International Handbooks on Gender series
Edited by Jill Steans and Daniela Tepe
Chapter 46: Social reproduction – the Achilles heel of feminist transformation?
Social reproduction was traditionally used as a descriptive category and set against production as a way of describing the known world and all the activities within it. Today the concept and the issues surrounding social reproduction have come to a new prominence as economic crisis and austerity cut into social provision and as feminist activists and scholars call for a rethink on issues of care, work and the social economy. At present, social reproduction is largely unrecognised and undervalued in economic terms, and it is for this reason that we have called it the Achilles heel which undermines progress towards feminist transformation. Before neo-classical economics put the emphasis almost exclusively on production, social reproduction was regarded as being at the centre of capital accumulation (Bakker and Silvey, 2008: 2). Thus production was seen as serving social reproduction rather than the other way about. Subsequently the emphasis on production has led to the positioning of social reproduction as a ‘second-level’ activity outside the market economy. As a result it is either undervalued or not valued at all and continues for the most part to be excluded from the economic calculus.
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