Is it possible to find a framework for the thinking done on a new society, which makes it easier to catch hold of the questions I have raised here: a framework which does not make development in the West an obvious model, a framework which is open to the possibility that socialism can be created from many starting-points, a framework which makes it possible to integrate ecological considerations, a framework which can combine the class- and gender perspective, a framework which lets the "silent areas" speak out, a framework with room for versatility and wholeness? In this chapter I will study what I have called the perspective of everyday life, and which I see as a possible part of such a framework. But first a few words about democracy - which, in the deepest sense, is the main question.
It is sometimes said that poor, distressed people in the Third World first and foremost need food and other basics. Democracy has to take second priority. Statements of this type are well-meant polemics against the narrow, western hypocrisy which denounces poor countries because they don't have the same sort of parliamentary system we have. At the same time this exposes how restricted the western parliamentary democracy concept is. In our societies there is a sharp division between "food" and "democracy", between economy and politics. The elected organs do not steer economic life. On the contrary the capitalistic economy lays down the premises for the elected organs. Budget policy and decisions must take "trade's" basic interest as their starting-point. The big decisions on investments and discontinuations which perhaps lay whole local communities waste, are taken in totally different places than Parliament or local government. In general: conditions of daily life for the common people are far more dependent on the capitalists' right of control than on their own right to vote. The jubilation over the democratization process in Eastern Europe shows the same division. The people of Eastern Europe get more freedom of speech, of organization, and other important political freedoms. But they will hardly be getting greater control over their own life conditions. In Poland the dictatorship of the Communist Party is being substituted for that of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. In East Germany, West German capital is taking over.
In the real world the situation is not that food must come first, and then democracy can come later. In the real world lack of food is lack of power.
Lloyd Timberlake (1986 a) shows this clearly: as long as the poor peasants are without power, hunger and distress will continue. Grants to agriculture in most African countries are falling, despite the fact that the majority of the people live in the countryside. Poverty in the countryside has been institutionalized in many countries. This poverty leads to ecological destruction. The population in the countryside has had little to invest in land, and has therefore taken natural resources out of the land faster than these are being renewed. Poor peasants create poor land, the exhausted land makes them even poorer. This is a descending spiral, a spiral which has lead to ecological collapse in some regions of Africa.
How does one break this descending spiral? Timberlake cites the Egyptian biologist Mohammed Kassas who states that their is no room in "rational" financial strategies for taking steps against the spread of the desert. It costs Egypt 13,000 dollars to win back one hectare land which has become desert. But if this money were put in the bank instead - not to speak of in a more profitable investment - it would give a profit of 1,500 dollars per year, dependent upon the level of interest. Investments in reclaiming land from desert cannot compete with this in short-term "profitability". The ruling class in most African countries does not see its children dying of hunger and poor nutrition, and does not use the country's money to invest in land. As long as the poor majority, the peasants, are without power, it is not their needs that will steer the economy. And as long as it isn't the poor peasants needs which steer the economy, hunger, distress and ecological destruction will continue. "We cannot find motivating factors within our financial and political system in order to save land capable of cultivation in Africa's drought areas," says Timberlake. He could have added that we couldn't find motivating factors within our financial and political system for saving the lives of poor African peasants either. On the contrary. We could find strong motivating factors for continuing the quiet economic genocide which demands millions of children's lives every single year.
The ruling class in many countries in the Third World and the ruling class in the imperialist countries have contradictory interests in several areas. But the ruling classes in the rich and poor countries have the horrible common trait that the poor population's life and death do not concern them much. Timberlake mentions, for example, that five Sahel countries produced record yields of cotton in the drought periods in 1983 and 1984. At the same time this region imported record amounts of grain and many lives were lost in famine. Why did the drought hit the crops people were supposed to eat, but not the crops which were to be exported to the world market? The answer is simple: the crops which give the government foreign currency are supported by the governments with improved seed-grain, cheap manure, transportation for reaping and guaranteed prices. But food for hungry, poor peasants gives no export income.
Pressure put on Third World countries by imperialism, is passed on to the poor majority and crushes them. When agriculture is reorientated towards crops which can be sold on the world market, subsistence agriculture is suppressed and hunger knocks on the peasant's door. When the prices on raw materials are forced down, peasants are again hit, either because they get even less out of their work, or because even more ground is taken for cash crops (crops intended for the world market) in an attempt to keep export income up, while even less food is grown for the population. When the International Monetary Fund sets tough conditions for the debt ridden countries for renegotiation of loans, the poor people must pay the price. Cuts in public expenditure, removal of food subsidies, decrease in real income, it all means more distress, more unemployment, more hunger, more illness to all those who have already touched bottom.
Power to the poor peasants is the crux of the matter. Unless poor peasants get power there will be no "motivating factor", to use Timberlake's expression, to save lives and ecology. Or at least not strong enough motivating factors.
Not only hunger, but illness, too, is a lack of power. Ebba Wergeland put it this way (1990, p. 25):
"We have become accustomed to thinking of "the right to equal health" as an equal right to health services and pensions. Today it is necessary to fight even for something as unassuming as this. But health doesn't spring from health services, or from the number of hospital beds per inhabitant. Health, or lack of it, is first and foremost a product of life conditions: equal rights to health presupposes equal access - not just to health services, but to the conditions for health: food, housing, work, rest, being close to other people. What improves health, is that people win control over these conditions for their own health."
The question is: how can people get power?
How can we create a socialism, where the premises of social development are not decided at the top, where daily life partakes in defining the "major questions", where there is room for versatility, where contradictions and oppressive conditions are not made invisible, but brought up, worked on and solved? I am going to try out something I call the "everyday perspective" as a contribution to the discussion on how this type of society can be shaped.
What is meant by the "everyday perspective"? As I use it, it means a perspective on reality which 1) sees the world from below, not from the top, 2) tries to grasp the whole picture, as it is lived in daily life.
When I say "see the world from below", there is both a class and a gender perspective in this. "Seeing from below" has to do with seeing things from the working class' and the working people's viewpoint. And it has to do with seeing things from the subordinated gender's, that is the women's, viewpoint.
Seeing something "as an entity" is a rather unprecise statement. What is "an entity"? That depends on which frame of reference one chooses. I would like to direct attention to those power- and exploitation-relations which are built into what we see as a natural and inevitable division into sectors. But sector division in society doesn't spring forth spontaneously - it is created on a certain foundation. In our society this foundation is capitalistic profit hunting. It is not inevitable to have a special "health and social sector", as though people's health and social well-being had no connection with the way we work and live, with how society's communication problems are solved, and how culture and education is organized. People's health and social well-being is secondary in relation to the demands of capitalist production.
Creating a society where there is no "health and social sector" in the sense that we are used to thinking about, means breaking up those sectors which are fashioned around capitalism's power- and exploitation-relations. New relations are needed instead. How can we glimpse these new relations in a society fashioned on the old? This is where the importance of the "entity" of everyday life comes in. "Everyday life" - the immediate and versatile life of the working people, is, of course, also a result of power- and exploitation-relations in our society. This is where the result is lived - the result of the "working world" being one sector, "health" a second, and "culture" a third. Here the results of all decisions and initiatives from up top are lived. This is where people have to make it all connect and make cohesive, livable lives for themselves. And perhaps therefore, the problems and pain people fight with in everyday life are signals of the new conditions which must be created. When women overreach trying to straddle a life where they have "one foot in each camp", it can be taken as a signal of the need to make those two camps one. Choosing everyday life as a perspective on society and social development, gives an opportunity to see society's "major" structures as something other than "inevitable" and "natural". Perhaps this will make it easier to glimpse what must be changed. Choosing everyday life as a perspective also means that one must enter into people's own way of meeting reality and understanding the choices they make in that light. This is a necessary part of a policy which sees people themselves as the most important driving force in changing the world.
As I see it, the everyday perspective is also necessary in the struggle to abolish exploitation. There are two reasons for this. First of all exploitation does not just take place in "production". Beatrix Campbell's description of daily life in the mining districts of northern England, shows that both the miners and his wife's work in the home were part of a total process from which the mine owners drew profit. If the exploitation is to be abolished, and the workers to take control of the work process and results, this has to apply to the whole process, both as it functions in the mines and as it functions in the home. And both woman and man must get control. Secondly, exploitation does not just determine the working people's life "at work". Power- and exploitation-relations in society are with us everywhere, even in our "leisure". Abolishing exploitation must therefore mean that working people get power and control over the entity of their own lives.
In this type of "from the bottom upwards" perspective there is also a sort of basic attitude to how to fight injustice. We have a deep-rooted line of thought that says that a just distribution should be reached by some form of handing out presents from the "strong" to the "weak". The problem of those we call the "weak", whether discussing countries, regions or people, is usually that they are oppressed. Zaire is a country fantastically rich in natural resources. When the people there live in wretchedness it is because these riches are stolen from them by imperialist big business in alliance with their own ruling class. Finnmark is not a poor region from nature's hand. But it has been exploited almost like a colony by powers in southern Norway. Women are no "weak group". On the contrary, most women in the world are forced to be inhumanly strong in order to carry the burdens male society lays on them.
The so-called "weak" don't mainly need presents, they need freedom from oppression and exploitation. This is the basic thing. Freedom from oppression and exploitation, so that countries, regions and people can make their own way on the basis of their own strength and own resources. When one sees justice as something which comes into being through redistribution from the "strong" to the "weak", the inequalities which were to be removed are upheld: the power relations which make some "strong" and some "weak" to begin with are veiled and the "weak" are deprived of their dignity.
This is not an argument against countries, regions or people sharing resources to which they have different access. Nor is it an argument against the existence of central organs and mechanisms which make such distribution possible. But it is an argument against this redistribution being the main basis for shaping a more just society. The foundation must be the struggle to remove those conditions of oppression which hinder countries, regions and people from building their own strength on the basis of their own resources and dignity.
I will discuss the everyday perspective in relation to five subjects:
The split between economy and politics is the actual basis for capitalist democracy. The economy seemingly maintains and steers itself through economic "natural law". Politics only scrapes the veneer of economic life. The political arena is restricted to what is safe. In the new society this must be qualitatively different. The whole idea behind a planned economy is that politics and economy should be intertwined, that politics should steer economy. If the economic plan is really to be focused on the people's needs, it means these needs must be made clear, that people must have both a voice and power. Democracy will then have a totally different function than under capitalism. Under socialism democracy is directly tied to the economy, democracy is actually the basis which makes it possible to make a plan which serves people's needs. If planning is too strongly centralized and steered from above, it is difficult to avoid the plan becoming removed from people's needs. One might say that democracy takes the part of a main factor in socialism's constitution.
This raises more profound questions than those which usually are discussed in socialist debate. It raises the question of what kind of knowledge is considered worthwhile and what sort of frame of reference is in force. When we talk about a planned economy (and don't mainly associated it with big nails and bureaucratic inefficiency), we have, perhaps, an image reminiscent of the one Leo Huberman draws in the book Man's Worldly Goods in 1936. Huberman gives a , probably very idealized, picture of the planning process in the Soviet Union. He starts by saying that under socialism the State is the only owner of capital and must make all decisions. The socialist government attempts to make all the different parts, all the thousand and one variable and complicated economic activities, fit harmoniously together, so that everything functions smoothly. This requires a plan. The first task of the state planning commission is to find out how much labor power there is, how the collective factories are doing, which natural resources are available, etc. etc. "Facts. Numbers. Statistics: Mountains of statistics," as Huberman says (Swedish edition 1965, p. 242):
"From every single institution in the USSR, from every single factory, farm, mill, mine, hospital, school, research institution, union, co-operative, theatre group; from all of these, from the farthest corner of this enormous area, answers arrive to the questions: What did you do last year? What did you do this year? What are you hoping to do next year? What sort of help do you need? What sort of help can you give? And a hundred other questions are asked.
All these facts pour into Gosplan's office, where they are summed up, organized and digested by experts. The whole staff at The USSR's Gosplan now consists of a couple of thousand statistical experts and scientific technicians of different kinds, with as many secretaries - assuredly the best equipped, and at the same time, most comprehensive, permanent machinery for statistical surveys existing in the world."
And then the political organs join the picture. The first version of the plan is the result of discussions between Gosplan and the political leaders. Then comes the next step. "In a socialist planned economy the Brain Trust's plan is not always enough. It must be presented to the whole people for their approval," says Huberman. And then he cites the Soviet Ambassador in England, who tells us how this works (p. 243):
"The control figures are sent to the different people's commissariats and other central institutions that are concerned with the national economy, for example: the people's commissariat for heavy industry, the people's commissariat for light industry, commerce, transportation, foreign trade, etc., so that they can study and comment on the figures. Every central institution refers certain parts of the plan to the institution that is closest beneath it, so that, in the end, the individual factory or state farm gets to see its part of the plan. At each stage the control figures are scrutinized very closely. When they reach the last station on their trip from the state planning commission, factory or collective farm, all interested workers and peasants take an active part in the discussion and make suggestions and comments. After this, the control figures are sent back to the state plan committee through the same institutions, with additions and improvements."
Mountains of statistics. An army of experts and scientific technicians, and "as large a group of secretaries". And "interested workers and peasants" who "take an active part in the discussions". It is not difficult to grasp that a system like that, even with the best of intentions, could become slow, bureaucratic and full of a thousand opportunities for twisting information. Modern information techniques could probably not solve all the difficulties. But, in my view, this model has a more basic problem, and it has to do with its frame of reference. What sort of connection is there between reality, as it is construed by Gosplan's army of experts, and reality, as it is lived every day by the Soviet Union's workers and peasants, women and men? Gosplan construes reality so that it suits the administration and decision-making system: the people's commisariat for heavy industry, light industry, commerce, transportation, foreign trade etc. But human beings don't live in "heavy industry", "light industry" or "transportation". They live a whole daily life with versatile needs. This whole daily life disappears on the way up to Gosplan. It is cut into bits and put into each its own sector (and some disappear completely, such as, for example, women's house- and care work). Then the plan comes back again, put together sector by sector. And this plan again forms the daily life of human beings. They must live with the consequences of the sector plan, consequences which those at the top maybe neither know, understand, nor be interested in.
This is not in anyway specific for planned economies. In March 1990 I took part in a women's conference in Sørøya in Finnmark. It was arranged by the coastal fishers women's action in Sørøya, and the subject of the conference was the crisis in fishing industry, how it hits women and what women can do. One of the things that emerged most clearly, was the women's experience of their daily life and perception of reality not "fitting into" the political and economic categories of public life: the women's movement and the Sami people's movement are about the same thing, about knowledge which has been made into non-reality, said Jorun, who spoke for the Sami women. Reality is here; organized politics is something very different, and there is no connection, said Kristin from Nordreisa. Signe was from Rognsund, a place where there "aren't many professions or jobs, but lots of work". Mariette from Lofoten had looked at the statistics. But fishing as a way of life didn't fit the bureaucrats ready-made boxes. "We know what a year's work in the fishing industry is. It is a mother who gets up at three at night and baits the fishing hooks, who comes home and sends the children to school, who takes the smallest child along back to the baiting shed. And it is a father who is at sea, where there are no eight-hour days and regulated lunch breaks." And Siri, researcher from Tromsø, put it this way: The life we have had, has been marked by variety and versatility. Fisher women have to relate to so many parties: to house and home, and many trades: fishing/whaling/sealing, manufacturing, care work in the public sector. It is a life which is whole, and that makes it difficult to struggle in a public life that is divided into sectors. Women at the grass roots create the wholeness of life. But that is not how society is organized. We are fighting against a party that doesn't see the whole as we do.
Experience of developmental projects in the Third World, led by Western "experts", shows a gap between the local population's, particularly women's, everyday reality on the one hand, and "expert's" categories and line of thought on the other. Since the local population are those who are to be "helped" and who by definition are ignorant and unscientific, and the "experts" are those who are capable and who know, local knowledge about nature, culture and living conditions becomes invisible and invalid. There is an extra strong effect in relation to women, who as a matter of course are deemed more "ignorant", "unscientific", invisible and invalid than men. The results of the developmental experts stupid arrogance can be terrible. But it is the local population, and often particularly the women, who must bear the consequences.
An important part of women's knowledge becomes, therefore, knowledge of consequences (see Eide, 1990). Women become consequence experts, because they have to live with the results of all the decisions, plans, priorities and initiatives from on high. It is the women's job, in almost every society, to make daily life function. Women knit daily life together, they use themselves and their time as buffers against a society which is not organized to care for people's everyday needs.
One main problem of planned economies and plan economic thinking is that it hasn't abolished, no, not even made conscious, this gap between reality, as it is construed at the top, and reality, as it is lived daily by the majority. It is the reality at the top that has the power, the accepted knowledge and the accepted language. Everyday reality cannot be expressed in this language. The categories and concepts don't fit. Attempts at saying anything about everyday reality become therefore incomprehensible, illogical, they must be overlooked. If one wishes to be "heard", one must speak in the accepted categories. But then the message changes. What one wanted to say , disappears along the way.
People live in their whole everyday reality, make their choices and perform their actions on the basis of this frame of reference. But since the frame of reference is different than that of the authorities, and, therefore, made invisible and invalid, people's actions and choices become inexplicable from the authorities point of view. So they are written off as stupid, irrational, irresponsible, etc.etc. And all this is particularly true for women, who are made doubly invisible and invalid.
Under capitalism this is an effective power technique for those in power. Among other things it assures that democracy can never be a threat towards the existing order. Because the categories, language and definitions of what is valid, and what invalid, knowledge in this democracy, is made on the authorities' premises.
Under socialism this gap between common people's frame of reference and that of those in authority, is a basic problem. Because the economy is supposed to be adapted to filling people's needs, not to giving the maximum of profit to a small minority. But the needs are to be found down there in daily life. If there is no way to express these needs, the plan has to become twisted in some direction or another. In the best case it will be twisted in the direction of what those at the top think are people's needs. In the worst case it will be in the direction of what serves the narrow interests of those at the top. We have seen both in societies that have tried to build socialism.
In Huberman's enthusiastic description of the planning process in the Soviet Union we can see how this problem arises. Peasants and workers "make suggestions and comments" to the government's and Gosplan's first draft. But the frame of reference, premises, are reality as it is construed at the top. "Suggestions and comments" must be adjusted to this frame. If they break with the frame, they will have no effect. Shouts in a foreign language are not understood.
In this way democracy, in the deepest sense, becomes a big challenge in the struggle to build a new society. How can one make valid the knowledge and the language which express common people's everyday reality? How is it otherwise possible to formulate those needs? How does one create organs of power, an economical and a political strategy, which build on this? This must mean a far deeper revolution than any experienced thus far.
Of all the great revolutionary thinkers, Mao was the most advanced in grasping this problem in his formulation of the principle of "the mass line". "The people and only the people are the driving force which creates world history", said Mao. "The masses are the real heroes, we are often childish and ignorant. If one cannot grasp this, one cannot count on even gathering the least knowledge." More clearly than anyone before him, Mao placed the people squarely in the center of world history. More clearly than anyone before him, he systemized what this means for political work. He, who wishes to change the world, has to go out among the common people, learn from them, sum up their experiences, know their problems, speak their language, get them to act, take part in their actions. There is no short cut to change which passes over the heads of those Mao called "the masses". Such short cuts always turn back on themselves, to oppression and exploitation all over again.
The theory of the "mass line" has a true democratic content which goes far beyond anything the Norwegian parliamentary democracy can perform. It is hardly a coincidence that it was the Chinese revolution that developed the theory of the "mass line". Mao turned the whole world's value system upside down. The most scorned, exploited and degraded being on earth, the poor peasant of the Third World, was made a hero by him. People in our part of the world, who, without exception, are more or less infected with white arrogance, would find it far harder to formulate the thesis that the masses are the real heroes, and by this, also mean the earth's wretched in the poor countries.
But in China, too, the "mass line" disappeared somewhere along the line. There are probably many reasons for this, which I won't go into here. But the problem remains: how the common people's everyday reality is to form the basis for society's development.
If the economy is to exist for the people's sake, and if democracy is to steer the economy, we may, perhaps, have to break with something more than capitalist market forces. How can we contemplate planning with the everyday perspective as the starting point? An economy which exists for the sake of human beings must have forming a good everyday life for working people, as a goal. It must take its starting point in reality seen from below. This means that the power to decide the premises for the plan must lay with the people themselves. We need a strategy to turn everyday life into plans.
And we need a strategy to turn plan into everyday life. Because a new society will necessarily have a number of superior political and economic goals which must be accomplished. One of them will have to be a vigorous reorientation of production and consumption in the direction of a low-energy, low-resource economy. But economic (and other) plans must be anchored in people's everyday life and interests that concern them nearly. If not, they will either not be accomplished, be met with sabotage, or they must be accomplished by the use of constraint and force, with the police and army. One example is the plan of action for tropical forests (TFAP) which has been worked out by the UN ecological program, by FAO, the World Bank and the World Resource Institute. The project was started in 1985 and receives grants of more than a billion dollars a year. 73 Third World countries are involved.
An independent organization called the World Rainforest Movement (WRM) has published a very critical report. In their opinion the plan will not stop de-foresting. One reason for this is that it does not take into account the political reasons for making forest into agricultural land. As an example, they mention the plan for Peru. This plan points out that millions of hectares of forest are destroyed because poor peasants with no land only have one possibility: letting loose on the forest. But the plan makes no suggestions on alternatives for the peasants. It suggests no land reform. This is a plan which can have no effect, or which must be accomplished through persecution and war on the peasants. From the history of socialism we know of plans which have been executed by force. Right and sensible superior goals don't help much if the plan doesn't have solutions which people can live with and perceive as positive in everyday life. Therefore the plan must spring from the grass roots. It often turns out that successful changes have their starting point in a sort of "everyday life perspective". Varun Vidyarthi spoke at the SEED conference in Bergen (an unofficial forum in connection with the big international conference on following up the Brundtland commission's report in May 1990) on his work in the countryside in India. Vidyarthi contrasted the bureaucratic approach to what he called the "popular" one (1990, p. 30):
"The bureaucratic and institutional approach is: "No trees? OK, let's plant trees." But let us instead go back and find out why people won't plant trees. The reason turns out to be that they don't have the right to the land; in other words something more basic.
I will give you an example of what a popular approach is in comparison with a bureaucratic. A village in northern India had the following problems: no trees on the hillsides, problems with fuel, problems with forage and lack of water for irrigation. Earlier attempts to plant trees on the hillsides didn't work because the population let the cows graze there and the plant were destroyed. When a group of activists discussed this with the population, they discovered that their energy problems were exceptional. They didn't have water for the fields because the reservoir in the village had filled with mud as a result of erosion on the hills. When the population explained the problem, it was possible to increase the water capacity in the reservoir by stopping the erosion.
They formed a company of which all the inhabitants were members. The inhabitants decided collectively that they would not take the cows to the area that was exposed to erosion. So the trees grew again quite quickly. The pond became bigger because the bogging stopped. The result was that the fields were irrigated again, production increased and today the same village is green and vigorous, incomes have increased - it is a wholly new place.
What I am trying to set out with this small example is: let people decide for themselves on the basis of their own priorities. It is people's own efforts which count the most in protecting the environment and energy resources. When we talk about environmental protection it is less important to plant trees; the important thing is to build up popular institutions, rules and procedures and means of co-operation. Who is to share the burdens and who is to share the advantages? This fundamental method of building institutions is missing in the technological and bureaucratic projects: "Start a project, build up a bureaucracy, then we solve the problem", is the burden of their song. A lot of money comes through the World Bank, SIDA, USAID etc. to technocratic forest projects where the people do not take part. Let us abandon this bureaucratic approach.
The question is: how can we draw people in to make decisions which steer their own lives? This cannot happen until we have the popular institutions where they can take part in the decision-making process."
Changes must take place on the local inhabitants own premises and according to their own whole situation. And the main question Vidyarthi asks, has to do with democracy: people must take part in decisions that steer their own lives, and there must be popular institutions where they can take part in the decision-making process.
The superior goals for the plans cannot only exist "at the top", in the central planning commission's office. They have to be expressed in the relations between people at the grass roots level, in living alliances, in co-operation, in ways of solving conflicts, between different parts of the working people.
Knowledge, science and technology are human products, products of practice. They are created in a social connection. All societies have their "inevitable truths" that are seldom called in doubt. These "inevitable truths" support the on-going power relations. And they lie as unexpressed premises behind the tasks science and technology set themselves. That means that certain interests and power relations are built into the products of science and technology.
An important aspect of the built-in power relations in knowledge has to do with who gets the opportunity to act. Medical science can serve as an example. In an interview (Klassekampen (Class Struggle) Oct. 25, 1990), Vincente Navarro points out that two main views were pitted against each other when modern medicine was established in the West. The one view was represented by Engels and the German social medicine specialist Virchow. They saw illness in connection with the working class' life conditions and thought that it was necessary to influence social, economic and political circumstances. This sort of view pointed towards class organization and political struggle by the working people themselves as being the type of action that was most appropriate for improving people's health. But this type of idea did not suit the powers-that-be, says Navarro. They preferred that direction in medicine which saw illness as faults in the machinery, mess-ups in the interaction between different parts of machinery in the body. This view of people and illness was the one which broke through into education and research. The result was a specialization which was directed towards the different parts of the machine, and parts of the parts. Doctors became specialists on the heart - with several subspecialities - on the nervous system, kidneys etc. Bacteria were thought of as the typical example of reasons for illness and the microscope became the most important investigative instrument. The modern hospital, with its treatment based on high technology, became the temple for this medicine. The result was that people themselves were deprived of the opportunity to act in connection with illness and health. Medical science became production of knowledge for the doctor, not for the patient. Acting was the doctor's task and the patient had to put his fate in the expert's hands.
The British criminologist David Garland compares the two subjects criminology and anthropology: both subjects are an attempt to describe "the other", he says. In criminology's case it has to do with "the criminal". In anthropology's case it has to do with people from "foreign cultures". The difference between "them" and "us" becomes central. Both the criminological and the anthropological science were originally connected to systems to control "the other": criminology to the judiciary and prison system, anthropology to colonial administration. Thereby, the relation between those who study and those who are studied inevitably becomes a power relation (Garland 1991). This affects what one is capable of seeing, first of all. Secondly, it affects the type of action it is possible to take on the basis of the knowledge that is produced: it necessarily has to be actions of which "the other" is an object. "The criminal" and "the foreigner" are people something is done about, not people who act themselves.
Women have also been, and are still, "the other" in the eyes of science. In connection with modern reproduction technology it becomes very clear how women become something to be manipulated and controlled, and, to a certain degree, to be experimented with. Janice G. Raymond writes (1989, p. 83):
"Concerns about foetal technologies centre on the foetus, not on the woman whose body is the locus for all this experimentation. Here too, verbal concoctions abound. Increasingly, pregnant or would-be pregnant women are referred to as maternal vehicles, environments and human egg banks. Women, as women, with integrity, autonomy and basic civil rights, remain nearly invisible in the foetal technologies debate."
Here it is not the woman as an independent and acting being that is the starting point for the production of knowledge. It is the expert (usually male) who acts and knows, while the woman is "raw material".
The French philosopher Michel Foucault has been interested in power relations that are built into production of knowledge. In the book The history of the modern prison (1977) he describes how the dominating ruling technique changed in the transition between feudalism and capitalism. Feudalism's openly violent, brutal, festive and expressive society was replaced with the economizing, efficiency-minded, aim-rational capitalism. And capitalism developed its own ruling technique: discipline. This is the way Foucault characterizes the "disciplinary authority" that gradually replaces the feudal (p. 155):
"The disciplinary authority is really an authority that, instead of exploiting and demanding taxes, has the task of training, or rather: it trains in order to be able to exploit and demand taxes even more. /.../ Not a triumphing authority that trusts to its own mastery and its violent demonstrations of power. But a modest, suspicious authority that behaves like a perpetual economizing with everything and everyone."
The subjects shall now be trained to be useful, efficient tools in production and in the rest of society's machine. The modern "human sciences" which begin to come forward in this period (during the 18. and 19. century), such as pedagogy, psychology, psychiatry, criminology, were, according to Foucault, insolubly tied to this training. The disciplinary use of power itself brought out a new type of knowledge which, again, could be used to serve disciplining. Investigations are made to see if people reach a given norm, whether it is a question of knowledge, work tempo, ability, behavior, health. Such investigations imply that something is being defined as deviant, and deviance is punished. Everyone has to unveil for the powers-to-be how much or how little they deviate from the norm, they must deliver knowledge of themselves. Through this knowledge disciplinary methods can be made even more efficient.
The ruling technique of discipline was brought into use in most social institutions. Scientific advances and knowledge were connected to given aims, and to given power relations.
The prototype of capitalistic training is probably Taylorism. The American engineer Frederick Taylor introduced so-called "time-and-motion" studies in industry. The worker's movements were analyzed and divided into elements and the "surplus" movements were shorn away so that the worker's body became the most efficient possible adjunct to the machine.
Human beings have become human material that must be formed and trained to be elements that fit efficiently and economically into the great social machinery. Others have pointed out that in the transition to capitalism something of the same sort happened to nature. Vandana Shiva writes that (1989, p. 41):
"... this transformation of nature from a living, nurturing mother to inert, dead and manipulative matter was eminently suited to the exploitation imperative of growing capitalism."
As an example of this change she mentions, among others, Francis Bacon, one of the fathers of modern science, who clearly tied the developing science to conquering, controlling and subjugating nature. In her summing up of the tradition of Francis Bacon, Shiva states that this direction has elevated itself to the only valid scientific method and the only scientific system. It has turned complicated traditions of knowledge marked by variety into a unified way of thinking. This way of thinking is presented as objective and neutral. In reality it has its origin in certain class- and gender interests. This special tradition has been made the ruling and universal tradition that is forced on all classes, genders and cultures, which it contributes to controlling and subordinating. The narrow roots of science in the patriarchy and in a special class and cultures has been hidden behind assertions of universality. One can only glimpse this narrow starting point through the eyes of other traditions - traditions belonging to women and non-western people. These are the oppressed traditions that unveil for us, today, just how gender-based modern science is, and how it has been created to meet the needs of the ruling Western culture, and why a logical result of it is the ecological destruction and exploitation of nature.
The doctrine of nature, too, according to Vandana Shiva, is a doctrine on learning to use nature for given aims, and within given power relations. These power relations do not only involve "mastering" nature. Women and other people are considered in exactly the same way as nature. The ruling tradition of knowledge deprives both the working class, women and non-white people of their role as vigorously acting individuals.
Interests and power relations are built into science and technology. That doesn't mean the new knowledge and new technology cannot help to change these power relations. But the effect is often ambiguous. Let us take modern contraceptive methods as an example. Apart from the simple and undangerous condom, almost all research and experimentation on contraceptive methods have had the aim of doing something to the women's body. There are probably several reasons for this. For male-dominated medicine women's body and women's sexuality are objects and material, something that can be manipulated and experimented upon in a far higher degree than the male body and male sexuality. The patriarchal view of women as an object, has steered research into contraception. But women, too, have welcomed contraceptives for women, despite side-effects and insecurity about long-term damage. The reason is simple: The condom is no solution for women because it presupposes that women have power to affect men's behavior. For most women it is very difficult to demand of a man for whom she cares, that he use a condom if he doesn't feel much like doing it himself. Men can do something to women in order to change their situation. Women cannot do anything to men, they have to do something to themselves.
Modern contraceptive technology has given women greater control over their own fertility and freed many from the fear of unwanted pregnancy. But this has happened within the frame of male society, and on male society's premises. And the disadvantage is that women have become more vulnerable to sexual pressure from men, since they no longer have "a valid reason" for saying no. That is, they didn't before AIDS turned up. Now heterosexual women are in a situation where they cannot protect themselves from a fatal disease without demanding of men that they use condoms. It no longer helps to do something to themselves. Taking measures against possible infection is therefore not a technical question, it has become a question of going against the ruling power relations between the sexes.
When science and technology, which are developed in the capitalist West, have been moved to other societies, a whole pack of problems have come along for the ride. Some aspects of the development in the Soviet Union can be understood in this light. In the West the development of the industrial society and therefore also the disciplining of the feudal lower class to factory workers, occurred at the same time as the growth of capitalist production conditions. In the Soviet Union, though, it mainly occurred through Stalin's five year plans, and at a terrific rate. Fossum (1984, p. 15) writes about how the Soviet Union was changed to an industrial big power in 12-13 years. Many tens of millions of people "were jerked from the Middle Ages and into the 20th century". The Russian working class, who mainly carried out the industrialization, was a new working class. The class increased by 15 million during the Thirties. And Egil Fossum writes (p. 18):
"They sacrificed so much. At the same time, they came from the hostile countryside. They were illiterates. They did not know industrial discipline. /.../ Ruling these 15 million while building up the new Russian heavy industry, cannot have been easy."
Fossum also writes that the laws in working life were very strict, small faults were punished hard.
In one way the Soviet socialism both had to discipline and liberate the working class at the same time. It had to turn them into obedient producers, and into "their own bosses". It was, perhaps, a hopeless task. In practice, disciplining became the main thing, steered by comparative methods, and perhaps, a comparative philosophy to that which had marked capitalism's breakthrough. Maybe the same thing went for nature. Just as with capitalism, Stalin's economy created development, but at a terrible price.
During periods with a great deal of class struggle and strong popular movements, discussions have often come up among intellectuals as to whom knowledge should serve. "For whom?" is the question one has asked. Asking this question is to take an important step away from an idea that masks the truth, the idea of the neutrality and objectivity of science. As it has been said: when a researcher declares him/herself to be objective and neutral, it means that he/she has taken a stand for the wrong side. But the problem is deeper than this. It does not only have to do with for whom the intellectual should make his/her expertise available. Instead of "For whom?", one should probably ask "With whom?". Because it also has to do with what is expertise and what is knowledge. And it has, not least of all, to do with who is to act and who is "the other" - the person to whom something is done. The production of knowledge is insolubly tied to the question of democracy. It is not first and foremost concerned with the level of education, although a high level of education must be viewed as a good thing in a society. It concerns the fact that real democracy is impossible without production of knowledge which is "on the people's side", and which has the liberation of common people and their control over their lives as a built-in premise. This means a type of knowledge where the important, the decisive, actions are in the common people's hands, not the hands of experts, controllers and superiors.
One type of knowledge is important and valid if one wishes to use India's forest areas for profitable lumber production in order to export and bring foreign currency into the country. A totally different type of knowledge is important and valid if one wishes that the local inhabitants in the forest areas shall make themselves a good life. One type of knowledge is important if one wishes to make Norwegian fishing industry efficient and streamlined. Another type of knowledge becomes important and valid if one wishes to have good local communities all along the coastline of Northern Norway. One type of knowledge becomes important and valid if one wishes to reach a record high planned goal for steel production. Another type of knowledge is important if one wishes that women could escape tough double work, and have the opportunity to take active part in the shaping of society. For the first type of production of knowledge one has little use for the female peasant's, the coastal population's or the working woman's knowledge. Their lives are something that will just have to accustom itself, as best it can, to lumber production, the efficiency drive in fishing industry and the plan goals for steel production. For the other type of knowledge, knowing about everyday life's needs, versatility and interaction is basic. But the institutionalized knowledge is split up into separate subjects the same way administration and social planning is divided into sectors: economy in one, medicine in one, sociology in one. The development of continually new subjects and specialities is often presented as an inherent result of science's own development. More and more knowledge is accumulated and it is impossible to study everything at once. One must split it up, limit and specialize. This is just partially true. It is true that one must always divide and limit in one way or another when one wants to study a phenomenon. But that is very different than that the existing subject limits are a result of "science's own development". When medicine isn't about economy, that is not because people's health and illness are not about economy in reality. On the contrary. In reality people's health and illness is more about economy than about surgery and bacteriology. The existing subject limits are as much a result of power structures, administrative needs, veiling of interaction and twisting of reality in the society which has created them, as they are of science's own inherent logic. A production of knowledge with the people, where the decisive actions lie with the people themselves, must usually break with the existing subject limits and search its way to the interaction that is important in forming people's everyday life.
Production of knowledge in society serves other interests today than shaping a good everyday life for common people. Also, one usually sees production of knowledge as something that goes on in research laboratories and at universities. Common people are seen as stupid and ignorant. This division between everyday life and science, and this contempt for common people, means that the "experts" seldom seek out the springs of knowledge which the people represent. Timberlake (1986 b) has a number of examples from Africa, among others these:
"We cannot go on forever. Science cannot go on with no results to show. We cannot continue this type of traditional research. We need sociologists who can go out and find out what the farmers are thinking (his office has recently hired a sociologist)."
One thing is sociologists who are to "go out and find out what the farmers are thinking". It is hardly inevitable that a sociologist necessarily has more respect for the farmer's knowledge and greater ability to see the world from their perspective than an expert on agriculture. Sending a sociologist where the agricultural experts are found wanting, is in one way more of the same: an expert is to help the experts to interpret the farmers' inexplicable behavior.
The problem is not first and foremost the wrong kind of expert. The problem is, in the deepest sense, democracy. The farmers need power to make their view of reality felt and to create a production of knowledge on the basis of it. This is not a problem which only concerns Africa. It concerns the relations between common people and the rulers here in Norway. This is very much of an unsolved problem in socialist theory and practice, too.
A new society demands that working people have power over technology. What starting point must development and the use of technology have, if the technological development is to serve working people and not become a tool for ruling over them?
To a certain degree the technological development opens possibilities that cannot be utilized because the economic system and the existing power relations are in the way. Frode Bygdnes is a turner from Harstad. He tells us that (Ericsson, 1990, p. 14):
"A normal situation at the workshop today is that the ships come in and want to repair something or other. Parts for the rudder machine or other special parts are ordered by telephone from a main supplier. Then the parts are sent by express mail or airmail. The workshop send out their own car to pick them up at the airport. I get pushed to work overtime and put in the parts that the ship has been lying at anchor waiting for, for several days.
It is perfectly possible to make every part at the workshop. We always did it before. Now the demand for quality and tolerances is greater. Technically it is no problem to satisfy this demand. With data-steering of the lathe we could get all the necessary data on-line to work the lathe and machines with all the finest tolerances and strictest demands. The job would just be to put the right raw material in the machine. Producing the part immediately in this way at the workshop would have many advantages. The ship would have a shorter waiting period. Transportation expenses would be eliminated. It would be unnecessary to have a central warehouse for parts. But most important of all, we would have kept up a greater part of production locally. It would have been an important contribution to a decentralized pattern of residence. But this is precisely where interest in utilizing new technology stops. Production can be decentralized at the expense of the contractors' monopoly situation. There is more money in selling the goods than in selling the drawings. And today the contractors and transportation companies make money on the sending, too. The sending is paid by the customer and often costs more than the goods themselves."
Frode Bygdnes' example with the part and the ship is probably not that unique. Modern technology opens great opportunities for decentralizing production of the type he mentions. It also means that it is possible to create local societies with varied work places and varied production in all parts of the country. It is possible to localize work places with regard to a good everyday life. Production can come to the worker, instead of the other way around. But that makes it necessary for Frode Bygdnes and other working people in his local society to have power.
In the book Wonderful new weekday (1982) Tarja Cronberg and Inga-Lisa Sangregorio discuss how developments in microelectronics can contribute to making it easier to make some visions come true that were shaped at a Nordic conference on the theme "Build and live on women's terms". They point out the following:
According to Cronberg and Sangregorio this should open possibilities for realizing goals which the conference formulated like this (p. 99):
"This society is organized in smaller, perspicuous units which to a large degree are self-supplied, and which utilize local resources for production and steering. The local community is organized so that it connects the big organized structures with the demands of everyday life in a meaningful way, so that everyone shares in the common responsibility for consumption of nature and energy, technology, work, care, decisions, the living environment and surroundings. The living environment and work life is organized on the basis of the need for nearness between different functions in daily life: nearness between residence, work and recreation, geographically and in time, nearness between care and production; nearness between different age groups. /.../ Care and development of the social community is a part of the necessary work which everyone must share. Shorter working hours for everyone in production gives men, too, an opportunity to share in this work."
Now, almost ten years later, we can safely say that these opportunities have not been realized. Instead of shorter working hours we have increased unemployment. In Norway the 6-hour day is about to disappear completely from the political agenda, both with the leftist parties and in large parts of the trade union movement. And employers demand that shorter working hours which have already been negotiated and carried out in the public sector must be retracted. There are not more resources for care work, on the contrary, social services of extreme importance are being cut back strongly. And local communities and small villages have not grown in strength, they are being razed at an ever-increasing rate.
The first problem is, of course, capitalism as an economic system, where increased profit for a small minority is the driving force. This means technology's opportunities are used to realize this aim. But nor is it a matter of course that technology will be a means of realizing the visions of the conference in a socialist society. That depends on what the plan's viewpoint is, and it depends on the power relations, not least of all between men and women.
Technological changes can also lead to the strengthening of a power relation, for example, between men and women. Raj (1989, p. 103) points out that little has been done to ease the heavy work which is mainly done by women: collecting fuel, carrying water, cooking, washing. The introduction of modern technology often leads to a worsening in women's situation. In areas of India where modernizing of agriculture is going on, women were not allowed to take part in training courses until quite lately, although they are in the majority in agricultural production. Use of and maintenance of machines demands trained labor power. And when the use of machines increases, men are the first to get stable jobs. Women, therefore, are reduced to casual laborers. Women only get the jobs that can't be done with machines or which are very unpleasant. New technology is work-saving for men, but for women it means more toil.
Raj's example from India's countryside shows that introduction of modern technology not only leads to more toil, but also to lower status (they became casual laborers) for women. Borgny Sira (1988) has written a pamphlet on the development in the cleaning branch in Norway. Cleaning is something women know how to do. When women started a career as a cleaner, they carried with them a pretty solid background for their own opinions on how the job ought to be done. And they attained a lot of independence in their work situation. The change to new technology in the shape of wet- or damp-mopping, changed all that. These sort of methods are not used in private homes. The women did not automatically know how to use the new tools, and why the cleaning should be done in precisely that manner. But courses were arranged on cleaning by the new methods. The catch was that only seldom did the cleaners themselves take part in the courses. Most of the participants were work leaders, janitors, administrative leaders, consultants, planners, owners of cleaning companies. As Sira writes (p. 34):
"There is a big difference in being introduced to the chemistry of cleaning products, the theory of floor-covering, ergonomy, hygiene and bacteria-spreading, use of machines and correct mopping, - and having a mop stuck into your hand and getting a quick explanation of how to use it."
The result of the introduction of the new technology was that the women became less knowledgeable and more powerless in their job, and more dependent upon a male boss stratum.
New technology within old frameworks have often meant more suffering, more oppression. Therefore, technology and the social framework around it must be seen as interacting. The technological development must be a part of a comprehensive strategy so that workers, women and men, can gain more power over their own everyday life.
But it is also a question of creating new technology adjusted to different social frameworks. In an interview on environmental politics Bjørn Hauger points out (Revolt no. 4, 1989) that a great deal of energy can be acquired through hard technological solutions: water works on a large scale, atomic energy, oil and coal works. About 58 % of all expended energy in the USA goes to heating, of which 23 % to over the boiling point of water and 35 % to under that point. Energy supplies for solving this type of energy needs can be covered through soft energy sources. It can be done with heat sources that can deliver tens or up to hundreds of degrees instead of with fuels that have a flame temperature of thousands of degrees. Using the last type is like cutting butter with a chainsaw. Production of energy should therefore go on close to the user, and be adjusted to his/her needs. This opens up a variety of small scale technological solutions based on renewable energy sources.
Bjørn Hauger is speaking here from environmental and energy-political concerns. But it is easy to see that the technological solutions he advises in the energy-political arena also have consequences for power distribution and democracy. Energy production that goes on near the user and is tailored to the user's needs, is an energy production in line with the everyday life perspective, and which strengthens people's opportunity of controlling their own daily life.
Radical political analyses concentrate on the big political structures. Setting the spotlight on the big political structures is, of course, both correct and necessary to avoid the idea that small, trivial reforms can lead to basic social change. At the same time such analyses can become dangerously one-track minded in several ways. One of these ways has already been discussed: by defining the "micro plane" out of the political arena, one can manage to leave large areas of power's mechanisms in protective darkness. As Raymond Williams says, this means a dangerous underestimation of the enemy or of the strength of the social system one wants to fight. Because this social system is sustained by daily interaction between people, between languages, feelings and deep-seated attitudes.
An important experience women have had, is that the existing power relations are not only sustained and recreated by big and obvious coercive initiatives. Power relations are sustained and recreated by the trivialities of daily life, by all the things that just "turn out that way" without any conscious plan or thought behind it all. "The unending line of systematic coincidences" as I have called it (Ericsson 1987). And Beatrix Campbell writes of Orwell who didn't include women in his story about the English mining societies (p. 101):
"No doubt he could be forgiven for an inadvertent omission, but women more than most know that life, like history, is made up of inadvertencies."
"Inadvertencies" and "coincidences" are always to women's disadvantage.
In reality, a number of the power's mechanisms are enacted in this arena, which has only partially been recognized and systemized as "Politics" by socialist movements. This goes for all types of oppression, not just the oppression of women. "Big" questions become manifest in the small.
Taking away people's pride, self-confidence and dignity is the most basic of all ruling techniques. It makes it so much more difficult to mobilize resistance. To greater or lesser degree the oppressed takes on the oppressor's image of him/herself. One clear example of this is given by Oscar Magnusson in his description of how he reacted to being tortured by the Nazis during WW II (1984, p. 161):
"To begin with they managed to humiliate me. I saw myself with their eyes, saw the person they consciously tried to make me, and I felt pitiful and worthless. At one time I was occupied with dangerous thoughts. And then the humiliation was over. One day I woke up to a new consciousness and told myself that the vermin, the pitiful, the bottom of the barrel - that was them! I knew my tormentors were the dregs of European civilization! Aho, they never humiliated me after that, I can promise you that."
The struggle against the self-portrait that the oppressor inflicts on one, and that often sits deep within one's own identity, becomes a necessary part of the resistance. Earlier I quoted from the women's conference on Sørøya in March 1990, where the crisis on the Northern Norwegian coast was discussed. The most important thing the women there discussed was reconquering dignity. The authorities have defined the main problem in Northern Norway as being: "one has a whimpering population."
That definition is not easy to throw off with a shrug of the shoulders. It creeps under the skin in the shape of shame, and guilt. Shame over having debts, shame over being the kind of people that can't manage. Janne from Havøysund owes a lot of money because of the crisis. "You feel that you are birdwitted, lose some of your dignity. And nothing at the small places round about are worth a thing, houses one has paying down on for years. Everything that was made before our time is worthless, simply because it can't be sold."
Debts on houses and boats, debts one can't pay, lie like a crushing burden on people in the north, not just in the economic sense. And it takes a terrible lot of courage to tell what things are like. Anna-Karin from Nordvågen tells how she threw herself over the newspapers when Hanne Nielsen and the other fisher women from Sørøya publicized their political action for the first time: "They say it straight out! How can they dare? What do their men say?" Hanne and the others defied the shame and guilt at not doing well, and they defied the men's shame and guilt at not being able to provide for their families. They made a secret, common reality visible. And that made some of the shame and guilt go away. But no one must think it is easy. Anne-Karin is concerned that we should understand, really understand, what Hanne and the others have done, and what their husbands and kids have supported. That is why dignity is so important. Anne-Karin doesn't want pity. She is not so sure she wants to tell her story, not even to a group of women at Sørøya - Maybe you'll just say "poor woman", and I don't want that. I want respect! It isn't "that poor woman" and particularly not if Lars becomes "that poor man"! For women on the coast it is not just a question of fighting for their own dignity. They are also fighting for the men's dignity, and the threat against that feels even worse than the threat to their own.
In order to join together in resistance, the coastal population have to defy shame and guilt. That means that shame and guilt, which are usually seen as feelings in individual people, must be reformulated as a common experience with class- and women's oppression, as "politics".
A political structure that only sees the big, social structures will easily experience shame, guilt, lack of self-confidence, etc. in workers as a troublesome hindrance in the struggle. Radical class fighters may meet with impatience those for whom they are fighting - they are passive, backward, don't catch fire over slogans and big political actions. They don't stand up for their rights, but "put up with it". In this way radical class fighters can end by sending the same message that workers, and particularly women, have heard their whole lives: that they aren't worth much. In this way they carry on important structures from the society they think they are fighting.
This also has a close connection to democracy. A revolution is an enormous, active mass movement, not a coup carried through by a small minority. Revolution has to do with basic social change, with overturning the ruling conditions. This cannot be done by a political action where only a few are vigorously taking action. A revolution must go deep, it must be the large majority's own work. Only in this way is it possible to lay the foundation for a viable socialism with a totally different type of contributive democracy than that which the bourgeois-parliamentary way of ruling makes room for.
If this is one's political opinion it becomes important to find methods which make people see their own strength, put their trust in themselves and each other, believe in their own experience and own knowledge, in short: that makes people grow. A socialist movement must lead by making others great, not by making others small, because then it countermines its own political goals.
Many socialist movements have been mistaken on this point. They have, naturally enough, wanted to spread their political message to as many as possible. But they have often "forgotten" what oppression does to people. If one only attempts to exchange one political belief with another, one doesn't necessarily change people's relation to their beliefs. Perhaps they will continue to see themselves as receivers of a message, and a public for other's actions. Under capitalism commodity conditions also make their entry in politics: the politician becomes a salesman who offers his wares. The "customer" buys or does not buy, using the vote as payment.
But really basic change demands that people see themselves as creators of knowledge and opinion, and as vigorously acting in forming society and their own lives. If a socialist movement jumps over this problem, or doesn't see it, it risks recreating the same relations between leaders and authorities on the one side and common members and followers on the other side, that one wanted to revolt against. In the worst case one can end up where many politicians in the English Labour Party have ended, according to Raymond Williams: they look at socialism as "...a society run by experts for an abstraction called the public interest" (1989, p. 17).
The women's movement has meant a great deal to making this problem visible as a political field for strategic thinking and development of concrete methods. In relation to political movements, socialist too, women are used to being defined as though they suffer from a sort of deficiency illness: they are passive, have low self-confidence, dare not take responsibility, etc. The women's movement has set the problem in a different way: when women present as passive, this is due to two things: 1) that hinders are being put in their way; 2) that women's activities are made invisible and undervalued. When they have low self-confidence, it is because they are exposed to ruling techniques and invisibility. And when they are accused of not daring to take responsibility, it is, first of all, a gigantic effort at defining away everything women take the main responsibility for, in political movements, too (see for example, the book on the women in the Telangana revolt). Secondly, it has to do with not showing confidence in them. Besides all this we can add pushing them into a pattern for political activity that is not their own. Women cannot be "activated" unless all this is worked on politically, both by the women themselves and by the movement they are to be a part of.
The problems on which the women's movement have focused so clearly are also valid in a more unspecific way. A socialist movement twists its own aims if it is only hunting for foot-soldiers who can adhere to a finished message. One of the most important things about carrying out a struggle or a political action is, therefore, what happens to those who fight. Do they become participants, creators of the common movement? Conducting a struggle that points toward the future, must necessarily mean that many are active, that many voices are heard and sound with greater assurance. One of the most important "insurances" the authorities have, is people's lack of confidence in their own abilities, to change anything, to organize and steer society on their own premises. If this lack of confidence lives on in the new society, there is a risk that society will only change on the surface, while a lot of what was old, lives on a little further below.
The struggle must be conducted so that there are opportunities for activity for most people, so that people can start off where they are and grow with experience, instead of finding that they fail before they have started. What this can mean in practice is illustrated through Jorun Gulbrandsen's story about the fight against closing down a school. She puts stress on everyone finding something to contribute that suits them (Ericsson, 1991):
"The parents had lots of ideas, and at the first meeting a long list was made of all the things we had to do. Among other things we had to keep up the students' good humor and fighting spirit. Therefore we felt that the students had to be active all the time. The first step was that all the students drew big placards which we hung out of the windows so they showed from the outside. Let Lutvann live! Don't take our school away! Down with the town council! Then, after a week we gathered all the students in the auditorium where the students were responsible for the whole program and every class had its own contribution. These were all made in a week. There were poems, songs, sketches, sad and angry things and about how good the school was. Then all the students wrote a letter to Trond Viggo (T. V. Torgersen, children's ombudsman in Norway, translator's note). They got an answer, too. Trond Viggo was against closing the school. Then many students wrote letters to all the newspapers and a lot of them were used. They made enormous slogans which we hung from the footbridges in the area. They collected signatures in all the apartments. The children did that.
Parents and teachers worked together. We made a list of all the people we had to talk to, to get support. These were, among others: local politicians, local police, the narcotics squad in Oslo, the boards of local housing projects, the church, the child welfare authorities, the youth clubs, the nursery schools, the Oslo-area music corps and sports organizations. The tasks were distributed and everyone we were in contact with, protested against the discontinuation with their own good arguments. The neighboring schools also joined us. The municipal council for our sector was important because we thought our position would be strengthened if we had an unanimous council behind us when facing the same party's representatives on the Oslo school board. We asked the municipal council to hold their meeting in a large room so that parents and children and teachers could listen to their meeting. One mother put the case at that meeting, during the public half-hour. We met at the school and went to the meeting in a group. The result was an unanimous vote for the school. We had spoken to all the representatives ahead of time and given them a lot of facts about the school and the number of children in the area. While the local work was going on, we spoke to all the groups on the school board. We visited them at their office and asked them to visit the school. The school board voted to close down the school by 11 against 10 votes. We almost won! The teachers had special tasks. Some were in a committee which had the responsibility for the students' welfare and for activating the students. They spent their time thinking up new suggestions for the kids and summed up the kids' suggestions for initiatives. That was because a lot of the children were very upset, they cried, and it was important to show them that there might be a way out, and that we, at least, would be able to say afterwards that we did what we could, that we weren't the ones who were dolts. One group of teachers worked on the pedagogical arguments for letting the school continue. One group of teachers had the responsibility for our friendship with neighboring schools. That was because experience has shown that one quickly ends up with a war between neighboring schools: take theirs, don't take ours! That worked well, among others things, one of the members of the school board said, quite early, that they could take the neighboring school, Skjønhaug, instead. We contacted them and gave them advice on how to establish an action committee and get going. And they did, held a meeting, started a committee, hung out slogans, wrote in the papers. The oldest teachers who were most worn-out, had the job of collecting newspaper cuttings about our school action."
Fighting in such a way that people grow, that they dare to use their abilities and knowledge to create something with others, is a question of a basic political line, not just of "method". If one doesn't see this, one risks losing sight of the goal along the way.
A political perspective which takes the "micro plane" seriously, will be able to see the connection between "feelings" in "single persons" on the one hand and the big structures in class society on the other hand.
But, partially, the "micro plane" has its own rules. Marxists state, correctly enough, that the police are a part of the class state's apparatus for violence and control, they are meant to defend bourgeois interests. But that is not the last word. Police history in Norway shows that decentralization and nearness give a better foundation for popular control than centralization and distance. In the book "Society's mailed fist" Per Ole Johansen shows how local police in the years between the two world wars easily became useless and untrustworthy in strikes and other social conflicts. They themselves were part of the local community, they knew people and they knew the background for the conflict. Sometimes they sympathized with the workers. In Oslo this went so far that the police trained the worker's own special constables in their leisure time. The authorities' answer to this problem was to establish state police who were sent out to put down strikes and demonstrations. These were the State police that the Labor Party's first Minister of Justice, Trygve Lie, used to protect English strike breakers against Norwegian strike guards during the whaler's conflict in Sandefjord in 1936. A state police who were built up by the bourgeois to use against workers in a struggle, was taken over by a so-called "worker's government" and put to exactly the same use.
How can one, in a socialist society, hinder that organs built up to serve workers, split from them and turn against them? Some of the answer can probably be found in the rules of the "micro plane". These rules are, perhaps, easier to grasp from an everyday life perspective.
It is women's role in almost all societies to be used as an item for balancing the budget. She has to perform all those tasks that cannot profitably be made market commodities, or which are not "important" enough to be put into a plan. This is illustrated by what seems to be a paradox: in capitalist countries, the more elbowroom market forces are allowed, the worse it is for women. (See, for example, Else Skjønsberg's report On women and the EEC, Oslo 1990.) In socialist countries, on the other hand, exaggerated restrictions have often gone against women's interests. Alec Nove (1969) describes how a considerable scarcity of commodities sprang up in the Soviet Union during the first five-year plan. This was a period where employment among women increased strongly, which meant that women could not produce as much at home as before. At the same time many small private firms and workshops which had produced commodities, closed. Hilda Scott (1976) has described the same tendency in post-war Czechoslovakia. The struggle to get hold of necessary commodities for the family did not become easier when the outdoor markets, where small- holders had sold their products before, were closed. This apparent paradox, that privatization threatens women under capitalism and that a certain degree of privatization seems to serve their interests under socialism, is an expression of the same basic condition: that women have no power in either of the two social systems. Under capitalism women are not a strong buying market. It is by being a strong buying market that your needs become obvious and affect investments and production under capitalism. Under socialism, women's needs are not given priority in the big central plans. Women haven't had power in state and party and therefore they and their needs are invisible where the important political priorities are decided.
This doesn't mean, of course, that it makes no difference to women whether there is a market economy or a planned economy. With a planned economy it is possible to take care of women's interests, on the condition that they are visible and have power.
Women make everyday life hang together and they use themselves and their time as buffers against a society that is not organized to take care of people's everyday needs. Women are the major experts on consequences. A plan that really serves women, must take an everyday life perspective as its starting point. If not, necessary and important changes may be made at women's expense. I wrote earlier that a central superior aim under socialism must be switching to a low-energy, low-resource economy. In Norway households account for about 30 % of energy used. An energy-saving plan with a traditional outlook where men and production are the visible factors, while women and housework are invisible, could easily give highest priority to important production companies, while household articles, washing machines, dish washers, etc. in private homes come out last. If the plan lacks a women- and everyday life perspective, the women's work which must compensate for the machines, will be a non-problem. Zimmerman puts her finger on this when she says, (1986, p. 38):
"There are some who decry energy-consuming new technology and argue that we must return to an era of self-sufficiency through alternative technology. Obviously, there never really was such an era: family networks, market services, servants and community support structures made it possible for people to survive without energy-consuming technologies. To try to do so now would demand not only the use of alternative, renewable energy resources, which is both feasible and attractive, but also the development of totally different household technologies and social structures, neither of which is likely.
Unfortunately, most of those who support "appropriate technologies" (defined as decentralized, small-scale, low-cost, and low in fossil fuel consumption) would substitute women's energy for oil. To require women to stay at home to bake bread, grow vegetables, preserve fruit or sew insulating curtains as a means of survival is absurd. Yet those who criticize microwave ovens or condemn clothes dryers rarely volunteer to undertake the responsibility of making dinner or hanging clothes on the line for a family of five."
There are probably several areas where it could be tempting to carry out resource-saving by increased use of the invisible, and therefore infinite resource women's work constitutes. But from an everyday life perspective, and from a women's perspective, women's unpaid work is highly visible. From this kind of perspective it is possible to formulate reducing women's toil as a problem that demands social solutions within the framework of the plan. Because there are other alternatives than each woman her own microwave oven and clothes dryer on the one hand, and each woman as bread baker, fruit preserver, vegetable grower, seamstress, etc. etc. on the other. These are the choices only so long as the isolated core family is seen as matter-of-course with the woman as the main person responsible for house- and care work.
There are mainly two points that are important when forming a strategy and a plan and which serve women.
1) The strategy for the struggle and for development of a new society must see the unpaid work and the indirect exploitation.
It must be a strategy that both includes the activity that goes on in what we have been used to calling working life, and the activity that goes on in what we have been used to calling home- and private life, and that sees these as a whole.
Direct exploitation in production is not abolished by "removing" production. It is abolished when the workers get control over the means of production, work process and work results. In the same way, abolishing indirect exploitation doesn't necessarily mean abolishing reproduction tasks. Indirect exploitation occurs when part of the work that is necessary to create a surplus in production, goes on "outside of" production - in a different sphere, in the home, subordinated, privatized and invisible. A new way of organizing society must remove this division between "inside" and "outside" - and turn it all into equal, human work that is necessary for people to live and be active. And women must have power in the shaping of this new, whole, organization of society.
2) The strategy for the struggle, and for the new society, must see women as independent persons, not as appendages to a family or a household.
Since the institution of the family serves as a sort of cornerstone in the oppression of women, a strategy that takes power relations and work distribution in the family for granted, will be unable to change women's situation fundamentally. On the contrary, it will often make it worse. This has happened, for example, when collectively owned village land that women peasants have had the right to use, has been portioned out as private property.
The man in the family has been considered the owner. By treating the women as appendages to the family, they have been deprived of their earlier right to the land.
These two points cannot be fulfilled if women are seen as a "special social group" with especial demands which don't have much effect on the comprehensive strategy. In reality it is a question of decisive political choices which demand that one sees many levels as a whole. The choice of a main line for the economic strategy has effects on women's daily life that decision makers (usually men) seldom understand or care about. Here are some examples of how conditions that are considered gender neutral, affect the points above.
One basic choice is whether to go in for economic development through integration in the world market and stress on export, or to go in for production mainly accommodated to one's own population. The type of economic activity very many women in the Third World pursue, subsistence farming for their own and their family's needs, is without value and interest in an export perspective. It is almost invisible. As Vandana Shiva writes (1989, p. 115), to the World Bank and similar organizations, subsistence work isn't economic activity. The invisibility of women's activity rubs off on their land which is perceived as "waste". Indian village women used the commons, which were often covered with a mixed forest, in a versatile way to provide daily needs. They get both fruits and edible plants there, building materials, fuel and medical herbs. The administrative word for "commons" is "wasteland", an expression inherited from colonial times (Shiva, p. 115):
"The colonial concept of wastelands was not an assessment of the biological productivity of land, but of its revenue generating capacity: "wasteland" was land that did not pay any revenue because it was uncultivated."
The commons are "waste" for those who see natural resources as a spring of commodities and profit. The "wasteland" is taken and sown over with different types of cash crops or lumber for sale and export. The one-sided use of "modern" crops which are often not adjusted to the natural foundation, changes the areas to real wasteland in many cases. And the local population, particularly the women, lose a very necessary part of their conditions of life.
An export oriented growth strategy that involves strong integration in the world market is probably the worst possible starting point for making women's work visible and for seeing paid labor and the unpaid sector as a whole. Resources are canalized away from women and over to export directed, market directed activity. This is not only valid in the Third World. In countries of the Norwegian type, too, an economic policy with stress on "increasing the ability to compete" and "internationalize the economy" will hit women especially. This sort of policy will usually be carried out at great cost to public welfare services. And when public welfare services are lacking, there is only one thing to put in its stead, women's unpaid work. In line with this, a parliamentary statement on health policy operates with the concept "care potential": the number of women between 45 and 59 years of age per 1,000 elderly people (Parliamentary statement no. 41, 1987-88).
Another of the "big" decisions on main line policy is the relation between building up heavy and light industry. I have already mentioned the stalinistic strategy of forced building of heavy industry at the cost of everything else. This strategy was later copied/forced on the Eastern European countries. There may have been very important reasons for such a strategy in the concrete historical situation the Soviet Union faced. One such reason was the possibility of resisting an attack from Nazi-Germany. But it was definitely not a strategy that worked against the indirect exploitation of women's unpaid work. On the contrary, it was a condition, it built on this exploitation. In India too, the state has attempted to lay stress in planning on heavy industry. India is not a socialist country. But here, too, stressing heavy industry has had negative consequences for women. Raj (1988, p. 68) describes how. The state's line was to concentrate public investments on plans for building up heavy industry. Commodities had to be produced in what Raj called the "unorganized" sector, and which is partially the same as what I have called the "informal" sector earlier. But it also has to do with small firms "on the edge" of production life. These small firms avoid trade union organization and are not much affected by laws for the protection of workers. They evade some taxes and do not need concessions. These small firms employ among other things, women who produce goods at home, paid by the piece, as with drapery goods in capitalism's childhood. This form of production has been consciously brought into use in order to be able to concentrate the big money on the effort on heavy industry. The women's fate is indissolubly tied to this model for development, says Raj. Their social situation means that they have little opportunity in the "organized" sector, as, for example, big industry. Women's need for income, and to provide simple necessities of life, drives them into the only sector that will accept them.
Here, the stress on heavy industry has not only immobilized or increased indirect exploitation of unpaid work. The chosen strategy has also created two economic sectors with radically different wage- and working conditions. Women have become an extra-exploited lower proletariat with no rights.
One of the big questions in many Third World countries is the need for a land reform. Semifeudal landowners and big capitalists own and control most land. The great mass of land-less peasants live in poverty and despair. This is an extensive ecological problem, too. The land-less peasants often have no other choice than to let loose on the forests and clear it away to get hold of a little land. Sison (1989, p. 25) describes this process in the Philippine case. At the end of the sixties all areas where it was possible to farm, were in use. As the poor peasants cleared new land, the rich came along and took it over. In this way landless peasants and national minorities were pursued into the farthest corners and up the mountainsides. Clearing free land was no longer a way out for the poor peasants. Sison doesn't mention the ecological effects of this. But large parts of the Philippines forest areas are now razed, for this and other reasons. (See Nordenstam, 1991.)
But land reform is not a gender neutral question either. Dankelmann and Davidson write (1988, p. 8):
"Many of those dispossessed of land by the increasing concentration of ownership are women and their children. Women have title to only one percent of the world's food - and in countries of food scarcity the percentage is even higher. Women produce more than 80 percent of the food for sub-Sahara Africa, 50-60 percent of Asia's food, 46 percent in the Caribbean, 31 percent in North Africa and the Middle East and more than 30 percent in Latin America (FAO, 1984; Foster, 1986)."
What if a land reform were carried out with families and households as the starting point? In practice this would mean that the land became the men's property. Men and women have different priorities. Whitehead (1984) quotes the common opinion among the Kusasi people in Ghana: "Women sow peanuts to be able to feed their children in times of famine. Men till the land to get hold of ready money." On the Ivory Coast they lacked basic food products after the government encouraged men to cultivate export crops. The reason was that part of the best land, where women had cultivated food before, was taken by their husbands for cash crops. The wives had to use a lot of their time working on the men's fields, too. The same sort of thing happened in Malawi (Women, a world report, 1985).
A land reform that does not take as its starting point the fact that women are independent people, but, instead, treats them as appendages to a family or household, will, in the best case, mean a partial improvement for women and children. But hunger and distress cannot be abolished unless the women themselves have land. As long as the "family" or "household" comprises the unit to which economic initiatives are directed, the patriarchal power relations will be maintained.
An example from Sunara, a village in India's poorest region, Bihar, shows that the struggle for one's own land is on women's agenda, and that it meets opposition, not just from the landowners, but also from their own men. Siri Jensen visited the village in September 1990 and took part in a discussion with the villagers. The landowners had been chased away from the areas around the village. When the women were asked whether they had been allotted land, they answered that they hadn't been allotted land in their own names, although they had taken part in the struggle. This was the most important criterion for being allotted land. One woman said that the reason they didn't get any land, was that the men thought their wives would leave them if they had their own land. This was confirmed by a man later on in the discussion (Jensen 1990 b).
The examples above illustrate that a strategy which treats women as a "special social group" with some justifiable demands, is sure to miscarry. With this type of strategy neither the complete liberation of women nor the revolutionary movement's superior goals can be reached. Abolishment of material and social want. Abolishment of all class divisions. A land reform that overlooks women, will not abolish famine. A technological development that overlooks women, will create new class divisions. The women's perspective must be built in as a basic premise in the strategy. That cannot be done by throwing in some new elements here and there. The whole construction must be changed fundamentally.
Production and reproduction must be seen as a whole, and the family as a social institution, and women's place there, cannot be taken for granted. Even far-reaching, legally-based rights are of limited use to women if they do not change the structure - the division between production and reproduction, where reproduction is tied to women and subordinated production's demands. Karin Widerberg (1990) shows this clearly in a study of how the Swedish law's rules and rights concerning pregnancy and parenthood function in practice. In the main, the rules are as follows. Parents who have worked during the last 6 months before they take leave, have the right to a full-time leave until the child is 18 months old (12 months paid, 3 months on reduced pay). They also have the right to reduced working hours (to 6 hours, with no pay compensation) until the child is 8 years old. Also, they have the right to 60 days paid absence per year during their children's illnesses until the child is 12 years old.
The statistics show that it is mainly women who use these rights. In 1986 men only used 6 % of the total number of days of paid parental leave which were taken out in Sweden. But Widerberg's study at 3 different work places unveiled that several of the rights were more formal than real for women, too. Women who wanted to use their right to reduced work time often had to change to less practical working hours or to other types of jobs. Sometimes they found that reduced working hours didn't mean reduced amounts of work. And in some cases they were placed in a "pool" of labor power that was sent in wherever there was the greatest need at the moment. If there were cut-backs at their place of employment, the workers in the "pool" were usually fired first. Staying away from work because of a child's illness, was not easy either, since it often caused problems for fellow workers. Widerberg sums up her results like this (p. 67):
"The recurrent theme of the descriptions from the various places of work is that reforms work as long as the women do not make use of them. But should the women do so their situation at their place of work deteriorates. This they know and this is why they make such limited use of their rights and then only because they are forced to. It is a myth to talk about parents with small children. There are only mothers with small children - they are the only ones who really have children today."
Widerberg points out that the Swedish laws on parental leave have their starting point in the conflict that arises because of the division between production and reproduction, where "the male as a norm" lies behind the organization of wage labor. The law is meant to make it easier for the "weak party", i.e. the woman, to live with this pattern.
The premise which is the foundation for the way the whole thing works, is this: when a woman in wage labor chooses to have children, it is an individual choice and an individual act. It is not something that concerns the whole collective, it only concerns one woman at a time. Working life is not organized so as to take into account that small children exist. Employers have no obligation to organize working conditions so that it is possible to use the rights the law gives parents. And trade unions are not interested in this type of question.
The major fault in the reforms, says Widerberg, is that they look at women's problems with combining wage labor and the care of children as an individual problem. What is needed is a completely different type of reform - reforms that change the material conditions. It becomes a question of social organization based on the two human functions production and reproduction.
The "compensation model" - giving women rights meant to compensate her for the fact that the pattern according to which society is organized, doesn't suit her, can never be a real solution. The pattern has to be changed. Because that is where oppression of women is built in. This is not only true of oppression of women, it is valid in all the important oppressive relations in society.
So a new pattern for the organization of society, where production and reproduction are woven together in a new way, is needed. But what should it look like? That is difficult to imagine, because it is so different from the pattern we know. At the same time, the division between production and reproduction breaks up our lives, and particularly women's lives, in a way we have to fight with every day. Again, it becomes each and every woman's individual job to tie the world together in everyday life.
Ragnhild Höem (1979) makes the experiment of turning the relation between production and reproduction, as we know them in our society, upside down. She points out that capitalistic commodity production makes a series of demands on labor power which lead to a number of tasks both in the "private" sphere and in the "public". Labor power of a certain quality must be created, and the labor power that capitalistic commodity production doesn't want for various reasons, has to be provided for/ kept/treated. But the costs of creating the preferred type of labor power, and taking care of the rest, doesn't show on the companies books. Höem quotes the Norwegian Parliamentary report 75 - The Long-term Program 1978-1981, where it is stated that work for everyone is a goal. But the long-term program says at the same time that a certain amount of keeping people out of working life does go on. The elderly are particularly exposed to this, but other age groups are, too. It is often necessary to make certain demands on education, work experience, working capability, ability to contribute, age, among others, in order to accomplish the many demanding work tasks in society. New technology and changes in the composition of demands from the market mean that demands on labor power are continually changing. And the report concludes: "Such demands do not always match the individual's qualifications."
But, says Höem, what if we looked at it the other way around? What if people's qualifications were seen as fundamental, and it was production's task to adjust to these? The companies would be more or less suitable according to whether they were able to utilize the labor power that was actually to be found in a given place. And they would need help in reorienting forms of production if they could not satisfy employees demands for a work place that suited their qualifications. As for considerations of profit, one would have to ask what the relationship between the amount of work done in the company and the total reproduction costs was. This would have to include the cost of bringing up, educating and caring for those who could not work because of "production's demands". Höem asks, which forms of production are socio-economically profitable if one compares the amount of work done with what it needs in basic investments and follow-up?
The multidisciplinary, Nordic women's research group "The new everyday life" has also been concerned with how everyday life can be organized more on women's terms. They would like to see greater closeness between the different functions in daily life: wage labor, care and housing, between production and reproduction, and between different age groups. Tarja Cronberg explains (1990, p. 136):
"The new everyday life is a new way of organizing the necessary work, the reproductive work to begin with, but later on wage labor, too, as new forms of co-operation locally. Therefore, a new local arena is necessary, which researchers have called "the middle level". This expresses this level's position between the private and the public, between society and the steadily smaller household."
Since the middle level doesn't exist, tasks must be transferred there, says Cronberg. It is not just a question of care tasks, but tasks from production, too. Depending on local conditions, different types of middle levels with different economic foundations can be created. A central point about the "middle level" is that it gives care rationality a larger valid area than the single family-household, and that means a new form of organization with a broader social perspective.
The ideas from the research group "The new everyday life" have a lot in common with ideas Siri Jensen (1990 a) has expounded from a clear political viewpoint. Imagine a society where the female worker is the typical thing, she who has one foot in care work and one foot in production, says Siri Jensen. In the socialist tradition it has been usual to think that women must become like men to be liberated. But it is possible to think the opposite - that women are the "norm". The double position as unpaid care worker on the one hand and wage laborer on the other, is a burden in today's society. But under other conditions this kind of mooring in different types of tasks become a starting point both for a rich and varied life for the individual, and for a social organization that heals some of the breaches we suffer from today, and which will give the majority greater power over their own daily life. If one thinks of women as "the norm" the need for a new comprehensive organization of production and reproduction, a new pattern, becomes obvious. If one thinks of men as "the norm", one easily ends up in the position Widerberg describes: the pattern is preserved, while women must be satisfied with compensation for inconvenient gender.
A new relation between production and reproduction presupposes that reproduction does not continue to be a sort of "garbage can" for unsolved and unstressed tasks from "important" social sectors. It doesn't help much if they are just organized within a different framework. Ideas which are reminiscent of those from "The new everyday life" have also been launched in public reports, but only as crisis solutions that are meant to make dismantling of the welfare state a bit more acceptable to the people. One example is the report with the ingratiating title: Co-operation in new areas - Renewal, Self-help and Democracy (NOU 1988:30). On the one hand it gets hold of true criticism of the capitalist welfare state: the services offered are too standardized and only slightly adjusted to the individual's needs, the public organs are bureaucratic and slow, they treat people as though they were of no account and make them passive. On the other hand it is stated, without attempting to question the validity, that the welfare state is "too expensive". Therefore there is need of other types of solutions to supply the needs that "the State doesn't have the capacity to supply". That makes local co-operation a good idea, where people pull together to straighten things out. And the list over which areas the report points to as appropriate for such co-operation, does not come as a surprise:
The problem is, of course, that when this is defined away as a social responsibility (the State doesn't have the capacity), it is not given priority when sharing out resources either. And the local population are given no power to decide the terms for social development. They are only supposed to take care of the problems this creates. It has been said that "Power wanders centrally and responsibility wanders locally, and they never meet again." And it does not take much imagination to see that it will mainly be women who have to shoulder the local co-operation activity.
This sort of development can occur under socialism, too. In the worst case, transferring some production tasks to the "middle level" Cronberg and others talk about, strengthen this tendency. Both in planned economies and in planned economic elements in other societies (see Raj's example from India above), heavy industry has been given priority. Production of commodities that are important for people's daily life, have had to take second place. If the "middle level" has greater responsibility for production of daily commodities, it can mean these will be stressed even less in practice.
The everyday life perspective must come into planning if the plan and organization of society are to be directed toward supplying people's needs, as they are experienced in daily life. This is particularly important to women, who live a life as a buffer and an item for balancing the budget. The crux of the matter is whether everyday life sets the terms for the comprehensive social development. Everyday life organization at the local level which functions as society's "garbage can", will hardly be an improvement, and may even make things worse.
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