volume 47, no. 3 / 2021
Feminism and Capitalism
Feminist activists and scholars theorize capitalism as a political and economic conjuncture, a hydra-headed monster configuring and distributing power unevenly across difference to produce multiple interrelated crises. Months prior to the COVID pandemic, when we issued the call for this special issue on feminism and capitalism, we indexed our contemporary conjuncture as one in which inequality is at an unconscionably high level. Hundreds of millions of people are poor, hungry, and in a perpetual search for bad jobs and precarious work. Sexual and domestic violence, and violence based on the hardening of gender, racial, caste, religious and ethnic differences is increasing. Migration and displacement within and across national boundaries are at record levels. An environmental apocalypse appears to be unfolding. The pandemic has exacerbated these crises and underscores the urgency of feminist interrogations of capitalism. Several works in this special issue focus on this very task, including Leslie Salzinger’s discussion of how capitalism is foundationally and structurally dependent on social reproduction, and Rebecca Herzig and Banu Subramaniam’s examination of “housekeeping,” the “invisibilized, undercompensated, and utterly indispensable labor” of social reproduction in US universities, both of which have been intensified by the pandemic whose burdens have fallen in disproportionately gendered and racialized ways. Ana Hernández’s reflection on contemporary socialist feminist activism in Venezuela similarly points to how COVID has worsened longstanding capitalist, imperialist, and patriarchal processes, including increasing domestic violence and further restricting poor and working-class women’s access to food, medicine, and reproductive health. Sushmita Chatterjee and Kiran Asher’s essay extends our focus from humanist conceptions of labor and history in their examination of “COVID capitalism,” drawing our attention to the deep dependencies of human-animal relationships in the production of value. While examining the intersection of capitalism and the pandemic is one way of traversing this issue, there are other paths to take. We invite you to find your own, and in what follows, we suggest a few possibilities.