[Video] Your debt or your life: a feminist approach to the multidimensional crisis

16 September 2021 by Silvia Federici , Camille Bruneau , Verónica Gago

CADTM Summer University 2021: Global Crisis, Debt Cancellation for Social Justice!

Tuesday 14 September 2021
With Silvia Federici and Verónica Gago

Silvia Federici, an Italian-American scholar, teacher, and activist from the radical autonomist feminist Marxist and anarchist tradition. She is one of the leading figures in anti-capitalist feminism. Witha long history of activism and critical examination of the capitalist globalization process and its impact on the environment, from the wages for housework campaign in New York in the early 1970s to her struggle against structural adjustment Structural Adjustment Economic policies imposed by the IMF in exchange of new loans or the rescheduling of old loans.

Structural Adjustments policies were enforced in the early 1980 to qualify countries for new loans or for debt rescheduling by the IMF and the World Bank. The requested kind of adjustment aims at ensuring that the country can again service its external debt. Structural adjustment usually combines the following elements : devaluation of the national currency (in order to bring down the prices of exported goods and attract strong currencies), rise in interest rates (in order to attract international capital), reduction of public expenditure (’streamlining’ of public services staff, reduction of budgets devoted to education and the health sector, etc.), massive privatisations, reduction of public subsidies to some companies or products, freezing of salaries (to avoid inflation as a consequence of deflation). These SAPs have not only substantially contributed to higher and higher levels of indebtedness in the affected countries ; they have simultaneously led to higher prices (because of a high VAT rate and of the free market prices) and to a dramatic fall in the income of local populations (as a consequence of rising unemployment and of the dismantling of public services, among other factors).

IMF : http://www.worldbank.org/
policies in Africa.

Verónica Gago is a Professor of Social Sciences at the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) and at the Universidad Nacional de San Martín (Unsam), she is also a researcher at the National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET) of Argentina. A feminist activist of the Collective “Ni una menos” Argentina, she is a cornerstone reference to understand the issue of debt and finance in a feminist perspective.

The increase in public and private debt has direct consequences on households’ resources and women’s lives. It is most often the women who take on the responsibilities for social reproduction and are often pressured into debt to feed and support their families, to find shelter, to get access to health care Care Le concept de « care work » (travail de soin) fait référence à un ensemble de pratiques matérielles et psychologiques destinées à apporter une réponse concrète aux besoins des autres et d’une communauté (dont des écosystèmes). On préfère le concept de care à celui de travail « domestique » ou de « reproduction » car il intègre les dimensions émotionnelles et psychologiques (charge mentale, affection, soutien), et il ne se limite pas aux aspects « privés » et gratuit en englobant également les activités rémunérées nécessaires à la reproduction de la vie humaine. and education, etc. When crises occur, women lose their means to repay their debts. Debt also prevents women from escaping situations of domestic violence. This is how gender oppression combines with financial extortion. Since debt is a tool that reinforces capitalism, it also strengthens patriarchy: women are burdened with more and more tasks that ought to be covered by public services. Seeing how debt, capitalism and patriarchy combine to the same end, proposals put forward by feminist movements are essential to build alternatives and put the sustainability of well-being before the sustainability of markets.

Silvia Federici

is a feminist activist, teacher and writer. She is a Emerita Professor at Hofstra University (New York). Her work includes : “Revolution at Point Zero. Housework, Reproduction and Feminist Struggle ;” Caliban and the Witch. Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation« ; “Enduring Western Civilization : The Construction of the Concept of Western Civilization and its Others” (editor) ; “Thousand Flowers : Social Struggles Against Structural Adjustment in African Universities » (co-editor).

Other articles in English by Verónica Gago (3)


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