Revolution at Point Zero on Z Magazine

Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle, 2nd Edition

by Seth Sandronsky
Z Magazine
December 2012

Revolutionary feminist Silvia Federici’s scope is wide in her book of essays, Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle, written from
1974 to now.

A major force in the Wages for House work movement of the early 1970s, Federici shed light on the invisible and invaluable labor of women under capitalism—or socially reproductive work—with a preface, introduction, three sections, notes, and a bibliography. She expands our
understand ing of who per forms and benefits from such reproduction and how it connects with the capital-wage nexus. For the purpose of private wealth accumulation, capitalism’s dynamism constantly changes how we live and work. Thus, the trajectory of Federici’s writing reflects the
changing dynamics of, and resistance to, a system that increasingly relies on women to perform the unpaid work of caring for humans.

Their labor does not appear as part of the economy. Such household work, for in stance, goes uncounted in the gross domestic product of the U.S.  In Part One we get a sense of what constitutes the feminist revolt against unwaged women’s work that holds up our current socio-economic system. As she details, women’s labor services nurture the current and future generations of workers who, in turn, sell their labor-power to buyers in the capitalist market place who de pend on this exchange to turn a profit.

As capitalist production ebbs and flows, socially reproductive and productive labor services reflect this trend. Federici tackles such flashpoints—from unwaged bed rooms and kitchens to waged workplaces and social service demands in developed and developing nations.

In the second part of Federici’s book, she disentangles globalization and social reproduction. A main theme here is the evolving international and sexual division of labor, waged and unwaged.

A grow-or-die system weakens the ability of families to care for children with out more members of house holds entering the capitalist mar ket place. Women suffer particularly as primary care givers to children and elders, migrating to provide child-rearing services to families in developed countries, while leaving their own kin for years.

Thus, Federici argues that an anti-capitalist frame work is essential to feminist struggles against patriarchy. She locates within this critique the necessity for resistance to wars with bombs or structural adjustment programs, having first-hand knowledge of the latter duiring her time teaching and writing on the African continent.

The political economy of Karl Marx runs a red line through out Federici’s book, yet she critiques his failure to analyze the vital role of women’s reproductive labor to the over all system’s equilibrium.

The final and third section of Federici’s book takes up women’s role as main stays of the commons, areas of public life and resources out side global capitalism. Federici unpacks the nature and role of female “commoning” as a verb, less so the commons as a condition. She calls for left politicizing of eldercare, under going a crisis as capitalism monetizes such reproductive work while placing a greater burden on women. Thus, car ing for elders is a gender issue.

As Federici shows with examples from Africa, Asia, and Latin America, women are on the front lines of commoning. She unveils how and why they resist the corporate takeover of subsistence farming, explaining the land question as central to women’s lives. Mutual aid and solidarity of oppressed women are more than symbolic. We see here transforming acts of solidarity against the logic of capitalist relations that rely upon sever ing people’s access to land. Reading Federici em powers us to reconnect with what is at the core of human development, women’s labor-intensive caregiving—a radical rethinking of how we live.

In that living, she argues, is our capacity to create a new, egalitarian society as the Arab Spring and Occupy Movement illustrates within the lens of women’s commoning.

Back to Silvia Federici’s Author Page