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Livets dubbla vedermödor: Om moderskap och arbete
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Political Science.
2001 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
The Twofold Labour of Life : On Motherhood and Work (English)
Abstract [en]

There are conflicts between waged labour and motherhood that make it difficult for women to seize independence as workers and at the same time be mothers. These conflicts manifest themselves in women’s everyday practices as well as in feminist theory and in the women’s movement. The purpose of the thesis is to study the construction of motherhood and labour, and how the meanings attributed to motherhood and labour uphold women’s subordination. It is a study of how motherhood and labour are used to naturalise the gender order and make it legitimate. This is done by analysing texts on childminders encompassing the period 1967 to 1999.

In Sweden, childminders are often perceived as solving the conflict between waged work and motherhood in a specific way. Employed by the municipal authorities, childminders work at home, taking care of other people’s children as well as their own. However, solving one dilemma, they find themselves in another. Working with children in the confinement of the home is not seen as a “real job” as long as it is connected to motherhood.

The struggle of the childminders to count as “real” workers is a tale of their separation from motherhood. In the study, perceptions of motherhood and labour are seen as expressions of gender relations, which means that motherhood and labour are seen as equally gendered and structured.

In political theory, labour is seen as the key to property in the person, as well as representing labourers’ contribution to society. This understanding of work renders it crucial to theories of democracy, as it legitimises the worker’s political participation. The dissertation shows how this theoretical function of labour rests on   constructing motherhood as the other, and mothers as incapable and illegitimate political subjects. Three key distinctions between motherhood and labour are distinguished and analysed. The first deals with the perception of motherhood as “being” and labour as “doing”. The second focuses on the conception that labour is a goal-oriented, rational activity whilst motherhood is seen as biologically determined with its own intrinsic values. In this view, motherhood can therefore not be understood as an activity that aims to transform. The third distinction is the opposition between the irreplaceability of the mother and the replaceability of labour power.

The thesis concludes that strategies defining mother-like activities as labour presume that these activities are distinguished from motherhood. Paradoxically, when women in general become working mothers, leaving children at day-care, the biological aspect of motherhood is stressed, upholding motherhood as an institution.

The differences construed between motherhood and labour are often naturalised and ascribed to women’s biology and double hardships: that they need to be both mothers and workers. This formulation makes it possible to manoeuvre and control women. Labour and motherhood can be used against each other in ways that grant men control over women, and at the same time deprive women of their power to act. Patriarchal power seems to be necessary to maintain the present underpinnings of democratic theory.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Statsvetenskapliga institutionen, Stockholms universitet , 2001. , 392 p.
Stockholm studies in politics, ISSN 0346-6620 ; 80
Keyword [en]
feminist theory, motherhood, labour, citizenship, daycare policies, Sweden
National Category
Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)
Research subject
Political Science
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-54780ISBN: 91-7265-340-XOAI: diva2:398057
Public defence
2001-10-19, Hörsal 8, Södra huset, Campus Frescati, Stockholm, 13:00 (Swedish)
Available from: 2011-02-18 Created: 2011-02-16 Last updated: 2011-02-22Bibliographically approved

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