For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Reconceptualizing maternal work: Dejours, Ruddick and Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk About Kevin"

by Messer, Jane (2013)


This paper revisits Sara Ruddick's ‘maternal thinking’ thesis, in order to explore whether Ruddick's insights into the character of maternal work can be extended with the conceptualization of work as constitutive of subjectivity (Christophe Dejours, Axel Honneth). The relevance of Dejours' psychodynamics of work to Ruddick's maternal thinking project, is that it nuances and strengthens Ruddick's claim that maternal thinking has normative force for diverse maternal practices and values, i.e. her claim that all mothers in whatever conditions, think. Lionel Shriver's novel We Need to Talk About Kevin works as a kind of auto-ethnography and a private confess from which to think about the nexus of work and mothering, and mothering as work un-partitioned from ‘paid’ labor. Shriver's novel offers a rich pool of conceptual content and thick narrative description and reflection through which to explore Dejours' and Ruddick's claims, and to consider their complementarities and the generation of new insights into maternal work.


Maternal Thinking, Gendered Labour, Pscyhology, Psychodynamics, Mothering, Unpaid Labour, Domestic Labour, Maternal Work, Care Work


Dejours, Ruddick, Mothering, Care Work

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