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Social Reproduction - Making, Sustaining and Transforming Everyday Life

(ASG 2020-2021)

What is valued and undervalued in our society? The concept of social reproduction directs our attention to activities which are often taken for granted but without which production and growth would not be possible. Social reproduction encompasses actions, emotions, knowledge and responsibilities that are fundamental to sustaining and transforming life.

What role do seemingly mundane activities such as raising a child, providing emotional support, caring for the elderly play in our societies? For decades, feminists have argued that all physical and emotional labor – paid and unpaid – performed daily and nightly in homes, schools, hospitals and elder care homes, is indispensable for our survival and the reproduction of our societies. Even so, life-sustaining work is often undervalued and rendered invisible by society and in research. It is often expected to be performed for free, or at very low cost, and it is often denied the resources needed.

Today, many feminist researchers claim that we are facing a severe underinvestment in social reproduction, and because of this we are facing a global care crisis. This crisis of care is expressed in lack of time, resources and capabilities needed for people to recover and to care for each other. As the Covid-19 pandemic has so clearly shown, it is also visible in the fragility of reproductive institutions such as hospitals, elder care homes, schools and childcare arrangements. Today’s politics is based on the idea that reproduction cannot cost. However, when social reproduction is systematically undermined, it is also harder for people to function in the productive sphere and in society as a whole. The crisis of care draws our attention to the inherent crisis tendency within capitalism as a system and the multiple struggles calling for careful social transformations.

Our Advanced Study Group gathers researchers, in sociology, political science, medicine, history, gender studies and economics, who all consider it necessary to analyze the role of social reproduction at this point in history, not least to emphasize its importance for a sustainable and just society in which care is valued as a necessity, not just a cost.