Social Reproduction Theory, edited by Tithi Bhattacharya, has much more to offer than Sue Caldwell suggests in her review (July/August SR).
The essays provide a serious and rigorous attempt to extend a fundamental Marxist concept, the role of labour in creating value, to areas of life which have been neglected by many Marxist theoreticians, centrally the role of unpaid domestic labour in the reproduction of labour power.
Sue argues that the books’ authors are pessimistic about the working class but they insist on the centrality of class struggle, both at its sharpest point in the workplace and in all areas of our lives which have been devastated by neoliberalism.
This does not imply that Marxists should accept every aspect of social reproduction theory uncritically. Some may take issue with the idea that there is a gap in Marx which social reproduction theorists have now filled, when there has been a long process of theoretical development in this area.
Sue rightly points out that revolutionary socialists have never confined themselves exclusively to struggles in the workplace. From Marx and Engels’ day onwards, rent strikes, food riots, environmental protests and opposition to war and oppression have always been central to the revolutionary tradition. Marxists have no need to be defensive.
Social Reproduction Theory is part of stimulating debate about the application of Marxism to the modern world, one which revolutionary socialists should engage with rather than dismissing too readily.