Symbol, exchange and birth: Towards a theory of labour and relation

Philosophy and Social Criticism 30 (3):355-373 (2004)
In this article I use Baudrillard’s claim that systems of exchange are ontologically and historically prior to systems of production, and Arendt’s understanding of birth as the arrival of something both quite familiar and quite new into the world as the starting-points for a theory of labour as relation. Such a theory has the virtue of avoiding the problem, found in Marx, Arendt and elsewhere, that labour is both a vital feature of being human and yet a drudgery that will be absent from post-revolutionary society (in the case of Marx) or strictly relegated to the private realm (for Arendt). It also involves repositioning the work of social reproduction – of which women’s labour in giving birth is exemplary – as paradigmatic. Key Words: Hannah Arendt • Jean Baudrillard • labour • natality • production • symbol.
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DOI 10.1177/0191453704042218
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