Friday, August 21, 2015

Social reproduction and Collective Care

Our new text for Occupied Times:

A Horizon for Struggles and Practices

The Radical Collective Care Project is a small research group investigating the politics of collective practices of care. Our aim is to explore different methodologies from small self-organised experiments (such as mutual legal aid and housing cooperatives), to substantial movements (such as the PAH and Occupy Sandy) and models for policy (such as the historical one-kitchen house and proposals from feminist economics). On our website we’re putting together a modest showcase of examples from across this spectrum, to ask and learn about the specific challenges they face. We hope to map out a set of common knowledges and frequently occurring problems within this horizon. In the future we hope to find resources to expand the project and open it up to wider participation.

Struggling around social reproduction

The crisis we are in is a profound one. It’s not just the economic system facing a crunch but also the mode of social organisation and reproduction, as well as ecological systems, reaching a tipping point. It’s a deep crisis, one that isn’t about to be resolved but rather will keep erupting, leading to new breakdowns at economic, societal and environmental levels. Our survival and flourishing on this planet can no longer be managed via abstract chains of exploitation because those chains increasingly break down. We in the Global North – at least those of us with northern papers and skin colour – have been able to get by thinking that we don’t depend on anyone, that we are our own masters. This is in line with the liberal subject that structures our societies and relations, which fetishises independence and thinks of itself as universal. Well, in fact, we do all depend on one another in global capitalism – we cannot think of societies as islands (whether at a national, ethnic or other level) because we depend on Chinese factory workers and Congolese miners as much as on Polish plumbers or Indian IT workers (to reiterate some major national industry professions).
It is time to transform these interdependencies into more sustainable and friendly ones, and the site of this struggle is social reproduction.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

About the Radical Collective Care Practices Project – an interview-text

by B. Rübner-Hansen, J. Wieger and M. Zechner, questions by E. Krasny[1]

Beginnings /// Upon meeting in Vienna in 2012, at a workshop Manuela ran at VBKÖ (a historical association of women artists that aims to foster contemporary feminist artistic agendas, in Vienna), we found that we shared an interest in questions of care, social reproduction/reproductive labor and collective forms of organizing, food production and housing. We come from different fields and directions: Julia is interested in feminist approaches to architecture and was then starting research on the spatial relations of reproductive labor; Manuela had done extensive militant research on care networks via workshops and her PhD, in Spain and the UK notably; and Bue was working theoretically on the question of social reproduction under capitalism, keeping an eye on the emergent forms of self-organisation during the crisis in Europe. We decided to start a collective research process and a corresponding online platform structured around case studies.
Social and economic crisis /// The idea to start the project came up against the background of a social crisis convulsing Europe – at a time when the impact of the 2008 financial crisis could be felt ever more strongly in the so-called PIIGS countries and when austerity politics started to take effect, further dismantling the social institutions once provided by the (welfare)states throughout Europe. This situation was new in Europe, both in the experiences and dilemmas it posed and the collective and organisational responses it triggered. Autonomous self-reproduction has become a matter of necessity and survival for many people (as opposed to being a life-style choice).