What is maternal labour?

Sandford, Stella (2011) What is maternal labour? Studies in the Maternal, 3(2), ISSN (online) 1759-0434


What happens when we attempt to draw together the concepts of 'the maternal' and of 'labour' in the category of 'maternal labour'? What is the specificity of maternal labour as labour and what is its specificity as maternal? This paper argues that there is a peculiar difficulty in the category of 'maternal labour', even a fundamental contradiction, but that this is not a reason to reject it. Beginning with a brief discussion of Marx's comments, in the Introduction to the Grundrisse, on the category of labour, the paper then considers some classic Marxist feminist literature from the 1970s and 1980s on the relation between Marxism and feminism and on the domestic labour debates in order to try to explain the nature of the contradiction in the category of 'maternal labour' and its significance for thinking the possibility of a non-capitalist maternal subject.

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