Beginning in the 1970s, Marxist feminists and movements like the Wages for Housework campaign countered this consensus by arguing that women’s domestic work was unpaid but nevertheless commodity-producing work; indeed, it created and sustained the most important commodity of all—labor-power. Women’s “reproductive” work was actually foundational to capitalist exploitation, and very much a productive activity.
In short, the capitalist exploitation of labor outside and beyond the wage form has been well documented for many years. Yet many Marxists continue to focus on the wage as the singular embodiment of capitalist exploitation. An expanded Marxist understanding of capitalist exploitation is long overdue. This is not merely an academic question, but a problem with profound implications for anticapitalist movements and organizations around the world.
Additionally, we are well equipped to draw on the long and rich history of workers’ struggles under the many different work regimes of capitalism and to find and create new models and possibilities, both for resistance and for the creation of independent, worker-based economies.