[OPE-L:6559] [OPE-L:24] Re: Something *entirely* different

Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Tue, 19 May 1998 06:16:04 -0400 (EDT)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 19 May 1998 14:07:52 +1030
From: Ian Hunt <Ian.Hunt@flinders.edu.au>

I think the marriage contract(of old) is not slavery, but servitude like
the peonage Marx refers to in a footnot. Or at least , it is not chattell
slavery. The position of women has varied, of course. Where, as in ancient
Rome, the pater familias had power of life and death and command of
whatever his wife does, then we had slavery (albeit still not chattel
slavery as wives could not be bought and sold in ancient Rome). The
position is that, without a renewable contract, and with a vow of
obedience, marriage is servitude, like that of a feudal serf, but in any
case is a form of unfree labour (with what form depending on the content of
the obligation to obey the husband). Marriage contracts with divorce on
demand are now more like labour contracts, though, and without the vow of
obedience are not formally at least, a form of servitude at all.

>[From Alan]
>In the spirit of Jerry's request for new ideas.
>I've had to present a course on labour economics, something I've never done
>before. Three of my students decided they wanted to study discrimination in
>the labour market, so we started looking at the labour contract.
>Reading Marx on the labour contract, I noticed something I didn't see
>before; he says the contract has to be limited in duration, or it is
>slavery. If the worker doesn't have the formal freedom to renew the
>contract each week or month or year, then labour-power is no longer being
>sold as a commodity but becomes an obligation in perpetuity.
>In a long footnote he discusses the institution of peonage, in which people
>undertook obligations in labour services which became so big that it
>started to involve their families, transmitting what had become a slave
>relation from one generation to the next.
>It strikes me that the marriage contract is not renewable. But it carries
>clear labour obligations.
>It seems to be that, logically, it is therefore a form of slavery.