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17 October 2011

The Site(s) of Production

The traditional Capitalist distinction between the job as the site of production and the home as the site of consumption must be abandoned.  Even some forms of Marxism maintain the distinction, though feminists have fought against it for years.  From the feminist perspective, the distinction marginalizes women whose work is traditionally performed at home.  This work is then not considered "production" even though it is an essential part of our economic system (i.e. child care, food production, cleaning, etc.).

From an ecological perspective, however, the critique goes much further.  The problem is that, under the Capitalist dichotomy, the act of consumption and the role of consumer are naturalized so that everyone expects to be a consumer of products that are produced elsewhere.  In that sense, consumption cannot be avoided.  However, if we were to view all acts as acts of production, then it becomes easier to see how different ways of behaving can be better or worse for the environment.

What we traditionally think of as "consumption" is actually a means of production - we take what was made in one place and transform it into something else (often garbage).  Recycling is an alternative act of production to that of discarding, which extends the life of the materials further.  Composting can be thought of the same way.  Certainly, we always lose something in every act of production (that's thermodynamics for ya), and so, every act of production can also be viewed as an act of consumption.  But if we think of ourselves primarily as producers, we may try harder to make our production as beneficial as possible.  Rather than merely discarding something (and thus producing garbage), we can think about transforming it into something useful or at least less harmful.

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