(1) Ideological Battle; (2) Control of the Labor Supply; (3) Capital-as-hierarchical-gender-divide
She’s a Marxist recently broke down some of the different positions on “why all the crackdown on reproductive rights?” (full article here: Abortion Banned in Us = Capitalism’s best Interest?). She gives us two possible positions:
(1) First position: This is an ideological fight between the right and centrist social forces within the ruling class. I think this is the most common position within the left (at least that I’ve heard). It assumes that this issue is purely ideological. It assumes that the battle over abortion is at its heart dictated by ideological interests being battled out within the ruling class.
She’sa is right fucking on the money here, critiquing this position, which we’ll call “Ideolgical Battle”, for the vapid suggestion that capital doesn’t really give a fuck one way or the other about what happens to women’s reproductive rights –
I think this position assumes Capital processes (M-C-M) are fundamentally sex/gender/race blind, and thus, Capital acting in its most truest interests is ruthlessly pragmatic and not really hemmed in by ideological interest in any one religion, race, nationality, gender, etc. It wants profit and profit don’t have no gender, race or religion.
She’sa continues to argue for an alternative position,
(2) Second possible position:… different factions of capital have more than just an ideological interest in the outcome of this fight, since the issue [of reproductive rights] critically affects the make-up of the labor force in the U.S. which has an impact on capital here and abroad.
This argument, the “Control of labor pool” argument, that capital is interested in controlling women’s reproduction centrally in order to control the reproduction of labor power, control the labor pool, the reserve army, etc, is an important one. And She’s A Marxist’s intervention, that “concerns about the family, and concerns about gender are not just ideological concerns. They are directly and critically related to the labor needs of capital,” is totally essential and should be tatt’d on the asses of whatever marxists haven’t gotten that yet, but there still seems something more we can say about this.
(3) The nothing offers a third position (in hopes of more to follow): that regardless of what kind of labor pool capital wants (and it is very uncertain whether capital actually moves to produce the kind of labor pool it ‘wants’, or if its even clear what it ‘wants’), capital will constantly be pressing more restrictions and violences on womens bodies whenever it can, because the gender distinction is a constitutive presupposition of capital, and controlling women’s reproduction and perpetrating violence on womens bodies and is the construction of woman-as-category, is the construction of the gender division.
In other words, capital could give a whatwhat about how many people are in its reserve army (LIKE HELLO THERE ARE WAY TOO MANY RIGHT NOW, SO NOW YOU HAVE EGYPT AND WISCONSIN), it STILL will oppress women. Why? BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT CAPITAL IS. Capital (amongst other things) a new form, a most distilled and systematic form, of patriarchy, which contains as an inherent part, the subordination of women to men. Any attempt to explain attacks on women from capital is to say “capital could just be nice to women, why’s it being so mean?” But the truth is, it won’t ever be nice to women-as-class.
The reproduction of an increasingly heirarchical gender divide, which is the central cumulative affect of making abortion illegal, is really awesome for capital NOT ONLY IN THAT IT PRODUCES BABIES, but in that THE MORE SERIOUS THE GENDER DIVIDE, THE MORE WOMEN CAN BE EXPLOITED BY CAPITAL, both in the wage-relation, and in unpaid reproductive labor. And capital is FOUNDED on and REPRODUCED BY this hyperexploitation of women, as compared to men.
Silvia Federici has thrown in some chips on the question. In an interesting way, she sets up premises which would move her toward position three, but she seems to throw down position two..
On the positive side, the discovery of reproductive work has made it possible to understand that capitalist production relies on the production of a particular type of worker, and therefore a particular type of family, sexuality, procreation, and thus to redefine the private sphere as a sphere of relations of production and a terrain of anticapitalist struggle. In this context, policies forbidding abortion could be decoded as devices for the regulation of the labor-supply, the collapse of the birth rate and increase in the number of divorces could be read as instances of resistance to the capitalist discipline of work. The personal became political and capital and the state were found to have subsumed our lives and reproduction down to the bedroom