relations are reduced to an effect of the operation of capital. This reduction is perhaps most commonly encountered in the style of analysis now known as economism, in which phenomena of an ideological kind are reduced to their supposed economic determinants. In the case of women’s oppression, this reduction is particularly fraught. It is not clear why any relationship should obtain between specific forms of male dominance and, for instance, the interests of capital, or at least this cannot be seen as self-evident in any existing Marxist analysis. Furthermore, the existence of different forms of a comparable male dominance in other modes of production and periods of history makes such a reduction implausible. So when any argument is put forward along these lines we need to be very clear as to the grounds on which such a reduction is made and these, as yet, remain unconvincing. More frequently, in fact, the reduction is assumed, or asserted, rather than argued or justified.

P. 24.

Veronica Beechey examine comment pour les capitalistes les femmes présentent l’avantage d’une main d’œuvre flexible et moins chère, mais…

… she stresses that this analysis will only hold if we presuppose a particular form of the family: ‘the existence of the sexual division of labour which consigns women to the family and the patriarchal ideology embodied in it must be presupposed in order that female labour can constitute these advantages to capital’.25 Although Beechey does not specify the ‘patriarchal’ character of the sexual division of labour it is clear that her position represents an important distance from those formulations of Marxism which conflate the oppression of women with the needs of capital.

25.
Veronica Beechey, ‘Women and Production: a Critical Analysis of Some Sociological Theories of Women’s Work’, in Feminism and Materialism; and ‘Some Notes on Female Wage Labour in the Capitalist Mode of Production’, Capital and Class, no. 3, 1977.
P. 25.

On est dans un modèle où le salaire masculin devrait pouvoir supporter la famille ou presque pour que le salaire féminin puisse, considéré comme « salaire d’appoint », être beaucoup plus bas. Je retrouve là les conclusions auxquelles j’étais arrivé, non seulement que la valeur de la force de travail est en fait au moins familiale, mais aussi qu’il y a prise en charge collective de la valeur de la force de travail par les capitalistes :

There are, however, crucial questions unresolved in this analysis, and they hinge on problems entailed in the concept of reproduction. First, it is unclear to me why it should be in the interests of capital generally to pay women wages that require the payment of a larger wage to their husbands to enable them to support their wives. Although it may be in the interest of an individual capital to employ women in this way, it is the capitalist class as a whole which ultimately supports this arrangement.

P. 26.

Elle souligne l’importance de l’apport d’Althusser sur l’autonomie relative de l’idéologie.

Hence it has become possible, within a new form of Marxism, to accommodate the oppression of women as a relatively autonomous element of the social formation.

P. 31.

Certains, comme Rosalind Coward, ont voulu aller plus loin, dans l’autonomie absolue de l’idéologie, jusqu’à identifier le réel et la connaissance que nous en avons. Mais alors, on se met en dehors du marxisme, mais aussi de la scientificité, du matérialisme (dit aussi « réalisme »).

… its compatibility with any recognizable form of Marxism is dubious. For the problem which characterizes all social science — that is, our ‘knowledge’ is itself an object of inquiry — cannot be overcome by dissolving the knowable real world into our discourse about it. Indeed the position put forward here by Coward is no resolution or reconciliation of Marxism and feminism, since the ‘Marxism’ that it invokes has departed so radically from a materialist analysis of history as to constitute a quite different body of ideas.

P. 36.

… the rejection by some post-Althusserians of all determinate relations is not at all useful, in my view.

P. 38.

Par ailleurs, le défaut de systèmes indépendants est l’incapacité d’expliquer la relation au capitalisme.

Feminist theory of the kind proposed by Millett or Delphy might be said to constitute an internally consistent theoretical approach. Yet in posing patriarchy as either completely independent of capitalism, or as the dominant system of power relations, it completely fails to provide an analysis of women’s oppression in a society characterized by capitalist relations of production.

P. 38.

2
Femininity, Masculinity and Sexual Practice (p. 42)

3
Ideology and the Cultural Production of Gender (p. 84)

Elle soulève la question du fonctionnalisme.

Both feminist and Marxist accounts of women's oppression have tended to slide uncritically into a mode of explanation which is undeniably functionalist ; many feminist accounts explain various forms of oppression in terms of their supposedly self-evident functions of perpetuating patriarchal dominance, and many Marxist accounts centre on the supposed benefits, or functions, for capital of women's subordinate position. These forms of functionalism, and arguments denved from functionalist sociology, have undoubtedly been influential in many Marxist feminist explanations too. Clearly any account of women's oppression that is organized around its importance for the smooth reproduction of capitalist social relations must run the risk of over-emphasizing this supposedly functional relationship at the expense of a proper consideration of contradiction, conflict and political struggle.

P. 93-94.

Elle mentionne (p. 94, bas) Gramsci pour sa conception de la reproduction. Faudrait que j'y aille voir.

5
Gender and the Division of Labour

in feudal family structures, […] there was a differentiation of tasks. […] a simple differentiation of tasks (as between not only men and women, but also children and old people) may not necessarily be inegalitarian or divisive when all the labour is directed towards common household production. The difference between this division of labour and that of capitalism is that capitalism not only took over and entrenched the differentiation of tasks, but divided the workforce itself into wage earners and those dependent upon the wage of others. Capitalism did not create domestic labour, or the ’feminine’ areas of wage labour, but it did create a set of social relations in which pre-existing divisions were not only reproduced but solidified in different relations in the wage-labour system.

P. 182.

La division sous le capitalisme entre production sociale et production dans la sphère privée est telle que workforce n’a aucun sens dans « divided the workforce itself into wage earners and those dependent upon the wage of others ». Il n’y a qu’une seule sorte de travailleurs pour le capital, ce sont les femmes et les hommes qui travailleur pour lui. Les autres existent, jouent un rôle important dans la production de la force de travail, mais ça ce n’est pas le domaine du capital ni de sa workforce. Ce ne sont pas « different relations in the wage-labour system ». Ce sont des relations dont l’une est dans le système du travail salarié et dont l’autre est en dehors. Ce ne sont pas simplement différentes relations dans le même système, ce sont des relations totalement différentes. En outre, le travail domestique n’est féminin que dans les faits, à cause des préjugés patriarcaux. Ce n’est en rien une « solidification » dans les relations sociales capitalistes.

Put another way, it could be said that the situation depends upon the assumption that the value of women’s labour power — the cost of their reproduction — was customarily lower than men’s. Why should this be the case? […] This discrepancy can be related to ideological definitions of the basic element of food consumption. The early capitalists appear to have anticipated Marx’s account of the relationship between wages and costs of subsistence and, assuming that women ate less than men (and children less still), settled wages accordingly.

P. 182-183.

Exemple de la naïveté, des erreurs, dont parle Kathi Weeks, p. ix (que je cite au début). On ne peut pas vraiment parler de la valeur de la force de travail d’une personne en particulier. Il est certainement vrai que les femmes ont mangé moins que les hommes, mais il y a aussi les loyers, les vêtements… De toute manière, la valeur de la force de travail n’a de sens que collectivement, en tout cas jamais en dessous du niveau d’un ménage. Les salaires correspondent dans le principe à la valeur de la force de travail, mais jamais, et de loin, individuellement; ils sont fixés par des rapports de force. Si les femmes ont eu des salaires inférieurs, c’est du fait de leur moins bonne position, cela ne reflète pas la valeur de leur force de travail.

6
Women’s Oppression and ‘the Family’

[…] is something of a caricature to suggest that Marxist theory has traditionally restricted the term ideology to ‘ideas’ of a cognitive kind. […] A considerable amount of attention is paid by Marx to questions of the apparent and the real, the phenomenal forms of labour and the underlying, but disguised, wage relation that creates the illusory character of our experiences. So although one would not want to underestimate the significance of Freud’s ‘discovery’ of the unconscious, it is incorrect to argue that all previous thought necessarily constructed ideology at the level of conscious thought.

P. 193-194.
Acheté à PlumCircle LLC, West Miffin (PA, USA) le 7 mars 2020 et reçu le 16 avril.