Frigga Haug combines philosophical conscientiousness and shrewdness with uncompromising farsightedness and passionate visions of the future. (Judith Butler)
It is time to break free of the false alternatives that paralyse politics and make it boring.
The feeling that things cannot go on like this is shared by more and more people in Europe. And if we are to move beyond vague feelings (that are subject to manipulation), it is necessary to subject current conditions to a careful political critique that is not just a negation of these conditions. Such a negation, by making them the measure of all things, would only allow these conditions to block prospects for new discoveries. It takes courage and intelligence to devise schemes and formulate proposals aimed at liberating and changing society, for the zeitgeist (more a spectre than a spirit these days) dooms us to pure immanence. Utopian reflections, i.e. the realisation that history means being active and able to act, are frowned upon and dismissed at best as unrealistic daydreaming.
If one reads the writings of Frigga Haug, on the other hand, the sense of resignation subsides and a certain confidence begins to be felt. A re-orientation of Marxist and feminist thinking combines theory with strengthening the capacity for a left politics from below, one which puts the representative model of politics in its place. That is why we are designing a fundamental change in the division of labour as a long-term political guideline. What we want to see is a link between these four areas of human activity: Gainful employment, work of reproduction, cultural work, and political work. Nowadays the organisation of survival, life, cultural development and public activity is split into narrow specialisations and circumscribed spheres of competence, which entails a senseless waste of time and – above all – a profoundly unjust state of affairs which no clear-thinking person possessing a minimum of ethical competence could ever justify. The comprehensive concept of justice as formulated by women assumes that every person can contribute about 16 hours a day to the sum of social productivity and can use this time meaningfully in blocks of four hours each (these numbers are intended as a general guide, not as dogma) for him or herself, for others and the community as a whole. This means first of all reducing the period of gainful employment for everyone to four hours; for the work of procreation and the family this means first and foremost a generalisation: both men and women can and should be able to develop their societal skills; for cultural development this means that each individual will have time to develop his or her various talents and capacity to learn; and for politics this means that everyone can take part in shaping society. The art of politics lies in linking up the four areas, none of which should be pursued at the expense of the others, which would mean a more inclusive politics and fuller lives.
The whole scheme is based on the insight that gender relations are relations of production, so that no system of political economy can be taken seriously if it does not face up to this fact. The historical and theoretical arguments are to be found in the last chapter, which proves in a fascinating logical demonstration that a left without feminism is not sustainable – and vice versa.
This text is available in both English- and French-language versions:
Towards a Theory of Gender Relations, in: Socialism and Democracy, No. 31, Vol. 16, winter/spring 2002, p. 33-46
Sur la théorie des rapports de sexe. in: Actuel Marx, Les rapports sociaux de sexe, No. 30, 2001, pp. 43 – 60
And discussions on the above at the authors website.
Die Vier-in-einem-Perspektive. Politik von Frauen für eine neue Linke, Hamburg: Argument Verlag 2008, 348 pages, € 19.50 (D)