Laundering women's history: A feminist critique of the social factory
Studies of digital labour are closely connected to the concept of immaterial labour and how this has been critically interpreted by Autonomist Marxists who draw upon the concept of the social factory in explaining its wider impacts. The extension of labour and capitalist logics outside factory walls that constitutes the social factory is typically described as a novel feature of contemporary capitalism and particularly the digital economy. This paper critiques this assumption by utilising feminist theories of domestic work and examples of women’s labour history. Using the particular case of Magdalene Laundries in the Irish Free State (1922–1937), it demonstrates that the social factory has a longer history than is usually presumed. It then describes the implications for analysis of digital labour that arise from rejecting the novelty of immaterial labour’s incorporation into capitalism.
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