Revolution at Point Zero by Silvia Federici

Revolution at Point Zero by Silvia Federici

Author:Silvia Federici
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: PM Press
Published: 2012-01-01T16:00:00+00:00


III

REPRODUCING COMMONS

ON ELDER CARE WORK AND THE LIMITS OF MARXISM (2009)

Introduction up

“Care work,” especially eldercare, has come in recent years to the cen-Wter of public attention in the countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in response to a number of trends that have put many traditional forms of assistance into crisis. First among these trends have been the growth, in relative and absolute terms, of the old age population, and the increase in life expectancy, that have not been matched, however, by a growth of the services catering to the old.1 There has also been the expansion of women’s waged employment that has reduced their contribution to the reproduction of their families.2 To these factors we must add the continuing process of urbanization and the gentrification of working class neighborhoods, that have destroyed the support networks and the forms of mutual aid on which older people living alone could once rely, as neighbors would bring them food, make their beds, come for a chat. As a result of these trends, for a large number of elderly, the positive effects of a longer life span have been voided or are clouded by the prospect of loneliness, social exclusion and increased vulnerability to physical and psychological abuse. With this in mind, I present some reflections on the question of eldercare in contemporary social policy, especially in the United States, to then ask what action can be taken on this terrain, and why the question of elder care is absent in the literature of the radical Left.

My main objective here is to call for a redistribution of the social wealth in the direction of elder care, and the construction of collective forms of reproduction, enabling older people to be provided for, when no longer self-sufficient, and not at the cost of their providers’ lives. For this to occur, however, the struggle over elder care must be politicized and placed on the agenda of social justice movements. A cultural revolution is also necessary in the concept of old age, against its degraded representation as a fiscal burden on the state, on one side and, on the other, an “optional” stage in life that we can overcome and even prevent, if we adopt the right medical technology and the “life enhancing” devises disgorged by the market.3 At stake in the politicization of elder care are not only the destinies of older people and the unsustainability of radical movements failing to address such a crucial issue in our lives, but the possibility of generational and class solidarity, which for years have been the targets of a relentless campaign by political economists and governments, portraying the provisions which workers have won for their old age (such as pensions and other forms of social security) as an economic time-bomb and a heavy mortgage on the future of the young.

The Crisis of Elder Care in the Global Era

In some respects the present crisis of elder care is nothing new. Eldercare in capitalist society has always



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