The Political Economy of Reproduction: Motherhood, Work and the Home in Neoliberal Britain

PhD Thesis

Barbagallo, Camille 2016. The Political Economy of Reproduction: Motherhood, Work and the Home in Neoliberal Britain. PhD Thesis University of East London Social Science
AuthorsBarbagallo, Camille
TypePhD Thesis

This thesis investigates how the processes and practices of reproduction have
been transformed not only by the ascendant political rationality of
neoliberalism but also by women’s struggles that have reconfigured
motherhood, the domestic home and the gendered organisation of
employment. Through exploring both the 1970s feminist demand for “free 24-
hour nurseries” and the contemporary provision of extended, overnight and
flexible childcare, care that is often referred to as “24-hour childcare”, the
research contributes to feminist understandings of the gendered and
racialised class dynamics inside and outside the home and the wage. The
research repositions the ‘Woman Question’ as, yet again unavoidable and
necessary for comprehending and intervening in the brutalising consequences
of capitalist accumulation.
Situated within the Marxist feminist tradition, the work of reproduction is
understood as a cluster of tasks, affective relations and employment that have
historically been constructed and experienced as ‘women’s work’. The
interrelation between the subjectivity of motherhood and the political
economy of reproduction is analysed through a feminist genealogy of 24-hour
childcare in Britain. Using ethnographic encounters, archival research and
interview data with mothers and childcare workers, the research tells a story
about the women who have worked both inside and outside the home, raised
children, cooked and cleaned, and who, both historically and in the present,
continue to create an immense amount of wealth and value.
As women's labour market participation has steadily increased over the last
40 years, the discourse of reproduction has shifted to one in which
motherhood is increasingly constructed as a choice. Within neoliberal
discourse the decision to have a child is constructed as a private matter for
which individuals bear the costs and responsibility. The thesis argues that, as
a result of motherhood being constructed more and more as something that is
chosen, the spaces of resistance and opposition towards motherhood have
been limited and resistance has been individuated and privatised.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Publication dates
PrintMar 2016
Publication process dates
Deposited03 Aug 2016
Publisher's version
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