A resurgence of interest in social reproduction theory has presented new ways of understanding gendered labour under capitalism. The political economy of Christine Delphy offered an important starting point for such questions, but remains little known in the Anglophone world.
A translation of the Preface to Delphy's Pour un théorie générale de l’exploitation [For a general theory of exploitation] (2006), by Isabelle Courcy and Melissa Blais, is below. Translated by David Broder; original French text here.
The different forms of exploiting labour today
In Quebec, Christine Delphy is often presented as one of the first feminists in France to have denaturalised ‘sex’, and consequently as a pioneer in conceptualising gender. Less common are the presentations that emphasise her contribution to political economy.
Christine Delphy, who was described by Simone de Beauvoir as "France's most exciting feminist writer", has been one of the few constant voices since the '70s to speak against the reactionary liberal feminism that has come to dominate the mainstream. Sylvie Tissot, author of Good Neighbours, reflects on the influence of Delphy's materialist, anti-racist analysis.
By Sylvie Tissot, January 2015. From the booklet accompanying the two films "Je ne suis pas féministe, mais... [I'm not a feminist, but...]" and “L’Abécédaire de Christine Delphy [The ABC of Christine Delphy]". Translated by David Broder.
I met Christine Delphy in 2003. Curiously, back then her name was not very familiar to me. Curiously – or maybe not. After all, though I was already a feminist and a sociologist, in my studies I had never heard any discussion of gender (except in the United States). My feminist sensibilities were fed by a strong feeling of injustice, but like any French woman who grew up during the backlash of the 1980s, I was long reticent to the idea that there is a structural sexism, something more than a question of men and women’s individual good will.