Rosa Luxemburg and the Critique of Political Economy (Routledge Studies in the History of Economics)

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People also read Article. Published online: 10 Mar Just imagine, I have become a feminist! If it were a matter of bourgeois ladies voting, the capitalist state could expect nothing but effective support for the reaction.

However, the liberal legal strategy of achieving suffrage was not class inclusive and did not aim to overturn the capitalist system. Far from it. For Luxemburg, the metaphysics of individual rights within the framework of a liberal political project primarily serves to protect private ownership and the accumulation of capital.

Liberal rights do not arise as a reflection of actual material social conditions, they are merely set up as abstract and nominal, thus rendering their actual implementation or application impossible. Thus one of the fundamental conditions for accumulation is a supply of living labour that matches its requirements, and that capital sets in motion The progressive increase in variable capital that accompanies accumulation must therefore express itself in the employment of a growing workforce.

Yet where does this additional workforce come from? Hence, it is necessary to ensure that production is reproduced in a larger volume than before, meaning that the expansion of capital is the absolute law governing the survival of any individual capitalist.

In The Accumulation of Capital Rosa Luxemburg establishes the premises for understanding capitalism as a social relation which permanently produces crises and necessarily faces objective limits to demand and self-expansion. There can be no doubt that the explanation of the economic root of imperialism must especially be derived from and brought into harmony with [a correct understanding of] the laws of capital accumulation, for imperialism on the whole and according to universal empirical observation is nothing other than a specific method of accumulation.

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Unlike Marx, who abstracted the actual accumulation by specific capitalist countries and their relations via external trade, Luxemburg claims that expanded reproduction should not be discussed in the context of an ideal-type capitalist society. Marx wishes to demonstrate that a substantial portion of surplus is absorbed by capital as such, instead of concrete individuals. Luxemburg, on the other hand, analyses the accumulation of capital starting from the level of international commodity exchange between capitalist and non-capitalist systems.

Equally, that line of argument allows for understanding the highly important distinction between productive and non productive labour, 26 without which it would be almost impossible to understand social-reproduction theory as a specific reaction to neoclassical economics and its partnership with liberal feminism.

The laboring population can increase, when previously unproductive workers are transformed into productive ones, or sections of the population who did not work previously, such as women and children, or paupers, are drawn into the production process. Rights are allocated very cautiously, on an identity-level basis as opposed to the material social level , and exclusively according to the formula designed primarily to safeguard the reproduction of the capitalist mode of production.

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Bourgeois women from the early nineteenth century do not have the abolition of the class system in mind; on the contrary, they support it. The processes of accumulation of capital, the modern state, the aspirations of liberalism, and then bourgeois feminism move along the same path:. The examples of Finland, of American states, of a few municipalities, all show that a policy of equal rights for women has not yet overturned the state; it does not encroach upon the domination of capital. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise that the subjects of her critique also include precisely those social phenomena and processes which enable capitalism — liberalism, the role of the bourgeoisie in the transition from feudal monarchy to capitalism.

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Rights, laws, and modern-day social contracts are institutions that played a key historic formal role in the affirmation of capitalism. On the one hand, the bourgeois class of women demands the political right to vote only for the ruling class of women, and from an individualist standpoint they hold no interest in tackling the issue of the position of women in general or class-related causes of the oppression of women.

Aside from the few who have jobs or professions, the women of the bourgeoisie do not take part in social production. They are nothing but co-consumers of the surplus value their men extort from the proletariat. Talking about women in general whilst feigning universality will not do, because gender analysis without class analysis is reductive. They are parasites of the parasites of the social body. Thus, Luxemburg adds, the only social role of bourgeois women is to maintain and reproduce the existing order; they are not allies in the struggle for emancipation:.

The women of the property-owning classes will always fanatically defend the exploitation and enslavement of the working people by which they indirectly receive the means for their socially useless existence. Luxemburg is not alone in her sharp criticism of bourgeois feminism. Clara Zetkin and Alexandra Kollontai, among others, contributed a great deal, particularly if we bear in mind their standpoint towards the reactionary attitudes of liberal women on the emancipation of women.

This was in spite of the fact that, historically, the appearance of women in the labour market was frequently seen as an attempt to introduce cheaper competition for the male labour-force, which in turn influenced the decline in the price of labour. Considering the problem of the female labour force, socialist women point out that the workload of women is additionally aggravated by reproductive labour within the household sphere.

Referring to Engels, in a speech from she differentiated between labour in the market sphere and labour in the household sphere, thereby laying the foundations for early social-reproduction theory:.

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This kind of work [bringing up children, or their housework] is not productive in the sense of the present capitalist economy no matter how enormous an achievement the sacrifices and energy spent, the thousand little efforts add up to. This is but the private affair of the worker, his happiness and blessing, and for this reason non-existent for our present society.