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Radical Philosophy Today

Volume 5, 2007

Democracy, Racism, and Prisons

Amy E. Wendling
Pages 49-67

Rough, Foul-Mouthed Boys
Women’s Monstrous Laboring Bodies

Karl Marx claims that alienation inheres in all wage labor. I raise questions about the applicability of this claim to subjects of patriarchy. In the first section, I discuss industrial wage labor and its allure for women who were trying to escape the norms of familial patriarchy. In the second section, I extend this criticism of Marx’s claim by considering the racially enslaved subjects of the Antebellum American South, for whom economicallyrecognized wage labor was still a bloody political battle. Finally, I turn to the identification of working class women and sexuality, in order to show how wage labor offered liberation from narrow bourgeois sexual strictures. I conclude by reassessing the viability of Marx’s critique of alienation, taking into account the standpoints from which wage labor itself was a considerable political achievement.

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