What does it mean to say that the husband appropriates the surplus in the traditional familis?

Dear professor Wolff, can you please elaborate on this Marxian analysis. I am not sure I have understood it.

Official response from submitted

Inside the traditional household (traditional=husband goes out to work at a paid job, wife stays home to be housewife, mother, home-maker, etc.) women do more work than necessary to provide for their own needs (what Marx called "necessary labor"). That is, they dont cook and clean only their own meals; they also cook and clean meals for their husband's consumption. They dont make only their side of the bed; they make both sides. And so on. In short they do both "necessary labor" - whose products they consume - but also "surplus labor" whose products are consumed by the husband and/or by others (eg children or elderly grandparents, etc.) that he or the social context designates. In short, the traditional husband "appropriates the surplus produced by the wife at home." The direct parallel is with the proletarian worker in an office, factory, etc. H/she works producing value that the employer realizes when he sells the worker's output embodying that value. One portion of that realized value is paid by the employer to the worker as his/her wage/salary. That portion of the value of the output corresponds to the worker's necessary labor for which he/she is paid. Another portion of the worker's value output is used to replace the used-up means of production (tools, equipment, raw materials). And the third part of the value of output is kept by - appropriated - by the employer. Inside traditional households, it is the husband who thusly appropriates the surplus produced by his wife. This argument is developed in great detail and with interesting applications in a book I strongly recommend: Class Struggle on the Home Front, Edited by Graham Cassano (2009).


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  • commented 2017-01-08 10:15:18 -0500
    Thank you very much dear professor.
  • responded with submitted 2017-01-07 19:04:44 -0500
  • published this page in Ask Prof. Wolff 2017-01-07 14:00:57 -0500

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