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SOMEBODY TELL AOC: Scientific Paper Says ‘Refusal To Work’ Is ‘A Very Complex Concept’

A paper published in a scientific journal argues that “refusal to work” is “a very complex concept.”

Published in “A Journal of Feminist Geography” and authored by Pierpaolo Mudu, a geographer collaborating with the faculties of Urban Studies and Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences at the University of Washington in Tacoma, the abstract for the paper states, in rough translation:

My comments aim to cast light on a specific political proposal that can arise from a discussion of the topic of the ‘refusal of work’ and its implications for a social radical change. Autonomist, anarchist and feminist activism, have been and are the main sources of a long-term conceptual and empirical work on the refusal of work. Refusal of work is a very complex concept that has traversed history and is reduced for uncritical dominant common sense to unemployment, laziness, idleness, indolence but it is in reality one of the basic foundational qualification to think any radical change.

The idea of a refusal to work without being stigmatized was also a part of an overview of Rep.Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal issued by its proponents, who stated that the deal meant to provide “economic security for all who are unable or unwilling to work.”

In the paper, Mudu references the work of Silvia Federici, a radical Marxist who is a professor emerita and Teaching Fellow at Hofstra University:

Among many important intuitions, the added value of Silvia Federici’s work is to have offered a different perspective on the refusal of work discussion and how it can be expressed to develop different forms of communing. Her work provides the backbone for this brief excursion on the issue of the refusal of work. Emerging and consolidated social movements, for example in Southern Europe, have, consciously or not, taken position, often contradictorily, regarding what refusal of work means. In the context of current neoliberal capitalism, an increasing structural unemployment and precarious jobs are one of the trademarks of austerity policies to ‘revive’ economies. Drawing on Federici’s insights on the women exclusion as a useful way of thinking about the spatial dimension of these issues in feminist theory, this article looks at examples of prefigurative politics that define their strategies of refusal of work building significant spatial patterns

Federici has stated that mothers in the capitalist system were given the job of training their children to “conform to a particular work discipline.” She asserted in 2006:

This is why it is crucial to be able to make a separation between the creation of human beings and our reproduction of them as labor-power, as future workers, who therefore have to be trained, not necessarily according to their needs and desires, to be disciplined and regimented in a particular fashion.

It was important for feminists to see, for example, that much housework and child rearing is work of policing our children, so that they will conform to a particular work discipline. We thus began to see that by refusing broad areas of work, we not only could liberate ourselves but could also liberate our children. We saw that our struggle was not at the expense of the people we cared for, though we may skip preparing some meals or cleaning the floor. Actually our refusal opened the way for their refusal and the process of their liberation.

Once we saw that rather than reproducing life we were expanding capitalist accumulation and began to define reproductive labor as work for capital, we also opened the possibility of a process of re-composition among women.