Social Reproduction

In my series discussing capitalism and socialism, I want to discuss another Marxist idea: the social reproduction of labor.  Basically it refers to a collection of social activities needed to maintain a labor pool.  An introductory article (suggested by Coyote) has a good description of how social reproduction occurs:

1. By activities that regenerate the worker outside the production process and allow her to return to it. These include, among a host of others, food, a bed to sleep in, but also care in psychical ways that keep a person whole.

2. By activities that maintain and regenerate non-workers outside the production process–i.e. those who are future or past workers, such as children, adults out of the workforce for whatever reason, be it old age, disability or unemployment.

3. By reproducing fresh workers, meaning childbirth.

It may be noted that social reproduction is essentially unpaid labor, and is disproportionately performed by women.  Thus, social reproduction theory draws a connection between Marxist and feminist theory.

However, I would fault the introductory article for failing to offer any good explanatory narrative.  Why is social reproduction unpaid, as compared to more “ordinary” labor being merely underpaid?  “Capitalism”, “neoliberalism”, and “sexism” don’t cut it as explanations.  So in this post, I’m going to offer a basic explanatory narrative, based on externalized costs.

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Link Roundup: June 2019

Experiencing neither romance nor spirituality – A good comparison between not experiencing romance and not experiencing spirituality.  I have often thought about this comparison myself.  When I considered myself a new atheist, I was constantly annoyed by how much atheists talk about being spiritual.  It’s fine to be spiritual, but it so overemphasized and exaggerated that it felt like a respectability politics tactic, one that failed to acknowledge or validate people who aren’t spiritual.  And it basically blocked any potential conversation about what it’s like to not experience spirituality, in a world that thinks you must.  Being asexual and aromantic spectrum has made me unapologetic about being nonspiritual.

Why books don’t work – The article argues that we don’t absorb information from nonfiction books very well, discusses why, and possible workarounds.  Nonfiction books (and lectures too) are based on a “transmissionism” model of learning: an idea is described, and you learn the idea.  But a better way to learn an idea is by actively engaging with it.  I am wondering how to apply these ideas to improve my own blogging.  Certainly when I blog about an idea, I learn a lot about it because I need to engage with it, but how do I encourage readers to also learn?

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Reject alcohol sponsorship

I cross-posted this article to The Asexual Agenda.

Recently, Budweiser UK announced its “Fly the Flag” campaign, which aims to support LGBT+ diversity by highlighting nine specific groups. For each group, they’re offering money to an associated charity, and are releasing a limited edition cup with a flag design. Based on Twitter engagement, the group that got the most attention is asexuality.

Budweiser also seems to have made further arrangements with asexual activists. They are hosting a three-day asexual event at London Pride, called “Ace of Clubs”. AVEN has described it as an open bar with additional activities. It was spearheaded by UK activist Yasmin Benoit.

There has been quite a flurry in response. Mainstream news articles have nearly uniformly expressed incredulity at asexuality and grey-asexuality–if they discuss it at all. They’re much more interested in discussing the problems with brand support for LGBT groups. In the ace community, some have responded positively, others have not. There are also many responses focused on combating negativity, especially in the Twitter thread.

I take the following viewpoint: sponsorship from alcohol companies is a special kind of bad. AVEN should refuse Budweiser’s donation, and while I’m guessing Ace of Clubs is a done deal, asexuality activists should avoid making such deals in the future.

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Origami: Six intersecting pentagonal prisms

Six intersecting pentagonal prisms

Six intersecting pentagonal prisms, designed by me.

I might be less active this month, so I thought I’d make up for it with an origami model you can dig into.  This model is called “Six Intersecting Pentagonal Prisms” because it’s literally made from six pentagonal prisms.  I’ve got some photos below the fold showing the step by step addition of each pentagonal prism.

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Conjugate variables, in thermodynamics and elsewhere

When I wrote an explanation of cap and trade, I had a strong temptation to make a physics analogy, to an idea in thermodynamics. The trouble is nobody would understand the analogy, and I would be obliged to explain the physics instead of the economics. Well I’d still like to explain the physics, but in a separate article.

There are certain thermodynamic quantities that are considered to be paired with one another. For example, pressure and volume, or temperature and entropy. These pairs are called thermodynamic conjugate variables.

The concept of conjugate variables can be challenging for physics students to understand because the examples we use are unintuitive. The connection between pressure and volume is unclear, and most people don’t wholly understand what temperature or entropy even are. Therefore, I’d like to use a more down-to-earth example.

So, let’s consider a pool of water. The pool is described by two conjugate variables: the volume of water, and the height of the water.
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Cap and trade

In my series discussing capitalism and socialism, a commenter said that both frameworks have problems with externalized costs.  According to the internet, “Externalized costs are costs generated by producers but carried by society as a whole.”  For example, pollution.

I want to discuss externalized costs through the lens of a specific concrete example: cap and trade policies in California.  I choose this example because I have a friend willing to explain it to me because I live in California and know all about it.

Generally speaking, cap and trade is a policy to reduce carbon emissions (or greenhouse gasses).  The government auctions off “allowances” that give companies permission to produce a certain amount of carbon emissions.  There are a fixed number of allowances available (that’s the “cap” part), and further carbon emissions are restricted.  The companies are free to buy and sell the allowances at prices of their own choosing (that’s the “trade” part).  The number of allowances decrease over time in order to meet the government’s pollution reduction goals.

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