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Householding and social reproduction

Comment on Newberry and Rosen

Deborah James

The central premise of this article can hardly be questioned: that the theoretical discussion of reproductive labor is “unfinished.” Whether one calls it unpaid work, unfree labor, care, or social reproduction, the topic seems increasingly to demand (and increasingly receive) more attention. This seems to be ever more the case as we move ever further away from the decades when the postwar consensus, established especially in Northern European countries, held sway. The imposition, by various regimes, of harsh austerity measures on their populations also makes this a key scholarly concern. Jan Newberry and Rachel Rosen’s contention that much of the burden of such work is increasingly taken up by women also seems well taken, if uncontroversial. Their observations about “familialization” and the “re-traditionalizing” of certain aspects of reproduction squares with the claim by Wendy Brown that women’s work intensifies under neoliberal capitalism, as states withdraw the provision of facilities for those who “cannot be responsible for themselves”; and indeed that women—in the face of the disappearance of the necessary infrastructure—become that infrastructure (2015: 105). If we add financialized debt into the mix, such points also echo the findings of scholars in diverse settings who have shown that women are frequently prime targets for microfinance and other kinds of moneylending (Guérin 2019; Han 2012; Kar 2018). But it is at the point that children and issues of temporality are added into an already heady theoretical brew that I find myself parting company with the vision of the authors.

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Tenure reformed

Planning for redress or progress in South Africa

Deborah James

This article explores the contradictory and contested but closely inter- locking efforts of NGOs and the state in planning for land reform in South Africa. As government policy has come increasingly to favor the better-off who are potential commercial farmers, so NGO efforts have been directed, correspondingly, to safeguarding the interests of those conceptualized as poor and dispossessed. The article explores the claim that planned “tenure reform” is the best way to provide secure land rights, especially for laborers residing on white farms; illustrates the complex disputes over this claim arising between state and NGO sectors; and argues that we need to go beyond the concept of “neoliberal governmentality” to understand the relationship between these sectors.

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Acts of Assistance

Navigating the Interstices of the British State with the Help of Non-profit Legal Advisers

Alice Forbess and Deborah James

This article explores everyday interactions with the British welfare state at a moment when it is attempting to shift and transform its funding regimes. Based on a study of two London legal services providers, it draws attention to a set of actors poised between local state officers and citizens: the advisers who carry out the work of translation, helping people to actualize their rights and, at the same time, forcing disparate state agencies to work together. Advice and government services providers are increasingly part of the same system, yet advisers' work runs counter to the state's aims when formal legal process is used to challenge unfair legislation. The article reveals that ever more complex, vague, and idiosyncratic interconnections between state, business, and the third sector are emerging in the field of public services.