The Other Division of Labour

  • Paul Thompson


This not untypical quote emphasises that all labour power is not regarded or treated equally. So there is ‘another’ division of labour, in this case a system of allocating particular tasks to men and others to women. Marx used the distinction between a social and technical division of labour to differentiate between the process, in any system of production, whereby groups of workers are allocated to different branches of production, under capitalism through the market, and the division of tasks between workers producing the same commodity. That double division has enormous significance for a study of the labour process, for as Philips and Taylor indicate, ‘the technical division of labour is almost invariably hierarchised along sexual lines; women sew what men design and cut out; women serve what men cook; women run machines that men service; and so on and so on’ (1978: 1). It is therefore impossible to understand the distribution of skills, methods of control and organisation of work, different rates of exploitation, or any other factor connected to the labour process, without seeking to explain the relations between those social and technical dimensions.


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  1. 4.
    Marx and Engels state in The Communist Manifesto that: ‘Differences of age and sex no longer have any distinctive validity for the working class. All are instruments of labour, more or less expensive to use, according to their age and sex’ (1968: 40). The more detailed presentation of Marx’s conception of the impact of modern industry on the sexual division of labour can be found mainly in chapter 15 of Capital, Volume One.Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    Baxendall, et al. argue that ‘As the home was re-organised into an internal market for capitalist penetration, the actual work was transformed from artisan—craftswomanship to a definition not unlike “machine-minding” ’(1976: 8).Google Scholar

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© Paul Thompson 1983

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  • Paul Thompson

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