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Night-labour, social reproduction and political struggle in the ‘working day’ chapter of Marx’s Capital

Apostolidis, Paul (2023) Night-labour, social reproduction and political struggle in the ‘working day’ chapter of Marx’s Capital. European Journal of Political Theory. ISSN 1474-8851

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Identification Number: 10.1177/14748851231219176


This essay offers a new reading of Marx's chapter on ‘the working day’ in Capital Volume One by exploring the textual theme of night-time work. Even as Marx emphasises how the lengthening workday enables the super-exploitation of producers’ wage labour, his depictions of nocturnal experiences highlight more forcefully the destruction of workers’ reproductive resources, capacities and relationships. Night comes to represent the contracted time, condensed space, petrified relational bonds and thwarted desires for human reproduction in a free, fulsome sense that includes reinvigorating oneself, caring for others and enjoying experiences apart from work or care. Night's role as a privileged signifier and catalyst of these changes comes through in key passages about women, children and vampires, and in theoretically meaningful variances between Marx's German paraphrasing of English sources and those original texts, which replace Marx's phrases in English translations of Capital. Contemplating Marx's ambivalent reflections on legal-political action to limit workday hours, I argue for making struggles over social reproduction in a capacious sense central to working-class politics today. I demonstrate the power of this Marxian analytic by considering the compression of social-reproductive time among today's microworkers, who fuel the digital economy by performing platform-based ‘tasks’ at all hours for very low wages.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2023 The Author
Divisions: Government
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
J Political Science > JC Political theory
Date Deposited: 23 Nov 2023 12:00
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 04:18

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