LETTERS TO  – – – – –

ON THE INEXHAUSTIBILITY OF EXHAUSTION

by Marija Cetinic and Jeff Diamanti

 

Dear –––––,
We’ve noticed something broken between what should otherwise be clear cut moments in capitalism’s most valued categories, production and reproduction. We used to insist on wages for housework. Though that never meant abandoning the two rallying points internal to the workplace: more wages for less work, and no work for more pay. Somehow the work done at home for the worker, and the work done at work for the houseworker used to satisfy something of a saturation point in the history of struggle; roles were more or less clear cut, as were allies and enemies (women and men), spaces (work and home), means and ends (solidarity here, and self-abolition there), and the organizing determination of struggle (value). We used to say things like, “Fuck patriarchy: let’s raise these kids collectively” and “Comrades, but women.”
Love,

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Dear –––––,
We were bent on pressing the contradictions of reproductive labour onto the political capacity of producers, and in so doing, drafting methods for finding one another in the teargas. We tried prose, poetry, photographs, and maps. Often we wrote letters. All of these offered different formal constraints adequate to our enthusiasm. It’s winter here and we haven’t seen a friendly face in years. I read your letter to the paediatrician who could only offer caution with regards to small batteries, which get lodged in the body if accidentally swallowed.
Love,

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Dear –––––,
We have never been so tired. When we speak we introduce long pauses between each syllable. When we speak we find ways to replace the ends of all words with vowels. When we speak we repeat everything: ma-ma, ma-ma, ma-ma. Every day is a repetition of conditions. The day is broken into an anatomy, where back, belly, feet, face, and fingers are caressed. We spill care across rented real estate. “Why, if it is one’s own child, is it not work but love?”
Love,

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Dear –––––,
Ontario Ministry of Labour defines domestic work in relation to the wage: Domestic workers are employed directly by householders, and not by a business or agency. An employee who is hired by a business, agency, or any person other than the householder to perform homemaking services is classified as a “homemaker” and subject to special rules and exemptions under the Employment Standards Act. A householder is someone who owns or rents the home where the domestic work is done. Domestic workers are hired to work in a private home. They do things such as housekeeping and providing care, supervision, and personal assistance to children or people who are elderly, ill, or disabled.
Love,

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Dear –––––,
What kind of materialism do you need from us? What is a militant materialist when maternity is indexed to housing prices, and housing booms animate the geography of gender? Every house imagines an economy.
Love,

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Dear –––––,
If love knows no bounds, it is only because it consists categorically of the unpaid portion of domestic work. Its sphere is the inexhaustibility of exhaustion. But this is not the same as saying that work outside the wage relation is work outside the value-form. Every wedding imagines an interest rate.
Love,

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Dear –––––,
Domestic labour is thus a genre of the housing market, and the housing market takes the narrative structure of a Faulknerian double bind: “My father said that the reason for living is getting ready to stay dead. I knew at last what he meant and that he could not have known what he meant himself, because a man cannot know anything about cleaning up the house afterward. And so I have cleaned my house.”
Love,

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Dear –––––,
We relearn every morning that “father” and “mother” are respective moments, rather than identities, in the social relations embedded in the labour-capital accord.
Love,

 

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Dear –––––,
Somewhere in the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle took a jab at those preindustrial trust-fund kids whose wealth was not of their own making; on the other side of things are “parents and poets” and the politics of poiesis. Today that “uncovering”—those poetic and parental means without ends, where language and progeny arrive on the market free of charge—is the tragic appearance of a riot that never happened.
Love,

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Dear –––––,
“Our room / although too small for our needs was glowing and / secure despite the fact that it had no roof, / that its walls led straight upwards to the / black clear sky.” Everywhere we lived, we lived briefly. A month is always both the measure of development ( _ months &#61 crawling; _ months &#61 separation anxiety;   _ months &#61 teeth) and the measure of rent.
Love,

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Dear –––––,
“The product of past labour, and past labour itself, is seen as pregnant in and of itself with a portion of present or future living surplus labour. We know however that in actual fact the preservation and thus also the reproduction of the labor of products of past labour is only the result of their contact with living labour; and secondly, that the command that the products of past labour exercise over living surplus labour lasts only as long as the capital relation, the specific social relation in which past labour confronts living labour as independent and superior.” Pregnancy, then, as the hinge between past labour and its reproductive future. There is therefore no class pregnancy, only a class critique of pregnancy.
Love,

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Dear –––––,
To start with the process of nominalization would be a mistake. We spoke of you years before you were born. We whispered about how to think of you, how to care for you, when you were an idea amidst uprisings far away. We will only ever be able to think you in relation to a very specific force. You were thought and materialized (laboured over, laboured for, laboured with) in constellation with the very same force that burst open everywhere, when resistance transformed into a struggle to abolish exploitation.
Love,

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“Letters to – – – – –” is from our spring 2014 issue, Women’s Work

 

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