S. Charusheela: “Engendering Feudalism: Modes of Production Revisited”

Charusheela outlines a Marxist feminist politics of communal social relations through a refocusing of the idea of the common by reconsidering “other-than-capitalist” modes of production that currently exist within capitalism itself yet are often ignored or mischaracterized. She notes the intransigence of a conceptual binary: any form of production that is not capitalist is assumed to be feudal. Her test case is India during its rapid economic transformation in the 1960s-1980s, which sparked a number of never-resolved debates about whether India was capitalist or feudal in its mode of production. She argues that “feudal” is a catchall category for any system that does not mask its exploitation of labor through the abstraction of capital and markets (capitalism) and yet doesn’t involve open coercion (slavery) either. Within the space of the “feudal,” however, she sees the potential for a communal structure that affirms difference (against capitalism’s “universalist self-imagination”) precisely by exceeding these categorical boundaries, particularly with regard to the question of equality: non-wage-based labor (such as that performed by women in traditional households) is constitutive of a communal social structure that is based on social parity instead of wage-based equality. That is, certain rules exist for structuring social hierarchies and comparable worth that operate outside of the homogenizing value system of capital. A reexamination of these rules reveals how “these imaginaries of parity, dignity and reciprocity also point to alternatives to capitalism.” Ultimately her goal is the recuperation/construction of “a genuine communal imagination” arising out of, as well as structuring, production that is not wage-based, that doesn’t seek to maximize profits or a homogenized “equality,” but rather seeks to maximize social parity.


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