For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Marx, Housework, and Alienation"

by Kain, Philip J (1993)


For different feminist theorists, housework and child rearing are viewed in very different ways. I argue that Marx gives us the categories that allow us to see why housework and child care can be both a paradigm of unalienated labor and also involve the greatest oppression. In developing this argument, a distinction is made between alienation and oppression and the conditions are discussed under which unalienated housework can become oppressive or can become alienated.

Key Passage

For Marx, there is a crucial distinction that must be made between the concept of alienation and the related (but not identical) concepts of domination and oppression. Although all forms of alienation involve oppression or domination, it is not the case that all forms of domination or oppression involve alienation. One can be dominated and oppressed without being alienated. But if one is alienated, one is certainly dominated and oppressed. Thus, to say that the family, housework, and child care can be free of alienation is not to say that there cannot at the same time be domination or oppression present.  (p.122)


Marx, Feminism, Child Rearing, Housework, Alienation, Oppression, Gender


Alienation, Marx, Home and Work, Care Work

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