The dominance of commodity production and consumption over subsistence

The dominance of commodity production and consumption

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pain, annoyance and fatigue. The dominance of commodity production and consumption over subsistence production brought about by the development of capitalist modes of production results in the depersonalization of work activities. This leads Gorz to assert that the modern notion of work refers to : the name of an activity fundamentally different from the activities of subsistence , reproduction, maintenance and care performed within the household . This is not so much because “work” is a paid activity, but because it is done in the public domain and appears there as a measurable, exchangeable and interchangeable performance ; as a performance which possesses a use-value for others, not simply for the members of the household community carrying it out; for others in general, without distinction or restriction, not for a particular, private person. (Ibid.: 53) This socialization of productive activities means that the worker becomes separable from the resulting output. Producing goods and services for exchange in the public domain renders irrelevant the direct relationship between the person carrying out the task and their economic output. Activities are interchangeable between workers, and outputs become measurable in terms of their use-value to others. In modern terms the concept of work is associated with any impersonal activity that results in output that can be measured and presented as a commodity , or service, for sale or exchange in an impersonal public marketplace. Many of the activities frequently performed by women are “invisible,” in the sense that there is either no tangible output , or the actual nature, and therefore value, of the output is not transparent. Consequently these activities do not meet the conventional criteria that would allow them to be labeled ‘“work.” Although much progress has been made in valuing domestic work to illustrate the signifi cance of women’s productive contribution to the economy (see, for example, the Human Development Report 1995) little has been done to quantify “provisioning” functions within the family. That is, the label domestic work is generally assigned to a range of “physical” tasks, considered essential ingredients in the effi cient functioning of the household economy. Such tasks can either be undertaken by a person(s) employed for that specifi c purpose or can be performed by an individual member of the household who receives no formal remuneration for doing so. The latter I refer to as “internalized unpaid domestic work,” which serves to draw the distinction between work done by the “hired help” and work done by wives and mothers themselves. As noted above, attempts at recognizing the value of internalized unpaid domestic work have at least got under way. However, in addition to internalized unpaid domestic work, many nonphysical exchanges or services performed in the household contribute positively to individual welfare, which prove even more difficult to quantify. Examples of
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