Family/Gender/Capital – Sketches

Shin’ya TATEIWA *

*Graduate School of Core Ethics and Frontier Sciences, Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, Japan

I. Not to lump together what has been referred to with a single word

1. Yet to be resolved

The relationship between capitalist systems and patriarchy has been a subject of inquiry. It has been said that a structure in which labor is divided according to sex functions well within capitalist systems. But is this really the case?

For example, it is better for those who require labor to have a larger supply of labor; thus it cannot be seen as beneficial for them to have men work in the market and women working at home. It would be advantageous to have both men and women contribute to the labor force.

If this is asserted, one response may be that this is not the case because women perform domestic labor in the home. But what if we take into consideration the fact that women cannot work outside the home? Housework/child rearing are indeed tasks that take time to perform, but the labor required is not constant. If this work is performed by a single individual the amount of work required is too inconsistent and results in an inefficient use of time. Would it not be better to have women work both inside and outside of the home?

On the other hand, it can be supposed that in this society, women are at a disadvantage, and that their loss is someone else’s gain. The truth of this cannot be doubted, and anyone who says that it is not the case must be mistaken. I think that this assumption can be trusted.

There are also two lines of argument within the movement. On the one hand it is claimed that [the interests of] women are sacrificed to society, while on the other hand it is also claimed that women should be included to a greater extent in order to make society operate more efficiently. In fact, when assertions are made in favor of a collaborative participation society, it is also asserted that this kind of arrangement will make society function more effectively. This sort of claim should no doubt be made in places like policy proposals and government committees, but this does not seem to be all [there is to this issue].

It is said that capitalist systems require the modern family and that they make use of a sex-based division of labor, but is this true? I at least am not sure what to think about these claims. The questions are simple, but finding the answers seems quite difficult. Many accurate statements have, of course, been made, but they contain several traps which, if fallen into, can lead to assertions that are partially correct, but inaccurate when taken as a whole and that serve to obscure rather than illuminate the actual state of affairs. There are aspects of this issue that are like an Othello game; on the next move white can become black but if you make a mistake it remains as it is [01].

We have no choice but to separate what must be separated and address each thing in turn. I am not sure I really understand the meaning of the expression “for capitalist systems”. “Capitalists” here refers perhaps to those who own capital. But this is not always the case. So what is to be done? Let us begin by trying to phrase things more simply. There is no guarantee we will be able to say everything. This kind of attempt, however, will at least make it possible for us to think about what it is that we cannot say. I engage in this kind of effort in the next section.

In part two, I will also discuss how the establishment of rights/obligations in terms of the unit of the family can be viewed. Part three concerns the classical modern family and the structure in which the husband works and the wife is a full-time homemaker. In part four, I consider how we can think about the changing of this system.

2. Constituent elements

1) Disparity

One issue is the problem of distribution/ownership – who should receive what. According to the classical, typical view/criticism of the dispersal/ownership of resources in our society, this system is one that is exploited by owners of capital. The question of whether the way in which this exploitation occurs can be determined is quite tricky and difficult to answer, but when it is pointed out that in the current state of affairs [certain individuals] are receiving an unfairly large amount this is indeed the case. First, therefore, it is clear that there is at least one major problem to be dealt with surrounding “allotment”. Second, it is also a fact that there is a disparity in what is received amongst workers (including managers). Workers, including high earners and managers, are used and receive wages for their work, and can be said to be different from owners of capital. We should indeed acknowledge that this difference exists. However, if the issue being addressed is disparity, this does not mean we should ignore disparities that arise here. Large disparities inside companies, within industries, and between different countries are problems that have actually arisen. To ignore them would be a mistake.

There we see can whether or not certain systems have a tendency to maintain/expand disparity. Here the question becomes how forms of the family and forms of the sexual division of labor function to maintain/expand disparity, and in comparison to what.

2) Expansion

Capitalist societies can be viewed as societies that expand industry, societies that are trying to grow. If so, what sorts of things serve to promote industry?

One is that people simply work a lot or are made to work a lot. To this end their labor capabilities are also increased. Next, if all of what is produced is consumed production continues at the same level without increasing, so more is put back into the next round of production. This can be realized by reducing what is consumed now in favor of the future, but it can also be achieved by other means such as giving priority to industries in which greater expansion can be expected or by making adjustments in multiple areas. For example, if an apparatus exists which, when an expansion of production and development in accordance with investment can be expected regarding industry, but not agriculture, the former becomes (for this reason) more active and the latter less active, then such an apparatus is one that can serve to promote growth.

Even ignoring the question of what should be considered an indication of growth, it is not clear what can be said to promote growth in practice. In some cases, for example, it is assumed from the start that it is better to industrialize, and there are instances where failure is the end result. It is therefore necessary to examine what is considered to be a good direction or in what direction society is being pushed along with the question of what sort of state of affairs is being brought about in practice.

This should also not be understood as being something that arises naturally. Assuming there is indeed a tendency for benefits to increase in accordance with an increase in production, if there is no corresponding increase in consumption an increase in production will not occur. For workers, at least, work is burdensome, and it would not be at all strange for them to work no more than is necessary to reach a certain level of consumption. If anything beyond this arises we may conclude that there is some sort of labor-boosting apparatus at work. Furthermore, in our society there are often political interventions aimed at promoting economic growth or recovery. In other words, attempts are made to create growth by the application of external forces. And these actions are taken at a fundamental level; the rules related to ownership themselves promote development and competition. When those who develop something are given ownership of it technological development comes to occupy a strategic position and giving priority to investment in this area becomes unavoidable. When a system arises in which very small differences separate what sells from what does not sell, a lot of effort is spent on those areas in which these differences are to be found [02].

3) Preservation

There are unemployed people. There are also full time housewives, and, regardless of whether or not they themselves want to work, since most of the time they are capable of working outside the home they too can be said to be unemployed. And, of course, people who cannot work and do not have jobs and people who could work but cannot find employment are continuous.

In a market, buyers pay money to people with something to sell. And these things that are sold are of limited quantity or amount and differ from each other. In such situations, people who cannot find a buyer cannot do anything. People who only have a little can only receive a little. The number of people who can work is also limited and those who cannot work cannot receive. If such people are left alone in this situation they will die. Death will thus be the lot of people without jobs.

Apart from what this does and independently of who the person in question is, later I will discuss the adoption of the point view that this state of affairs is unjust. If, for example, it is considered acceptable for the number of people who are employed to be lower than the number of people who can work, the number of people who work will decrease. Even so, it can be said that this society will exist as this kind of society until it collapses. But this state of affairs can be said to be undesirable from the point of view of the continued existence of the economy and the interests of those with things to sell. There are also those who assert that this alone is not sufficient to create and maintain a society and that various supplementary apparatuses are necessary. If such apparatuses to enable survival are put in place it can be said that they will serve to maintain society and also to maintain the market and capitalist economic systems.

3. Connections

In cases where this is done and apparatuses exist that move the state of affairs in society towards one in which while several 3) distributive functions exist and support survival 1) disparity is maintained/increased and 2) production is expanded, or, more accurately, when such apparatuses exist to a greater degree in comparison to other [situations] – what this state of affairs is to be compared to is itself a problem – then, to employ a phrase which was at one time in common use, these apparatuses serve capitalist systems.

But, as anyone will immediately notice, the connection between 1) moving in a direction which maintains/increases the disparity between those who obtain a lot and those who do not, 2) a system which induces growth and the expansion of production, and 3) supporting people’s survival/lifestyle is not simple, and as a result evaluating certain mechanisms/apparatuses is also difficult.

To begin with 1) disparity and 3) survival obviously do not go together very well; if the limitless expansion of disparity is deemed acceptable, for many people 3) maintaining their existence becomes impossible. Some may not find this to be a problem. But if people who have lost their jobs are left to die during periods when there is an overabundance of labor, employers may have difficulties if they find themselves wanting to hire people again in the future. Disparity may also come to be seen as more starkly unjust and thus become more difficult to maintain. Apart from these sorts of calculations, a society in which everyone who has lost their jobs or who cannot find work dies may in some cases not be thought of as a good society and may cease to be supported.

Also regarding 2)growth and 3)survival: there are instances in which encouraging production eventually leads to more being obtained and generates profits, and it cannot be denied that there are cases in which it can be said that this approach is desirable. The fact that there are some people who do not benefit from this leads to 1) the problem of disparity, production being a requirement for survival, and increased production leading to a better life. At the same time, existence/survival is harmed by prioritizing production. As a result of resources/labor being funneled into growth sectors, the amount put into areas that are needed to support survival but are not directly connected to growth decreases. Furthermore, the value of a person being determined by the value of what he or she produces also leads to a perverse state of affairs in which the value of production as a means of survival surpasses the value of survival itself [03].

The connection between 3) [survival] and 1) disparity regarding 2) growth is also not so straightforward. There is 1) disparity which corresponds to results, and while people may work harder in a society in which failure leads to an inability to support one’s own survival, which in turn may contribute to an increase in production, on the other hand it may also be concluded that when 3) basic survival is not in doubt people are able to relax and do their work and that this would actually be better. Both of these arguments have in fact been made by the two sides in this debate [04].

Considering just the points raised above, [it is clear that] there is not a single standard by which to determine in what sorts of circumstances “the economy” or “capitalist systems” operate best, and is not easy to say whether the existence of the family (or a particular form of the family) or the division of labor by sex has a positive or negative effect on this operation. Determinations of the ways in which the existence/form of the family and the sexual division of labor affect this system will differ depending on the degree to which different elements which are related in complex ways and not directly proportional to each other are emphasized.

We have no alternative but to go on considering these questions with this fact in mind, but one approach which can be taken in these sorts of cases is to clarify the discourse by making clear what sorts of standards underlie one’s own approach and one’s own normative stance. Here most of those who have written about this subject have been critical of the current state of affairs, asserting that changes have to be made. If the current situation appears to be a complex state of affairs with many dimensions, then it is in fact better to clarify what sorts of conditions are desirable and use this as the basis for our discourse going forward. When this is not done what is said becomes incomprehensible. There are of course several different points of view and the same state of affairs may be accepted or rejected based on the perspective chosen, but it is precisely for this reason that it is better to provide this kind of clarity.

The perspective that, I think, needs to be taken is, very broadly speaking, as follows. 3) Affirm that each individual should be able to live, and view this as having fundamental value. As a result, 1) do not think of the existence of disparity as natural or inevitable and only accept it to the extent that it is unavoidably necessary. 2) growth in the literal sense of the word, is good, not something which itself is to be rejected, but when other things are sacrificed for its sake, in cases where its pursuit works in opposition to 3) the existence of each individual, then it must be rejected [05].

II. The unit of the family

1. The position that positions it [the family]

How do the existence of the family and systems of sex-based division of labor function? As I mentioned earlier, this can be discussed in terms of comparisons with other structures, and when this is done in a manner that is vague or unclear what is being said becomes difficult to understand. Here I will discuss the market, government and the family.

In a market, or more precisely in a market in which private ownership is assigned as it is in our society, 1) disparity between individuals emerges. Also, 2) those who seek to benefit from production seek to increase this disparity. If there is a limit to consumption where certain things that cannot be sold are not bought, then there is also a limit to growth. Can 3) the preservation of life be left up to the market? A market is just a place, so when the expression “from the point of view of the market” is used something is being omitted. This is fine if what is meant is clearly understood, but if not misinterpretations can sometimes arise. The question is how buyers and sellers behave within the market. For example, it is not impossible to insist that the act of giving money to a beggar is in fact an exchange or purchase. It can also be asserted that donations can be made within the market. But when these activities are insufficient, ultimately there will be people who cannot live or cannot live a good life.

Political decisions can be made to ensure that these sorts of market mechanisms operate and this can be the extent of the actions taken. It is also possible to create greater disparity and trim away what you want to eliminate. This approach is also used in attempts to create systems in which production increases. Work performed by the family has also been “socialized” in an attempt to improve efficiency and increase production. But if having a life/surviving is seen as a right that everyone is obliged to acknowledge it can be said that the guaranteeing of this right should be carried out through social distribution involving political decisions and the application of power. In other words, in order for 3) to be sufficiently realized there are demands for political involvement [06].

The family exists as a unit within which rights and obligations are distributed. What families must do and what rights they possess cannot be directly derived from contracts between the individual members or the sort of love that is taken to be the most important constitutive element of the modern family. In practice rights and obligations are also determined by laws, and the fact that this itself is one form of social regulation of rights/obligations is something which must of course be taken into consideration [07].

The state of affairs realized by this sort of family can be positioned somewhere in the middle of what is brought about by the two approaches described above. In other words it falls somewhere between doing nothing (and thereby making preservation [of the lives of people who cannot produce] impossible) and carrying out activities socially or as a society; while to a certain extent it is a mechanism that enables the survival of individuals, there is also disparity which it serves to maintain. And not everything is left up to the family – for example, burdens related to the family and expenditures from taxation are combined and adjusted.

Regarding 1), to begin with, income will be different for each family and this disparity will be preserved. (Later I will discuss how this changes according to how the breadwinner is positioned). And through intergenerational giving the family is also an apparatus that serves to transmit disparity; there is a handing down of resources from one generation to the next, and there is disparity [which is thereby maintained]. This can also be seen as a kind of care or support, an exchange in which the ratio of what is exchanged is not proportionate. For example, there have been historical changes in a child’s economic value and positioning relative to his or her parents. Here the boundary between exchanging and giving becomes unclear, and while the family serves to preserve disparity, it also posses at the same time, to a certain extent, redistributive functions.

Exchanges carried out within the market function very weakly when it comes to 3). In response to this, when the family becomes the unit by which lifestyle/survival is determined, support can be given to an unemployed person, for example, assuming of course that there are some members of the family in question who are not employed. The members of a family also include people of very different life-stages; there are births and deaths, people who have just been born, and people who are soon going to die. Care or expenditures to obtain care are provided within this unit, and if the lives of these individuals are supported there is less disparity than in the case of 1) alone. The unit of the family reduces disparity in comparison to a state of affairs in which each individual is on his/her own in the market and thereby makes possible 3) the preservation of life.

2. The positioning of interests and its evaluation

This is a state of affairs that has been described as one in which the family supplements the market and serves to facilitate the continued existence of capitalist systems. It has also been said that the market makes use of the family. But as is stated above this is not an accurate way of stating what occurs. The questions [to be addressed] are who benefits (and in comparison to what state of affairs), and based on what sort of criteria is this to be considered fair or unfair.

The fundamental problem with distribution within the family becomes clear when a comparison is made with a state of affairs in which distribution is carried out on a larger scale. What certain individuals do or cannot do is dependent on their families, and thus may fluctuate in accordance with their family’s circumstances. This can be said of everyone, whether their family is affluent or not.

The sort of life each person can live varies according to their family’s circumstances. There are families that have a lot of resources and those that do not, families that have many people who provide care and support and have a large amount of work to do and families that do not; the amount of benefits and burdens vary [from family to family]. Disparity, therefore, is to begin with disparity between families. There are families (or members of families) that obtain an advantage and those that do not. If we think that individuals should be able to enjoy the same sort of lifestyle regardless of where they are or what sort of family they belong to, then these are unfair advantages and disadvantages.

Let us look at this in a bit more detail in light of the idea of families providing care and support. There are some families that do not happen to have someone who needs support and some that do. Making support the responsibility of the family may be advantageous to the former, who can thereby avoid bearing any part of these burdens, and disadvantageous to the latter, who must then bear a greater share. However, since the future is uncertain when it comes to most things, we cannot know in which position we will find ourselves. Therefore, the rational choice for most people ought to be to increase the scope of [those who bear a part of] these sorts of burdens. So, why is this not easily realized in practice? We may suppose it has something to do with the fact that having society as a whole share these sorts of burdens is connected to reducing disparity in general and there are people who are opposed to this. Let us say, for example, that the cost of nursing care is taken out of the production of society as a whole and doled out in accordance with need. Next let us assume that whatever remains is distributed with the same disparity found before taxes/insurance premiums are paid. The result will be an overall reduction in disparity [08]. This will not be supported by 1) those who want to maintain disparity. This is where opposition to expanding support or care from the unit of the family to society as a whole comes from. To put it another way, from the point of view of those who think that 3) the needs of each individual must be met, a system based on the unit of the family which 1) maintains disparity and makes it difficult for some people’s needs to met must be rejected.

Next I will look at how this is related to 2) production/growth. By depending on someone else who earns a lot, it is possible for someone to continue working in a job with a low rate of pay. Having a breadwinner in their family may allow someone to survive even though the books they write do not sell. Businesses that do not make a profit and industries/sectors of industries that provide little in the way of earnings can continue to exist.

On the other hand, through being supported by their family this sort of person can be employed for little pay or work on their own projects, and there will be cases in which by doing this they contribute to the development of the industry or field in which they are active. Having someone who will work even though the rate of pay or overall amount received is low is good for employers. In the next section I will briefly examine how in practice division of labor within the family sometimes functions in this way.

Effects are not determined in advance. An inheritance from one’s parents may be spent on one’s own enjoyment or may be connected to the creation of a new industry. Does a sense of impending crisis lead to an increase in production, or on the contrary does anxiety lead to a decrease in activity? Which sort of effect on production do we see the preservation of disparity between individuals through inheritance having? The functions of 1) preserving disparity and 3) supporting life can conceivably affect 2) production in both ways. And the contribution to 2) production also differs in cases where resources are distributed among family units and cases where distribution is carried out within society as a whole [09].

One thing that can be said with certainty is that regarding families there are cases in which 3) is not sufficiently carried out, and the effects of this can also be clearly stated. There are limits to what a family can do, and care goes no further than these limits. By “socializing” these activities work that could not be done because it was left up to the family can be increased, and as a result there have been demands, especially from those who need this kind of care, for this to be done [10]. In comparison to this approach, when this sort of work is left up to the family the amount of care given decreases. The portion that is reduced is redirected to things that contribute to production/growth. Since 3) survival is therefore put under pressure for the sake of 2) production, this approach is not affirmed by those who take the position described above.

Of course, if the work done within the family is reduced, those whose work has been reduced will become able to work outside the home. But if what is desired is not that more people are able to work or an increase in the overall labor force but rather a different method of making people work and increased production created by using this other method, the effect of this reduction in work may not be seen as being very important. In what follows we will also see that, in this society, while an increase in production is sought, at the same time the amount of labor that can be supplied is already sufficient and its arrangement is mediated by the family, and the form of this is changing.

So far I have looked at what can be seen as arising just from the fact that the unit of the family exists. In reality there are specific effects caused by the actual state of affairs regarding sex, gender gaps/sexual differences and the division of labor. I will examine some of these below.

III. The structure of the classical modern family

1. The formation [of this structure]

Regarding the system in which one party goes out and earns money in the market and the other stays home and does all of the work within the house, the former role being played by the husband and the latter being played by the wife:

First, this system is not directly explained by the interests of those who purchase labor. For those who pay for labor a smaller work force is not a good thing. Thinking only of labor in the market, it is best to have as many people as possible who are trying to work. It is a waste not to use the labor of women, and there is no benefit in excluding groups whose labor capacity is no different from others. On the contrary, limiting [the workforce] to any sort of category narrows the potential for what can be purchased and should presumably be disadvantageous [11].

Second, there are those who talk about domestic labor and reproductive labor and say that these are not compensated. But it is not as though this work were new; for the most part the burden of these tasks had already been born by women and had been carried out along with so-called productive labor. It is at least not the case that they stopped working because their domestic labor increased [12].

Therefore [the system in question] cannot be explained by the above. There must be something else. What can be said from what we have just been looking at is that if the state of affairs is not one in which there is a shortage of labor then factors that pull women into the labor market become weaker. This being the case, can the current period not be thought of as one in which has emerged a state of affairs in which there is an excess of labor in conjunction with improvements in productivity and increases in production capacity? Full employment has been reached in at least certain periods. But when these calculations are made housewives are not counted among the unemployed. We should be able to safely surmise that during these periods [sufficient] production was in fact possible without making use of all of the available labor resources [13].

It has become possible for a whole family to live on the earnings of one person. We should be more surprised by the fact that families can get by with one person doing all of the work outside of the home, that a family of four, for example, can all live on the earnings of one person. This is a factor that is required in order for a full-time housewife system to exist, but it does not actively promote such a system. The function that allowed for movement in the direction of this system can be thought of as having been related to the presence of this factor.

For one thing, there are benefits to being able to get by without working outside the home. In addition, the existence of full-time housewives can also be seen as an example of conspicuous consumption. I discuss this in [1994a]. The pattern of sex-based division of labor in which the husband earns money and the wife does housework does not offer any material advantages to either the husband or to the finances of the family as a whole, but what happens if rather than seeing this as a bizarre state of affairs which is unlikely to arise we consider the fact that it is already being adopted and carried out in practice? It indicates that the husband is able to earn enough that the wife does not need to work in order to secure a sufficient income. This arrangement mimics the state of affairs found in higher social classes, and its realization elevates the social position of the family in question.

For another thing – making use of the function I have just mentioned – this is a movement that serves to push people out of the market. To begin with, this is a movement that is in the interest of male workers. For people who are working, to exclude others constitutes an advantage. It is better to have fewer competitors. If men can receive additional work in the market then to this extent they benefit from this system.

In most cases income is counted together within a family. Even if the husband himself can secure a job in the market, when he returns home he has a wife who does not work, and so from the point of view of the unit of the family this is not advantageous and it might be better to have both husband and wife work. However, there are cases in which there is an excess of labor capacity. Even if this is not a consistent state of affairs, fluctuations in the economy will sometimes result in there being too many workers and some people will have to be pushed out of places of employment. In these cases women are selected. It is asserted that men are the primary maintainers of family income and that they should not hand over employment to women. It is claimed that if women are not employed but men’s jobs are protected everything will somehow work out. It is also thought that having a distribution of one worker in each family makes “social instability” less likely.

So how is it for employers? Family finances and social stability or instability may not be of great concern to individual employers. To begin with, however, they cannot ignore aspects of these factors that have the potential to affect how they deal with workers. Next, here too, while a state of affairs in which there are fewer people looking for work is itself not desirable, there are conditions operating such that people are not needed to the extent that problems occur because no one can be found to fill the needed positions. As a result, those who can be made to work more easily are chosen, and men who do not have as much work to do at home are selected.

The above claims can be supported by historical facts. Modern factory labor consisted, to begin with, of women and children. Unlike the world of skilled laborers, factory work involves simply doing as instructed and they were chosen because there was no alternative. This was not viewed as work for adults. It was not seen as right for grown men to do these sorts of jobs. The pay and working conditions were also poor. Women and children went to work to secure cash income for their family. If these workers are thought of as suppliers of excess labor within the family, in some cases it is possible to pay them only a supplement to their family income that is less than what an individual would need in order to survive on their own. Considering industry as a whole this may not be particularly advantageous. But if we consider the role that the industrial production that flourished at this time played in the development of capitalism, it can presumably be said that this arrangement contributed to the accumulation of capital and the development of capitalist economies. Here we can see the connection between two factors mentioned in the previous section, i.e. the way in which 3) lumping together family income and supporting the lives of family members, works to support 2) approaches that promote growth.

Eventually however, conditions of the main occupations, whether farmer or craftsman, became difficult. The relative position of agricultural and handicraft industries that men have been protecting began to fall. Land and workplaces were taken away. And in comparison working in a factory became a higher paying occupation. Men started to be employed in these jobs as well. After a while both men and women were working in these places. Everyone who could work did, and by doing so was able to make a living. Eventually, while this of course depends on economic circumstances, better jobs with higher remuneration emerged within these fields. And there began to be an excess of available labor. It wa then arranged so that men should remain [in the workforce]. In this way the people who are hired and who work are replaced.

The increase of full-time housewives begins to occur at this point. It becomes a sign that the husband’s income alone is enough, that the family finances can be sufficiently maintained without the wife working, and this elevates the status of the family in question. Even in classes where most women have always worked, when incomes reach a certain level, or when it is at least possible to more or less get by with only the husband working, the practice of those of higher social standing is imitated and wives begin to stay home. In some cases this is quit difficult, and some families endure considerable hardship. Since reliance on the income of only the husband imposes limits on the sort of lifestyle that families can hope to achieve, the potential for a movement towards the dismantling of this system is always present.

Within this society, housewives are not simply present in the home, but are also expected to work there and in doing so display their own worth. While despite the spread of electric appliances the amount of time spent on housework has indeed not declined, it would presumably also be incorrect to conclude that women stopped working outside of the home because the amount of time they spent on housework increased. On the contrary, the advent of full-time housewives led to the invention of various forms of housework to be carried out as part of their duties.

2. Effects [of this structure]

What happens if we look at the above in terms of the framework laid out in sections one and two? To begin with, here too there is 3) preservation of survival/lifestyle and 1) preservation of disparity. And the propensity to adjust labor capacity is strong. When there is an excess of people unemployment arises, but the hardship caused by this (hidden) unemployment is ameliorated by the grouping together of income within the unit of the family. When being fired and not being hired are not related to sex, the earning status of a man and a woman taken together are 0+0, 1+0, or 1+1, leading to three possible total earning states of 0, 1, or 2. When men are hired and women are not the possibilities are 1+0, 1+0 and 1+0 giving totals of 1, 1 or 1. Let us assume that we can view leaving unemployment unaddressed as not a wise policy from the point of “society”. It also becomes possible for one man to support a whole household, and even when this system is not perfectly implemented it can begin in the parts of society where this possible and move from there towards more complete realization. In families for which this lifestyle is not possible every member works outside the home. When the unit of the family is a starting assumption this system seems to be an apparatus well suited to supporting the lives [of family members] including children.

This system has been criticized as being one in which women lose and other members of society gain by forcing women to do a lot of work without being compensated, but I do not think this is the case. When it comes to supplying labor, this system on the contrary operates as an instrument of adjustment or organization. And under this system there are also those who receive a great deal without having to do very much work. The assertion that women suffer a loss because they do housework without compensation is an oversimplification. At the same time, however, this system is indeed fundamentally oppressive, and in practice does cause problems for certain parts of the population [15].

To begin with, this system is constructed by pairing up men and women, and if this is not done it fails to function. It is therefore detrimental to those individuals who do not form this kind of pair or have been excluded from this kind of relationship, and this causes problems regarding 3) the survival of these individuals. And while there are more than a few people who would welcome the chance to get away from both housework and wage labor, there are also more than a few people who would prefer to work. It would be fine if each person could choose to work or not work as they like, but this is not what happens. A factor referred to as “statistical discrimination” comes into play [16]. Assuming employers want to hire people who are likely to continue working for a long time, discrimination will operate probabilistically; it is understood that women are more likely to leave their careers than men, and if the future choices of individuals cannot be predicted and all other factors are equal men will be hired [over women]. This constitutes a difficult to overcome reality for those who want to work. Even if they are able to enjoy a certain lifestyle they have no choice but to depend on the breadwinner in their families, and as a result 3) their lives are unstable and cannot be described as being affirmed without reservation.

When the fact that someone doesn’t engage in wage labor indicates that someone else is able to earn their portion and support them, here 2) the value of production is already involved. And it is men who occupy the position of earners and by doing so continue to occupy a position of superiority and demonstrate this superiority. The superiority of production and superiority of men are assumed, demonstrated, and by being demonstrated are confirmed and continually recreated. Because meaning is granted based on work performed, the slant towards the production of individuals becomes a powerful force. This is in accordance not with dividing work among as many people as possible but rather with limiting those who earn money and having people work in a competitive environment, and as such serves to promote the growth of those industries that require this kind of labor.

In summary, in cases where the potential supply of labor exceeds what is needed, this system functions by having men engage in wage labor and women do housework, and to this extent, in comparison with cases where this state of affairs does not exist, it is a system which while 1) ameliorating disparity and 3) performing the function of supporting lives/lifestyles constitutes a positive condition for and serves to support [the existence of] 1) structural disparity between men and women and disparity between families. It is also a system realized by viewing the value of an individual as being dependent on their capacity for labor, and in this sense is a system that affirms 2) competitive/expansionist production and pushes individuals and society as a whole in this direction.

This system is inherently unstable and subject to sudden changes, a process by which certain elements are reorganized and others made more stable. I will look at this in the next section.

IV. Regarding changes

1. Dismantling and displacement

The system in which the husband goes out and earns money and the wife stays home and does everything in the house did not continue unchanged. It was never completely formed and it began to break down from the time it was created. In other words, wives began to work as well.

How this happened is easy to understand. They tried it for a while, but for most people it wasn’t very good. First, what had given them value by setting them apart from other people became less attractive once everyone began to have it as well. Second, earnings were less. This division of labor was in imitation of people who were financially well off, and because it began to be adopted by people who had to suffer significant hardship in order to do so there were soon people who did not have enough money to build a family and send their children to school and who therefore wanted to have more money in order to enjoy a better lifestyle. Wives then began to work outside the home once their childrearing had become less demanding. Third, they want to do something. Their lifestyle may be interesting while they are raising their children, but eventually this task comes to an end. They then find themselves wondering what to do. If they are able to come to the realization that they don’t need to do anything this may be fine, but most people cannot be so philosophical. For those who are satisfied with pursuing activities and hobbies they enjoy there is no problem, but there are also those who will not be satisfied with this kind of lifestyle.

Furthermore, looking at those who do the earning, if a single individual has to earn enough to support a whole family then that individual must work for a long time. And since there is no other source of income they will not be able to get by if he becomes unable to work. And since working to support others becomes part of being a responsible individual, work takes on further meaning beyond simply receiving money. As a result breadwinners also face additional pressures. It may be that children who saw this lifestyle when they were growing up concluded that it didn’t look very appealing and decided to live their own lives differently.

In this way women entered the labor market, but in practice their work was not paid nearly as well as that of men.

There has been an enormous amount of discourse concerning this topic, and one line of reasoning has been that if women are as capable as men they ought to be able to work in jobs with the same conditions as men and this disparity ought to disappear. Those who make this point then say that, first if their ability is the same their working conditions ought to naturally end up being the same, so we should leave things alone to work themselves out. Second, they say that if the result of doing nothing is that differences remain this means that there are indeed differences [between the sexes] and thus that this disparity is natural. They assert that the differences between jobs correspond to their value, and that who does what job depends on differences in capability. How are we to respond to this?

I will begin with the first point. Let us accept the assumption that if women and men are indeed able to work equally well then there is no reason to distinguish between them [when it comes to employment]. Women, however, have housework to do, and there are some women who as a result lack flexibility when it comes to work in the market, quit their jobs early, or leave the workforce for a period of time and have not accumulated resources/experience when they later want to go back to work. Even if there were no differences in capability to begin with, these factors mean that in effect there are differences that arise when it comes to employment and the workplace.

Even if this is so, when this factor is excluded men and women will be in the same position when it comes to most jobs. Assuming that this is the case, if these factors, particularly when it comes to childrearing, are externalized through family expenditures or through services that are provided by society to address them and their associated burdens come to be born equally by men, then women’s and men’s circumstances regarding employment should be the same. (Later I will discuss the fact that if this turns out to be difficult to fully realize in practice the result will be different). Those who are concerned about maintaining/increasing the population could also presumably accept this approach, since investment in the production of the people in question can be seen as paying off. If so this barrier will disappear. And discrimination in cases where capability to perform is clearly equal will not be officially accepted. To this extent society will move in the direction of eliminating 1) disparity between men and women. This approach should also be 2) productive.

Since differences in capability are not essential but rather arise because of the greater amount of domestic labor assigned to women, if these differences are compensated for by lessening the burden of this work within the home then the capabilities of men and women should become equal, and since they will possess the same ability to work they will then be able to receive jobs of the same value and obtain the same working conditions. This is the path envisioned by liberal egalitarians and proponents of equality of opportunity. It is not completely a pie in the sky and has already been partially realized. But as a result there are still problems of expansion, and the relationship between this and sexual discrimination remains. I will discuss this in simpler terms below.

2. At what do we have no choice but to aim?

Leaving sexual discrimination for the moment, let us consider disparity between different jobs. Since there are situations in which disparity can be seen to exist between jobs that do not themselves appear to differ, those who seek to defend the status quo, while they criticize this, say that in fact it is not the case that there are no differences. For example, in some cases they assert that disparity is justified because although two individuals or groups of individuals may appear to be doing the same job there are differences in how they stay at work in emergencies and take on responsibilities. They say that disparity [in working conditions] between jobs that are the same is to be done away with, that there are differences between jobs, and that the reason certain individuals cannot work in jobs with better working conditions is that they lack the capabilities required. What should we make of this?

We start to think about whether disparities that actually exist are good or correct disparities, and we think of disparities that arise because of things that are not related to actual performance of the duties in question as being unfair. Things like the exclusion of workers by workers are seen as wrong, but actual disparity in the market that arises apart from these sorts of factors is seen as acceptable, and here there is consideration of which sort of disparity is occurring. It is assumed from the start that prices established by excluding all factors beyond the desires of buyers and sellers – such as power relationships between employees or other intra-organizational power relationships – are correct, as are any consequent disparities in what is received. I do not think this is the case, and for this reason have thought and written about these issues and I will attempt to lay out my position in what follows.

Prices are seen as being decided by the relationship between (the position within the whole of) what the seller has and what the buyer needs/wants. On the one hand there is job A, which has scarcity regarding the capabilities required to perform it, and on the other hand there is job B, which does not. A high price is attached to the former but not to the latter. This is either seen as something that arises naturally and is just or as something that is unavoidable. But this is not the case. It is in no way unavoidable. And once again the factor of sex seems certain to become involved. Of course, disparities between jobs depend on a variety of factors, and what I discuss below does not constitute an exhaustive list. Let us look just at those jobs involving the provision of care. Conditions of employment are not good when it comes to these positions. It is said that this is the case because they are thought of as women’s work and women’s work is given low value, but slightly more may be required in the way of explanation. Why does this disparity exist?

On the one hand there is work with good treatment, let us call this “work A”. Let us accept that there are cases where the abilities required to carry out these jobs are indeed rare. Those who have faith in the workings of this society would presumably say that as a result this disparity is inevitable. But where does this rareness, and resulting structure in which it is inevitable that certain jobs are highly compensated, come from? What gives rise to these rare jobs? Let us consider technology. Here we do not have to limit ourselves to scientific technology in a narrow sense but can also include various product development and marketing strategies and organizational techniques. Let us accept that special abilities and training are required in order to create things that have not existed until now or even things that differ slightly from existing products. Let us assume that it is a good thing for this ability itself to exist, although there are of course various ends towards which it can be used. We cannot therefore say, however, that it is right or inevitable that these jobs receive special treatment. Why is there demand for what is comparatively new? Because the acquisition of what is made through these new technologies is acknowledged as a right, and under this rule this position of relative superiority will give rise to disparity in earnings. This then leads to selection and preferential treatment regarding these sorts of jobs. This comes about because of rules that make the latest advances more profitable no matter what. The rules of ownership create an impetus for competition and growth. We overlook this aspect [of what occurs] if we think of the drive behind capitalist systems as arising simply from humanity’s limitless desire for resources.

There is also work which is treated relatively badly, work B, one part of which is comprised of jobs that involve care giving. Regarding this, too, there are several factors, such as the fact that many of those working in this field are without organization and strong negotiating power, but with the acknowledgment that these issues must not be oversimplified here I would like to address those factors that can be compared to what I have just described.

Those who want to improve the treatment of this kind of work have, with this end in mind, tried to demonstrate its “specialized nature” [18]. They assert the rarity of the people who do these jobs and the skills involved. I do not deny that these sorts of aspects exist within these fields. I would add, however, that this kind of assertion has its limits. A large part of the work referred to as “nursing care”, for example, are things which many people do for themselves, and those working in this field provide assistance or perform these everyday tasks for people who cannot accomplish them on their own. There are also tasks which require more specialized expertise. But there are also very subtle and complex jobs, such as childrearing, for example, which most people nevertheless manage to carry them out on their own. They are difficult but it is best for most people to be able to perform them, and for whatever reasons most people do manage to carry them out.

Also, this kind of work is basically carried out as a gift or donation, and is work that must be done. Raising a child, for example, can be seen as the production of a producer, and therefore an activity which results in compensation in the future – the school of thought referred to as Marxist feminism often focuses on this portion [of the work in question] and addresses as problematic the fact that labor that should lead to compensation does not – but this is not the reason this work is carried out; in the case of someone who is not a producer, for example, the work that goes into taking care of them is performed as a gift.

One mistake which must not be made is to think that the fact that this work is not being compensated is rendered completely meaningless by the fact that it is donated labor; on the contrary, if its performance is to be given as a duty of society then it can be demanded that the form its provision takes in practice is payment by society [19]. In other words, some part of what is produced should be allocated to this work or the people who perform it. I mentioned above that fundamentally this approach serves to reduce disparity. There are concerns that if we attempt to ensure this work is sufficiently carried out – of course, in practice there is also a dimension of increased efficiency through “socialization” – this will take away some part of what could otherwise be allocated to increasing production. As a result, to the extent that 1) forces working to maintain disparity are functioning, if there are 2) forces working to ignore this area for the sake of growth then this kind of work will be relegated to an inferior position.

Care giving work would therefore presumably exist as described below, and this is indeed how it exists in practice. To begin with, as a personal matter there are cases where in effect it is considered something for the family to deal with and others where society becomes involved. In the former case, whether the family is involved through actually performing the duties in question as in the past or whether they “externalize” this burden by paying for someone else to bear it, and in the latter case as well, even in cases where concrete support is provided by the government, in societies that 1) affirm disparity, 2) prioritize growth, and as a result 3) leave difficult living circumstances as they are, in societies which provide good conditions for work A but not for work B, those who bear these burdens and those who receive care are not treated well.

There are also people who get away from this sort of work and do work A. But this work does not require such a large number of people, so the A framework quickly becomes full. And regarding work B as well, particularly if we expand our view to the world as a whole, there are a large number of people in the world so it is not the case that the price placed on this labor will naturally increase as a result of a supply shortage. If the character of social provision is insufficient working conditions and pay will be kept low, and there will be cases in which the result will be no different than private employment.

In this way, while 3) a minimum standard of living for the population is maintained, 1) disparity is affirmed, and under 2) the structures/rules that promote growth the disparity between work A and work B will not disappear. This being the case it is necessary to completely separate distinctions concerning this work and differences of sex; if such separation is possible it cannot be said that “capitalist systems” require or entail discrimination based on sex, but in cases where this separation is not possible or is not thought to be necessary this is not the case.

I think that disparity between A and B is a problem regardless of the answer to this question. One approach that exists is to reduce disparity through a guaranteed income policy without changing this structure itself, but it is difficult to imagine this being sufficiently implemented. We must therefore think about ways to reduce the disparity between work A and work B. This is necessary not only because we do not support an increase in disparity, but also because under the current system simple existence/survival is not affirmed. As a result we can say that this structure as it has existed in the past should be changed even if through a strategy of separation [from the process of selection] the problem of sexual discrimination can be eliminated, and from our perspective it is necessary to state this and to do whatever has to be done.

Having stated the above, let us try to answer the question.

On the one hand there are mechanisms by which sexual difference and the family unit are demolished. There is a movement towards 2) a more efficient and productive society regarding that which is not connected to sex. Regarding 1) disparity, if the differences between men and women are resolved this may lead to increased disparity between families. The result of this may be to reduce 3) the function of supporting people’s lives through the family in comparison with the classical modern family system or cases in which there are full time housewives. As stated above, the distribution goes from 1/1/1 to 2/1/0. Opposition to this may emerge in the form of a push to return to the old system by those who are left in a state of poverty by these changes. But this cannot be supported.

The weakening of the connection between sexual difference and work is a good thing in that it means a greater variety of people will become able to perform a greater variety of jobs. To put it bluntly, however, the connections between work and sexual difference will not disappear. Even if they could be completely done away with, this is not necessary. Let us say that women have been allotted attributes close to work B. If so, it can be asserted that under the state of “economy” described above women (while being raised up) are placed in an inferior position and exploited. What has been asserted, however, is that if there is no essential connection between work A, work B and sexual difference then if this socially constructed relationship is severed the gender gap will disappear (disparity between A and B remains but is not considered a problem). It should be possible to respond to this by saying that these relationships cannot be eliminated, or that while this [separating of sex and work] may be possible it is not something that should be done. It is difficult to make this argument properly. I will state it very simply.

I do not know how essential the various characteristics of men and aptitudes of women are and to what extent they are created – there is also the question of to what extent this type of question itself is valid. To begin with, however, there is the fact that women give birth to children. Of course, women who find this a burden should not do it. It is also possible, for example, for a woman who is busy to have another woman give birth for her. It can presumably be said, however, that at least when a woman wants to undertake this herself she should be allowed to do so. If statistically more women lean towards this kind of activity, it will be impossible to completely separate differences in work and sexual difference.

If we consider things in this way, and if we assume that the modern period is an era in which the forms of ownership and production described above exist, then it is not plausible that women will be liberated by a more thoroughgoing modernity. If we use the term “capitalism” to refer to the state of affairs in this era then the interconnected functioning of sexual discrimination and capitalism can be shown using, not other arguments, but the line of reasoning stated here.

If this is the case then this structure should be changed. And such change is not impossible, even if not everything can be accomplished. The rules are mutable, and while within the domain in which the promotion of production and development is valid a certain meaning of existence is accepted, if for instance resources must be available on a broad basis they will be restricted. Furthermore, the encouragement of this as a national policy cannot attain legitimacy; openness and distribution that goes beyond national borders will be required [20]. And if the structure can be changed there will no longer be a need to give especially good treatment to developmental, strategic and competitive areas. If the disparity between work A and work B does not thereby disappear it should at least become quite small. This should presumably also allow each individual to live their life in line with their own traits or nature.

Some may think that I have only broadened the discussion. I do not think so. I have tried to show where attacks should be made and which approaches are limited. I expect to be able to state what I have been discussing with more clarity by thinking and writing more extensively about these issues.

March 2012


  • [01] I also asserted that these issues have not been resolved in Tateiwa [2003a] (references to works by Tateiwa below will omit the name and give only the year), and, while refraining from discussing this subject itself, I will describe how I arrived at that point as follows.
    When I examined and considered assistance for disabled people ([1990], revised [1995]), I found the phenomenon of legal enforcement of families having to bear certain burdens because they are families strange – and I still find it strange and unjust. This lead me to do a bit of thinking and writing ([1991], [1992]) about the relationship between the form of the family and the love that is supposed to accompany the modern family, the sorts of activities that are expected, and rights and obligations. Around the same time Ueno [1990] was released and received a lot of attention. I read this book but did not understand what was written in it. I thought it contained many errors and unclear passages. This problem was not limited to this book alone. In part for this reason I gave presentations [1993a] [1994] and wrote [1994a] and [1994b]. Of course, a great deal has been written about what I discuss below. It is necessary to establish the similarities and differences between what I am saying and what has been said while moving forward, but to do this will increase the length of what I write tenfold. I will do this at some point in the future, but for now I will do no more than introduce some of my own works that examine what is discussed below in greater detail without citing other works which should certainly also be referenced. A bibliography with roughly 500 related texts can be found under the same file name on our website (
  • [02] I also discussed the idea that production should not be viewed as something that automatically accelerates in [2001b]. (Regarding “exploitation”, I do not take the position that calls this appropriation “exploitation” based on a scheme of acquisition by producer. However, I think there are reasons/circumstances that cause this word to resonate with people, and I think they must be addressed. I have stated this in texts such as [2010/08/16:212-218]. Hashitsume [2010] introduces evidence presented in Morishima [1973=1974] which shows that labor theories of value are only realized under extremely strict conditions. Even if this is related to the decline of Marxism (Marxist economics) (this is also discussed in Tateiwa and Amada [2011:45-46,51-52]), I do not think it is directly connected to what I am discussing since what I am addressing are fundamentally “norms”. For an attempt to reshape the concept of exploitation see Yoshihara [2008]).
  • [03] cf. [1997] chapter six section two, [2004a] chapter two.
  • [04] cf. [2000a] chapter one.
  • [05] Following on from [1997], consideration and explanation of society’s fundamental state of affairs can be found in the revised version of [2001-2003] consolidated in [2004a].
  • [06] The meaning of coercion is discussed in [2004a] chapter three, section three. In addition to the three areas mentioned above, there is also the domain of activities conducted by private non-profits. Since writing [1990] I have come to see the importance of considering the boundaries and connections between these four domains, and this is addressed, albeit simply, in [2000e→2004].
  • [07] I discuss this point and the fact that it does not appear to have been noticed in most of the discourse regarding the family in [1991] and [1992]. In [1996] I offered a more precise phrasing of the claim that the “myth” of love covered up the unfairness of unpaid labor and assert that we should say that these relationships do not lead to an obligation to perform certain actions.
  • [08] For example, consider the following. Let us call A’s share under the initial state of affairs “a” and B’s share “b”. Assume that a is larger than b. There is an amount, “c”, required for each to live, and let us then say that sufficient allotment from the total (a+b) is made regarding this necessary amount. Next, regarding the amount that remains of the total (a+b-2c), let us say that it is then divided according to the ratio of a to b found in the initial state of affairs. The result of this will clearly be a reduction in the disparity between what is received by A and B. 〔◆Tax and insurance〕
  • [09] In cases where distribution relies on potential for production, the effect on production will presumably be positive. Childcare support, for example, has this character. Along with, or perhaps rather than, being distribution meant to support the lives of the individuals in question, this distribution also has the character of investment for the sake of production. In this way, when it comes to preserving the lives of children, working people, retired elderly people and disabled people outside of the above categories, the meaning of doing so differs in each case. I cannot address this here, but I think the vague treatment of this issue is connected to the confusion found in discussions of this subject. In [1992a] I examined this issue from the perspective of payment for care giving work.
  • [10] For example, in the case of care giving work, the families that bear this burden in general would like someone else to shoulder it instead, but for the person receiving care this is meaningless if it does not lead to an increase in what is provided. It is necessary to distinguish and consider separately the question of who should bear the burden of providing the same amount of care and the question of what is brought about by increasing or decreasing the size of this burden. The former only relates to 1) disparity, but if the amount of work increases, and if this work is done only to support the lives of the people receiving care, then competition arises with 3) expanding production. I discuss this in [2000a].
  • [11] The fact that, in cases where there is no difference in ability between the sexes, neither the distinction between those who perform wage labor and those who do not (examined in this section) nor the assignment to jobs with disparate working conditions (discussed in the next section) benefits purchasers – this may seem self evident but even regarding this point errors have been made – is discussed in [1994b].
  • [12] In [1994a] I examine arguments which assert that this form of division of labor is unfair because domestic labor, particularly the work of (re)producing laborers, is not compensated, and at the same time sought reasons for the creation/persistence of this form of division of labor in the (unfair) benefits it provides to the men/capital/states – in most cases these parties are only vaguely enumerated – that make [women] perform this work. These arguments are flawed in various ways, but in recent years those who promote them have noticed this and, without acknowledging it, moved the focus of their discussion to part time labor and “care work” [Hotta◆].
  • [13] This is in accordance with the understanding expressed in Ochiai [2000:154ff.]. In addition to stating this, Ochiai goes on to assert that going forward we will enter an era in which the labor force is insufficient and therefore cannot continue as we have up to now. I agree about the direction we must take, but I am not sure we can say that there will be an overall shortage of labor, and I think circumstances can arise, and have already arisen, in which in some areas there is no shortage of labor but one is thought to exist and in some areas there is a shortage of labor but it is not thought to exist and both of these misapprehensions exist simultaneously, and I believe these issues must be considered in light of this. I discuss this in the next section. I also think that fundamentally we should wholeheartedly welcome an excess of labor capacity; regarding the problem of unemployment I think it should be addressed through the division of labor rather than lost realization potential and expansion of production which is not desirable (see [2004a◆] preface section three parts three and four). On work-sharing see Kumazawa [2003]. [I also discuss this in [2002/10/00]. ◆]
  • [14] As a result the position of “unpaid labor” in a state of affairs in which it is possible to provide cheap labor because survival is maintained through unpaid labor such as subsistence farming – this state of affairs which existed during this era, and, particularly in so-called “developing countries”, and continues to exist on a large scale today – must not be viewed as being the same as the position of domestic labor performed by the sort of full-time housewives discussed in this section.
  • [15] I also discussed this in a bit more detail in [1994a].
  • [16] On statistical discrimination see [1997] chapter eight note two.
  • [17] I discussed why this is the case and why “declining birthrates” are considered such a serious problem in [2000a].
  • [18] On the socialization of this work, and the meaning and limits of assertions that its position should be elevated, see [2000c]. I also discuss arguments based on “specialization” in [2000b→2000d:283ff.].
  • [19] On there being no contradiction between the “donated” nature of this work and it being performed as compensated labor see [1995], Kan et al. [2000], etc.
  • [20] cf. [2004a] preface section three parts seven and eight, [2001a].