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Close to Home: A Materialist Analysis of Women’s Oppression

Classic analysis of gender relations and patriarchy under capitalism
Close to Home is the classic study of family, patriarchal ideologies, and the politics and strategy of women’s liberation. On the table in this forceful and provocative debate are questions of whether men can be feminists, whether “bourgeois” and heterosexual women are retrogressive members of the women’s movement, and how best to struggle against the multiple oppressions women endure.

Rachel Hills’s foreword to this new edition explores how Christine Delphy’s analysis of marriage as the institution behind the exploitation of unpaid women’s labor is as radical and relevant today as it ever was.

Reviews

  • “She writes with an extraordinarily clear-eyed passion … Delphy’s words are persuasive.”

Blog

  • Reconceptualizing Family History

    "Frustrated by the fact that most texts on women treated 'the man's world' as the given and then simply asked where and how women fitted in," Stephanie Coontz writes, "I decided to undertake a survey of American gender roles: that was the starting point of the present book" — The Social Origins of Private Life: A History of American Families 1600–1900, published by Verso in 1988.


    Unidentified African American soldier in Union uniform with wife and two daughters, c. 1863-65. via Wikimedia Commons.

    As the focus of her research shifted from "woman's private sphere" to the family as a larger arena in which the public and private intersect, Coontz became more attentive to the diversity of household arrangements across time and space. "Stimulated by the burgeoning research into family history," she writes, "I began to look at the family as a culture's way of coordinating personal reproduction with social reproduction — as the socially sanctioned place where male and female reproductive activities condition and are conditioned by the other activities into which human beings enter as they perpetuate a particular kind of society, or try to construct a new one." 

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  • Reconceptualizing Family History (Part II)

    Continued from part I.


    Detail from Francis William Edmonds' The New Bonnet (1858).

    The Limits of Structural and Demographic Analysis

    Although it is important to compare demographic trends and household structures and seek their economic correlates, such procedures yield only limited information about the history of families. Olga Linares points out: “Qualitative changes in the meaning of interpersonal obligations may be as important in distinguishing among household types as more easily measured changes in size and form.” Indeed, as Barrington Moore Jr has commented, tabulating structural differences “necessarily involves ignoring all differences except the one being measured.” Changes in social relations and patterns are not “reducible to any quantitative differences; they are incommensurable. Yet it is precisely such differences that matter most to human beings.”47

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  • Catholic Sharia, or the state within the state

    This post first appeared on Christine Delphy's blog. Translated by David Broder.

    Philippe Barbarin, Archbishop of Lyon.

    Neither Jean-Luc Mélenchon nor Emmanuel Macron know what laïcité [French state secularism] is. So Mélenchon believes that "schooling" is subject to "laïcité." No: the teachers are, because they are state employees; but not the service users, the students themselves. Which is why the 2004 law banning the headscarf does not conform to the 1905 laïcité law. Macron seems to be unaware that the State Council declared the "anti-burkini" decrees issued by certain mayors last summer to be invalid; he claims that "some of these decrees are justified" since they "target not any cultural issue, but a matter of public order." What "public order" is this? Do the women who wear a burkini disturb public order? No. Rather, the men and women who insult them are disturbing public order; it is not the victims who ought to be penalised.

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Other books by Christine Delphy Translated by Diana Leonard Foreword by Rachel Hills