Women and Childcare in Capitalism: A Dialectical and Materialist Study - Part 1: Childcare in Capitalism

Andrea Marie will be speaking at Mums4Corbyn's session Whose Job is it anyway? Radical Childcare at The World Transformed in Brighton on September 23rd.

This four part examination of the care of children under capitalism draws extensively on Lise Vogel’s (2013) Marxism and the Oppression of Women in order to theorise exactly how childcare functions in the UK today[1] and to suggest alternatives.

Part One examines how the establishment of childcare outside the home in capitalist society is vulnerable to co-option by capitalist purposes for both production and reproduction, and I summarise Vogel’s central thesis in order to explain how.

Part Two explores how this co-option functions in the current situation, and the exact ways childcare is used to facilitate women’s work and stabilise the rearing of children both through childcare inside and outside the home.

Part Three looks at how childcare can be deployed in other ways to those dictated by the purposes of capitalism, drawing on Nancy Fraser’s understanding of how the sites of class struggle can be widened beyond the productive realm in order to redraw the boundaries between production and reproduction. To inquire how childcare can be reclaimed for our own purposes rather than ceding them to capitalism, I use both William Morris and Alexandra Kollontai to explore how the sites and nature of both work and care can be transformed.

Finally, Part Four discusses how this transformation can be initiated today, understanding reformism as a revolutionary strategy, and suggesting sites of struggle that working class women can take up to influence Labour Party politics.

1. Childcare in Capitalism

Rationales for Childcare: Education and Employment

The twin rationales for providing childcare outside the home, in terms of education for the child on the one hand, and employment for the ‘parent’ on the other (although, in practice, mothers), have been typical of social policy around childcare in the UK since its delivery was centralised in the late 1990s. The groundwork laid by the Labour government[2] was taken up by the Coalition[3] and continued under the current Conservative government, with the Minister for Early Years, Caroline Dinenage, justifying their policy as: “deliver[ing] more childcare places to working parents...while giving their children high-quality early education that sets them up for life.”

Both these aims are necessary and commendable – we need good quality childcare outside the home that helps children socialise, learn and develop as well as for women to be able choose to work if they want, and, importantly, to do things other than work; and these things should not be in conflict. Indeed, the Labour government’s review of childcare stated that implementation of their policy “could contribute to both goals at once, delivering a so-called “double dividend””[4]. However, despite policy pronouncements that claim there is no contradiction in delivering both rationales simultaneously, how they are articulated with and against one another in reality shows that this is not the case, with childcare for the explicit aim of enabling parents to work tending to be of poor quality and early years education often not fitting around women’s lives[5].

The contradiction between education and maternal employment is not, in the last instance, a failure of policy implementation, but a reflection of the reality of capitalist society itself. In History and Class Consciousness, Georg Lukács explains how, in capitalism, an understanding of society is modelled on the ideal of scientific knowledge which “rejects the idea of contradiction and antagonism in its subject matter”, however,

In the case of social reality these contradictions are not a sign of the imperfect understanding of society; on the contrary, they belong to the nature of reality itself and the nature of capitalism. When the totality is known, they will not be transcended and cease to be contradictions. Quite the reverse, they will be seen to be necessary contradictions arising out of the antagonisms of this system of production[6].

That political discourse admits no contradiction, such as between promoting childcare for both rationales, Raymond Williams explains in the May Day Manifesto (1967), is a reflection of political subordination to capitalist ways of thinking. Discussing how the Labour party became implicated in this capitulation, Williams states that “no confrontation of power, values or interests, no choice between competing priorities, is envisaged or encouraged. It is a technocratic model of society, conflict-free and politically neutral, dissolving genuine social conflicts and issues” (2013, p. 40).

However, the reality of childcare in capitalism means that, despite well-meaning attempts to meet these needs, first by feminist pioneers, then instrumentalised as they are taken up by successive governments; they ultimately fragment in the service of capitalism’s own purposes; so that children’s educational needs are seen as best met without their mothers on the grounds that they are inadequate or harmful to the education of their children, and mothers’ freedom is narrowly articulated as participation in employment apart from her children. While seemingly these do give the ‘double dividend’ of providing education for the child while freeing the mother for employment, their unification in reality does not produce a true totality which fully realises each social good. For, having split the needs of mothers and children apart for the sake of capitalism, when forced back together in a ‘technocratic model of society’, they merely “forge arbitrary unmediated connections between things that belong together in an organic union”[7].

Childcare for Education

Sheila Rowbotham’s investigation into women’s agitation for services for mothers and children at the turn of the century shows how early nurseries were often conceived in utopian terms; viewing the care and education of young children as a “social responsibility”[8] which could provide the conditions to reproduce a different and better society rather than perpetuating existing social relations. For example, Rowbotham accounts how, in Moving the Mountain (1911), Charlotte Perkins Gilman “envisaged that education could minimize gender divisions: ‘from infancy to adolescence – all through these years of happy growing – there was nothing whatever to differentiate the boys from the girls! As a rule, they would not be distinguished!’”[9].

Also implicit in the perceived need for early nurseries was a critique of capitalism: the individualisation and isolated conditions of child-rearing, as well as the effects of proletarianisation and overwork on mothers’ capacity to care for children. However, these critiques often confused the historical character of motherhood under capitalism with the failure of working class mothers themselves. Rowbotham explains how:

Some supporters of childcare provision implied that mothers were not up to the task. Children, it was thought, would benefit from seeing less of their biological mothers. Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s conviction that isolated individual mothers in the home were so backward and inefficient that they held back their children, led her to argue for collective forms of childcare outside the home. She believed that once small children were in contact with trained and enlightened carers, they would find alternative role models with a wider view of life and society[10].

What is more, this tendency was present at the conception of Labour demands for nursery education with “leading Labour Party women Marion Phillips and Averil Sanderson Furniss endors[ing] nurseries in 1919 because they gave ‘children a better training both for mind and body’ than working-class mothers could”[11].

When, eventually, at the other end of the century, some form of universal provision enabled by the state was implemented by New Labour[12] - with Fabian technocracy being an invariant in Labour, the fact that earlier conceptions of nursery education were conceived as a technocratic imposition of services against working class women, made modern provision susceptible, in light of what Williams describes as the wider “adaptation of the Labour party to the needs of contemporary British capitalism” (2013, p. 39), to become training, not in preparation for a future society, but to perpetuate the existing one. As Williams continues in regard to the subordination of politics in general, and the Labour party in particular, to the consolidation of a new capitalist economy in the 1950s and 60s in the name of ‘modernisation’:

Attitudes, habits, techniques, practices must change: the system of economic and social power, however, remains unchanged. Modernization fatally short-circuits the formation of social goals. Any discussion of long-term purposes is made to seem utopian, in the down-to-earth, pragmatic climate which modernization generates. The discussion about ‘modernized Britain’ is not about what sort of society, qualitatively, is being aimed at, but simply about how modernization is to be achieved. All programmes and perspectives are treated instrumentally (2013, p. 40).

The separation of the social goals of early models of childcare from their utopianism was made possible by their Fabian technocracy, that meant the women pioneers, rather than offering a total critique of society and its structural undermining of households, were liable to pathologise families and blame mothers. By losing their utopian thrust, the purposes of existing ‘modern’ society were assumed, against which, working class mothers were seen as wanting and holding back their children. In the new social, political and economic context of late capitalism, these models have been easily reinscribed into a capitalist agenda not so much concerned with changing society as with changing the ‘attitudes, habits, techniques, [and] practices’ of families themselves to fit in with the existing one.

This is a strand evident in how childcare has been implemented from the New Labour era onwards, with interventions targeting working class women in particular. For example, initial Sure Start Local Programmes were set up in the most deprived 20% of wards and particularly focused on changing parental (in reality, maternal) behaviour to ensure that their children were socialised correctly and made ready for the discipline of school and work, with the National Evaluation of Sure Start arguing “that “it is very likely” that improvements in home environment, chaos and harsh discipline will deliver future positive benefits in education, worklessness and offending”[13] such that “they will over time reduce the need for more expensive and intrusive interventions later in children’s lives”[14].

This focus on the children of poor families has remained a part of childcare policy, with the Labour government prescribing an extra duty on Children’s Centre (the antecedents of Sure Start) in the most deprived 30% of areas “to provide integrated early education and childcare for ten hours a day, five days a week, 48 weeks a year” (Stewart, 2013, p. 24). This continuing prioritisation can be seen in the Coalition’s implementation of Labour’s plan the extend 15 hours free care a week to the 20% ‘most disadvantaged’ of two year olds, which was then extended to 40%. While this targeting of resources is not in itself necessarily negative, alongside the preferment of private sector provision and the deregulatory framework put in place to encourage them - dropping most of the demands from the Early Years Curriculum except for being ‘school ready’ for instance, provision is increasingly becoming the regulated and homogenised daycare of big childcare chains replicating the hours of the working day. The enlightened “training for mind and body” looks more like the pyscho-social discipline of the ever younger children of poor parents to ensure that they are socialised correctly and made ready to take their place in the capitalist labour-force.

Childcare for Maternal Employment

Conversely, demands for childcare have been made by feminists on behalf of women, often in the name of freedom identified with the economic independence and personal fulfilment of work. Rowbotham summarises how these arguments were made at the turn of the century: “A woman’s individual right to work was regarded by feminists who stressed equality as the touchstone of emancipation. Work for them not only brought economic independence, it constituted a vital means of expressing one’s abilities”[15]. Rowbotham quotes South African feminist Olive Schreiner’s influential book from 1911, Woman and Labour, where she set out how

The argument ‘that the main and continuous occupation of all women from puberty to age is the bearing and suckling of children’ was being undermined, along with the assumption ‘that this occupation must fully satisfy all her needs for social labour and activity.’ Such a perspective had become ‘an antiquated and unmitigated misstatement’; for Schreiner, it followed that a pattern of living must be devised so that women could be both mothers and workers”[16].

However, it can be seen in Rowbotham’s account of the difference between working and middle class women’s work, how demands to “be both mothers and workers”, for example, through childcare provision outside the home, made on these terms, while helpful to wealthy women trying to enter the professions at the turn of the century - many of whom had to make great personal sacrifices to pursue this aim - ignored the exploitation of working class women, who already did work.

The nature of working-class women’s employment undermined the association of work with individual fulfilment which prevailed in middle-class circles. Because they laboured for low pay in grim, damaging surroundings over which they exerted little control, self-actualization implied escaping from work, not gaining entry[17].

In her 1984 essay, ‘Putting Feminism Back on its Feet’, Silvia Federici shows how some second wave feminists continued the strategies of the bourgeois feminists of the first:

Feminism has become equated with gaining equal opportunity in the labour market...That “leaving the home” and “going to work” is a precondition for our liberation is something few feminists, already in the early ’70s, ever questioned...what for women was an economic necessity was elevated into a strategy whereby work itself seemed to become a path to liberation[18].

What is more, without an accompanying critique that attempts to transform the nature of work, Federici also questions whether this should even be a strategy for middle class ‘career’ women:

Work in a capitalist system is exploitation and there is no pleasure, pride or creativity in being exploited. Even the “career” is an illusion as far as self-fulfilment is concerned. What is rarely acknowledged is that most career-type jobs require that you exert power over other people, often other women and this deepens the divisions between us[19].

Women’s struggles for equality in and through work are important and necessary because of their potential to go beyond themselves to create solidarity amongst the working class as a basis for real social equality. However, demands made on the basis of individual equality, and a woman’s right to not be discriminated against in the present system, risk undercutting this solidarity because of the impasse they create between women seeking to enter and advance through work and those who seek to escape it. Furthermore, they fail to include the large section of the working class who are not in the labour-force but dependent on the wage for their maintenance. As Federici warns, “once getting a job is considered necessary to our liberation, the woman who refuses to exchange her work in a kitchen for work in a factory is inevitably branded as backward and, besides being ignored, her problems are turned into her own fault”[20].

Feminist demands for the means to work made on the basis of individual equality are made vulnerable to co-option in order to coerce women into unfulfilling and mundane jobs while providing ideological cover for this in the form of a narrative of women’s empowerment. As Federici explains, “there is hardly a politician who dares not to profess eternal devotion to women’s rights, and wisely so, since what they have in mind is our “right to work,” for our cheap labour is a true cornucopia for the system”[21]. From New Labour’s introduction of centralised provision to current Conservative policy, the way in which childcare has been implemented shows how the state has used it as a policy lever to address the labour force needs of capitalist production, with the more or less explicit justification of enabling women’s independence[22]. This is evident from the co-location of employment advice with Sure Start Centres to the shift of funding to employer vouchers (Stewart and Obolenskaya, 2015, p. 22) and the restriction of the Conservative’s 30 hour free entitlement for 3 and 4 year olds to children of working parents. It’s clear that what started off as being a demand for women’s freedom is anything but, with the idea that we could have “daycare centres, not just to be liberated for more work, but to be able to take a walk, talk to our friends, or go to a women’s meeting”[23] a million miles away.

The Inorganic Unity of Education and Employment

While both the education and employment rationales are instrumentalised in their capitalist articulation, how they are yoked together in reality further leads to each one diminishing the other. This is despite the harmony with which social policy discourse suggests that both goals coalesce yet the exact emphasis on either the importance of education or employment might differ depending on the concrete situation, and this is the case in the policy of the Labour, Coalition and current Conservative administrations.

The instrumentalisation of the education rationale has been used not only to undermine mothers’ role in their children’s education, but also to neutralise the radicalism of feminist demands for childcare on behalf of women. When claims for children’s well-being intervene, there is a move from justifying maternal employment in terms of women’s equality, to doing so as an indirect way to improve children’s opportunities, (defined narrowly in economic terms). The shift is highlighted by Dobrowlosky and Jenson (2002):

There has been a displacement of claims-making in the name of "women," and a strengthening of claims for "children" and especially "poor children". Those advocating in the name of women find themselves increasingly excluded and/or find themselves compelled to use the language of "children's needs"...Whereas notions of social rights in citizenship regimes in the 1960s and 1970s accommodated an equality discourse that provided some space for women and women's movements to make claims for services and supports, transit through the era of neo-liberalism both effectively side-lined talk of social rights and spending and made equality claims for adults difficult to sustain.

The Labour government laid the groundwork for this shift, which was deepened by the Coalition, viewing the purpose of childcare “to enable mothers (and particularly lone mothers) to go out to work, thereby reducing child poverty” (Stewart, 2013, p. 32). Noting the shift to justifying childcare in terms of employment at the expense of children’s education, Lloyd explains that “in practice the Coalition’s argument shifted substantially in favour of the economic well-being rationale as the main driver for early years policy development” (2015, p. 149). This semantic shift expresses the fact that the Conservative government have completely dropped any semblance of their policy advancing women’s equality (even in its cynical instrumental deployment). Furthermore, this move is a symptom of the general acceptance that work was the best route out of poverty and naturalised the dismantling of the welfare state. The ideological work is done, as ‘parental employment’ is now accepted as the primary social good and a policy aim in itself, rather than as a means to achieve either women’s equality or children’s well-being. In the context of the complete defeat of the social democratic welfare state, the government entirely aligns itself with the capitalist need to make women free for the labour force while refusing to support, what it sees as, a surplus population. As children’s ‘economic well-being’ is made totally the responsibility of their parents, the ‘instructive’ element that the educational rationale draws out of its dialectical opposite, is the need to submit to work discipline to avoid penury.

Justifying childcare on the grounds of supporting maternal employment has gone hand in hand with weakening the educative element and easing quality. This was already a worry when Sure Starts became Children’s Centres in 2004, offering increased hours of care, “which was seen by some as a betrayal of the original Sure Start focus on play, nurture and parenting support: Norman Glass, regarded as the ‘father’ of Sure Start, argued that the programme had been “capture[d] by the ‘employability’ agenda”” (Stewart, 2013, p. 24-5). This worry has persisted, with Lloyd’s evaluation of the Coalition government’s Early Years policies from 2010-2015 concerned that the increasing flexibility of when parents can use their free entitlement – over a minimum of two days rather than three - made “the places more practical for childcare purposes but potentially weakening them from a child development perspective” (2015, p. 17). Here, targeting services for ‘disadvantaged’ children can be reinterpreted as an attempt, more or less coercive, to ensure women are available for labour in particularly poorly paying jobs above a concern for child development. Furthermore, restricting the recent expansion of a 30 hour entitlement to children of working parents only also attests to the current Conservative government’s lack of commitment to providing universal early education. As the Department for Education state, “while the universal entitlement is focused on supporting child development, the aim of the extension is that “Additional free childcare will help families by reducing the cost of childcare and will support parents into work or to work more hours should they wish to do so"" (DfE, 2017, p. 12). That this has initiated a decrease in quality in an attempt to overcome the economic limits of extended state-sponsored provision can be seen by the increasing deregulation and privatisation explored in Part Two.

Deployed together, then, each rationale aids the emptying of the other of its meaningful content: seen through the prism of children’s needs, work becomes a necessity for their well-being and so a requirement for mothers rather than a choice; however, from the point of view of employment, education becomes superfluous. The contradictory move of emptying childcare of its educational content while achieving children’s ‘well-being’ means the latter is presumed to be attained, not by the substance of the provision itself, but by the instructive example of parental submission to the capitalist economy (and subsequently children’s submission to long hours of institutionalised childcare). There is indeed a ‘double dividend’ - not of education and women’s equality, but of producing workers for both the short-term and the long-term labour force. Each rationale is instrumentalised for the sake of the other and becomes its dialectic opposite: education for employment (training the future labour force) and employment for education (disciplining children through the example of parental employment).

Vogel and the Contradiction between Production and Reproduction

The instrumentalisation of these social goods - good quality childcare enabling mothers to choose to engage in work or other pursuits - into coercing women into employment and making interventions on behalf of poor children’s socialisation into the capitalist society and economy, is because of the unique place childcare policy stands in capitalist society. Childcare intervenes right at the heart of the capitalist contradiction between production and reproduction, which is decisive for women’s lives under capitalism. In her ground breaking (but criminally ignored) book, Marxism and the Oppression of Women, Lise Vogel provides a theoretical framework in which to grasp this contradiction and its consequences. Since it is only by situating questions around childcare within this wider perspective of the current social totality of capitalism, that, following Lukács, the ‘organic unity’ of the problematic can be grasped, beyond the necessarily limited perspectives and interactions between the articulations of childcare from a ‘technocratic model of society’. For, “the objective forms of all social phenomena change constantly in the course of their ceasless dialectical interactions with each other. The intelligibility of objects develops in proportion as we grasp their function in the totality to which they belong. This is why only the dialectical conception of totality can enable us to understand reality as a social process. For only this conception dissolves the fetishistic forms necessarily produced by the capitalist mode of production”[24].

Following Marx, Vogel explains that capitalism exploits the labour-power of the working class through wage labour in order to acquire surplus value. This labour-power must be reproduced to sustain the total social reproduction of capitalism and this usually relies on generational replacement as one such process of reproduction – a process external to, but subsumed under, capitalist purposes. “If children are to be born, it is women who will carry and deliver them. Women belonging to the subordinate class have, therefore, a special role with respect to the generational replacement of labour-power”[25]. Although this is the material pre-condition upon which working class women’s oppression in capitalism lies, Vogel stresses that “the circumstances and outcome of the processes of reproduction of labour-power are essentially indeterminate or contingent”[26]. In other words, biological difference does not determine a particular set of relations - neither of dominance nor subordination. However, in capitalism, as Ferguson and McNally explain in the introduction to Marxism and the Oppression of Women, men and women’s differential position in the reproduction of labour-power becomes the basis of a social system where working class women are oppressed because “capital and the state need to be able to regulate their biological capacity to produce the next generation of labourers so that labour-power is available for exploitation”[27].

Vogel insists that the processes of reproduction are not in themselves separate from the world of public production, but made to be so under capitalist conditions of production, as, “in class societies based on agriculture – feudalism, for example – the labour-processes of necessary labour are frequently integrated with those of surplus-production”[28], with workers retaining “a portion of the total product”[29]. It is notable that when the strict sanctions of feudal bondage were breaking down in the seventeenth century, bearers of labour power had the conditions to refuse surplus-labour in radical communities such as the Diggers. However, the specialisation of production processes under capitalism, particularly industrial and post-industrial capitalism, in order to increase productivity, means the sharp distinction made between wage labour and domestic labour strips the bearer of labour power of both the means and conditions of production. This double separation ensures that, for proletarians, who do not own the means of production, the means of subsistence are only available as commodities which must be earned indirectly through a wage; whilst the necessary labour performed outside the capitalist production process also lacks the character to maintain reproduction alone, being done as it is in isolated units unable to “set the instruments of social labour in motion”[30], as the Diggers were, briefly and against great resistance, able to do.

Theoretically, women’s child bearing capacity does not necessarily entail their increased involvement in other aspects of social reproduction, such as the daily maintenance of oneself and other dependants, and raising children beyond weaning - the entirety of which work Vogel, extending Marx’s conception, terms ‘necessary labour’. However, in capitalism, part of the social articulation of this (sexual) difference is an enforced separation of the sites where labour takes place and a splitting of necessary labour into a domestic and a social component. The social component of necessary labour indirectly facilitates the reproduction of labour-power by providing the money to acquire the goods that make up the means of subsistence. Payment of a wage not only obscures the difference between necessary labour and surplus labour, but totally disassociates the domestic component from wage labour[31]. This has the advantage for capital of both externalising reproductive labour as well as specialising productive labour to increase surplus-value, so that, although, “in principle, women’s and men’s differential roles in the replacement of labour-power are of finite duration. They come into play only during the women’s actual child-bearing months. In reality, the roles take specific historical form in the variety of social structures known as the family”[32].

Although child bearing reproduces the labour-power to ensure the total social reproduction of capitalism, at the same time - and especially because of its association with other reproductive activities - it

Threatens to diminish the contribution a woman in the subordinate class can make as a direct producer and as a participant in necessary labour...From the point of view of the dominant class, there is, therefore, a potential contradiction between its immediate need to appropriate surplus-labour and its long-term requirement for a class to perform it[33].

Historically, this contradiction has been managed by the mediation of the family-household, which is required to withstand and, to a certain extent, reconcile these contradictory purposes. For alongside capitalism’s drive for endless accumulation that Marx witnessed as destroying the working class family in the service of ever increasing participation in productive labour, is capitalism’s use of the family, and working class resistance for the preservation of relations of kin, in order to maintain it as the “social site in which the production and reproduction of labour-power occurs”[34]. Within this individualised site, necessary labour, in both its social and domestic components, is socialised between mothers and fathers in heterosexual couples in order to ensure provisioning even during the periods of child bearing. Historically, men’s greater responsibility in wage labour at this time is “legitimated by their domination of women and reinforced by institutionalised structures of female oppression. The ruling class, in order to stabilise the reproduction of labour-power as well as to keep the amount of necessary labour at acceptable levels, encourages male supremacy within the exploited class”[35].

Using male disciplining to regulate reproductive labour also maximises women’s availability as direct producers alongside domestic work, so that “the oppression of women in the exploited class is shaped not only by women’s relationship to the processes of maintenance and renewal of labour-power, but by the extent and character of their participation in surplus-labour”[36]. This oppression is also deepened by the interrelation of these dual roles, such that women’s “specific responsibilities and subordination in the tasks of necessary labour may carry consequences for the work they do in the area of surplus-production…Conversely, involvement in surplus-labour may affect the forms of women’s necessary labour”[37]. This can be seen in the disadvantageous wages and conditions women command in paid labour, as well as pressure on women to subordinate their reproductive health and care of their children around demands to participate in capitalist production.

The importance of childcare outside the home, then, from the perspective of production - the short-term need of capitalism to maximise surplus-labour, is that it helps ease this contradiction by making women available for work. However, from the perspective of reproduction and capitalism’s long-term survival, childcare is sometimes needed as an intervention to regulate reproduction when the insecurity, overwork and underpay of paid employment diminish maternal ability, or incite resistance, to rearing children in a suitable way to form a labour force that meets the current and future needs of capitalism. Childcare in capitalism, then, attempts to fulfil both the demand for ‘employment’, capitalist production, and ‘education’, the reproduction of capitalism, against one another and how the state mediates these demands depends on the actual, concrete situation of women’s lives in capitalism and must be explored in their current totality.

This essay continues in Part Two.

  1. This examination applies to the UK only – and where childcare policy is devolved across the four nations, to just the English system. It does not attempt to theorise international examples, where, for example, the dynamic by which the family is a site of the production and reproduction of labour-power might be differently articulated such that there is a complete destruction of family life or where the household is still a productive site of homework, for example. It also deals with that part of domestic labour which is the care of children, and mainly young children, not the wider work of housework, the care of elderly or other relatives or the tasks of daily maintenance of oneself, as these areas need to be disassociated in theory and in practice. It also examines the care of children, not pregnancy, birth or lactation. However, this distinction is not always possible, or always made in other theoretical treatments of this topic, for example, in Silvia Federici’s use of ‘housework’; however, I have done my best, where this is the case, to make this clear. Given the argument in this essay, that childcare is work even when done by parents, I try to use the vocabulary of ‘childcare outside the home’ when referring to formal arrangements. However, for the sake of brevity, I sometimes refer to this as just ‘childcare’. ↩︎

  2. Stewart (2013) explains that "The National Childcare Strategy [in 1998] and later the 2004 Ten Year Strategy for Children and the 2006 Childcare Act had two over-arching goals: to enable mothers (and particularly lone mothers) to go out to work, thereby reducing child poverty; and to improve children’s opportunities directly by giving them exposure to early education” (p. 32). ↩︎

  3. The Coalition’s ‘2010-2015 Policy Paper on Childcare and Early Education’ states in its opening lines that, “Providing children with good-quality education and care in their earliest years can help them succeed at school and later in life. This contributes to creating a society where opportunities are equal regardless of background. Affordable and easily accessible childcare is also crucial for working families - it can help create more opportunities for parents who wish, or need, to work and raise children at the same time” (May 2015). ↩︎

  4. DfES, DWT (Department for Work and Pensions), HMT (HM Treasury), and Women and Equality Unit. 2002. Inter-departmental childcare review: Delivering for children and families. London: DfES, DWP, HMT, Women and Equality Unit. ↩︎

  5. Initially the free entitlement to early years education could only be used in small blocks over several days rather than in one go, which would be more convenient for work and extended activities. ↩︎

  6. Georg Lukács, History and Class Consciousness: Studies in Marxist Dialectics, Exeter, Imprint Digital, 2010, p. 10. ↩︎

  7. Marx, p. 293, cited in Lukács, History and Class Consciousness, p. 9. ↩︎

  8. Sheila Rowbotham, Dreamers of a New Day: Women who Invented the Twentieth Century, London, Verso, 2010, p. 123. ↩︎

  9. Rowbotham, Dreamers of a New Day, p. 122. ↩︎

  10. Rowbotham, Dreamers of a New Day, p. 119. ↩︎

  11. Rowbotham, Dreamers of a New Day, p. 120. ↩︎

  12. Stewart (2013) explains that “with the publication of the National Childcare Strategy in 1998, the Labour Government became the first administration since the Second World War to accept state responsibility for developing childcare policy” (p. 32). Labour were taking up the trial of the new Conservative voucher scheme. ↩︎

  13. NESS, 2010a. National Evaluation of Sure Start Local Programmes: An economic perspective. London: National Evaluation of Sure Start. Cited in Stewart, 2013, p. 31. ↩︎

  14. House of Commons, 2010. Sure Start Children’s Centres: Fifth Report of Session 2009-10, p.43. Cited in Stewart, 2013, p. 29. ↩︎

  15. Rowbotham, Dreamers of a New Day, p. 192. ↩︎

  16. Rowbotham, Dreamers of a New Day, p. 195. ↩︎

  17. Rowbotham, Dreamers of a New Day, p. 182. ↩︎

  18. Silvia Federici, Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction and Feminist Struggle, Oakland, PM Press, 2012, p. 56. ↩︎

  19. Federici, Revolution at Point Zero, p. 59. ↩︎

  20. Federici, Revolution at Point Zero, p. 57. ↩︎

  21. Federici, Revolution at Point Zero, p. 62. ↩︎

  22. According to Stewart (2013), even for Labour, this was only one of “multiple objectives” of employment, including “to reduce income poverty, to promote gender equality and to boost economic growth” (p. 5) and in the introduction to New Labour’s Childcare Strategy: "Removing the barriers to work extends opportunities, especially for women, but also creates economic gains by increasing the range of talents employed. These gains are realised not just by individuals, but also by employers and society as a whole” (p. 11). ↩︎

  23. Federici, Revolution at Point Zero, p. 57. ↩︎

  24. Lukács, History and Class Consciousness, p. 13. ↩︎

  25. Lise Vogel, Marxism and the Oppression of Women: Towards a Unitary Theory, Chicago, Haymarket, 2013, p. 150. ↩︎

  26. Vogel, Marxism and the Oppression of Women, p. 149. ↩︎

  27. Vogel, Marxism and the Oppression of Women, p. xxv. ↩︎

  28. Vogel, Marxism and the Oppression of Women, p. 152. ↩︎

  29. Vogel, Marxism and the Oppression of Women, p. 149. ↩︎

  30. Vogel, Marxism and the Oppression of Women, pp. 159-60. ↩︎

  31. Vogel, Marxism and the Oppression of Women, p. 159. ↩︎

  32. Vogel, Marxism and the Oppression of Women, p. 152. ↩︎

  33. Vogel, Marxism and the Oppression of Women, p. 151. ↩︎

  34. Vogel, Marxism and the Oppression of Women, p. xxvii. ↩︎

  35. Vogel, Marxism and the Oppression of Women, p. 153. ↩︎

  36. Vogel, Marxism and the Oppression of Women, p. 155. ↩︎

  37. Vogel, Marxism and the Oppression of Women, p. 155. ↩︎

New Socialist is, and will always be, not for profit. Help us sustain and develop this project by subscribing on Patreon.