The Left and the Pandemic: Nancy Fraser

A recording from the 16th of April 2020, from the series “The Left Reflects on the Global Pandemic” by transform! Europe

To Nancy Fraser, the management of the COVID-19 pandemic represents further proof of the decline of the United States as a world power. The strategy chosen by the Trump administration, to deal with this crisis, has clearly failed. However, Fraser argues, that to understand why, we need a deeper analysis of the structural and systemic features of US capitalism. The idea, that getting rid of Donald Trump would automatically solve these issues, is too simplistic.   

For her analysis, Fraser goes on to explain the concept of Social Reproduction. She describes it, as a set of activities and capacities in society, that are necessary to produce, reproduce and replenish the human population. This includes the ability to have a healthy, informed, culturally endowed, skilled and educated population. Beyond literal biological reproduction, this includes care – raising children and caring for the elderly. But also care in the sense of the replenishment of adults in the prime of life and in the workforce, who have to be fed, who have to be rested, who have to have emotional solace when they are discouraged and who need to feel connectedness. Social Reproduction does not take place exclusively in private households. It involves all communities’ activities, neighborhoods, networks and friendship. Throughout history, this work of social reproduction, was never sharply disconnected from other work of production of food or material objects. In capitalism however, the work of production has been separated from the work of social reproduction.

No production without reproduction

Fraser also observes, that in the pandemic we are witnessing the centrality of the distributive work. The workers at Amazon, UPS, FedEx, in grocery stores and super markets, are willingly exposed to danger and, in the midst of the pandemic, declared to be “essential workers”. In this moment, the work of social reproduction becomes visible. There is no production without social reproduction and vice versa.

Nancy Fraser is a critical theorist based in New York, one of the leading figures in contemporary feminist theory, and known particularly for her work on the theory of Social Reproduction. Among her many publications, she recently co-author Feminism for the 99%: A Manifesto.

Our frequent listeners will also recognize the voices of Haris Golemis and Angelina Giannopoulou. Haris, who conducted the interview, is the Scientific and Strategic Advisor of transform! Europe and the Chief Editor of transform’s Yearbook. We once again have Angelina to thank for the moderation. She is a Political scientist and facilitator of Transform! Europe in the programme “Strategic Perspectives of the Radical Left and European Integration”.

The Mosaik-Blog is delighted to collaborate on this podcast with transform! Europe, a network of 34 European organizations in 22 countries, active in the fields of political education and critical scientific analysis. The transform! network is the recognized political foundation of the Party of the European Left.

After the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the series “The Left Reflects on the Global Pandemic” was launched, in which various befriended intellectuals were asked to share their reflections, assessments and proposals regarding the crisis. Over the following weeks, all editions of this series will continue to appear here on Mosaik-Podcast.

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