The Covid-19 crisis has exposed deep inequalities embedded in national and international socio-economic systems and legal frameworks. Over-stretched social services and an over-reliance on unpaid and precarious labour compensate for the inadequacies of social infrastructure, economic policies and labour regulation, instead of inspiring more social justice-driven approaches. The crisis offers an opportunity to identify the limits of such systems and reimagine the policies that shape them. This project aims to collectively reimagine a feminist recovery plan for Covid-19 and beyond by placing grassroots activism at the centre of policy-making, learning from the past and looking at the future.
Recovery plans are often formulated by politicians, policy advisors and those considered “experts” who tend to privilege economically productive activities and business logics over social reproduction work, thereby replicating the inequalities underpinning socio-economic systems. ‘Social reproduction’ refers to the social relations, processes and labour that go into the daily and generational maintenance of the population (Bakker and Silvey 2008; see also Federici 1975 and 2019, Dalla Costa and James 1975, Elson 1979, Mies 1986, Fortunati 1995, Katz 2001, Hoskyns and Rai 2007, Bedford and Rai 2010, Elias 2010, Kostiswaran 2013, Fudge 2014, Rai and Wayler 2014, Meehan and Strauss 2015, Bhattacharya 2017, Seguino 2019, Mezzadri 2019 among many others). It consists of ‘the provisioning of material resources (food, clothing, housing, transport) and the training of individual capabilities necessary for interaction in the social context of a particular time and place’ (Picchio 2003: 2), including care, affection, community work (Banks 2020) and activism (Davis 2015, Okech and Musindarwezo 2020). Activism is an important form of social reproduction work, invisible and unvalued but necessary to bring about social change: social justice achievements are often the outcome of the constant fights of activists around the world.
Social reproduction work is disproportionately sustained by women and unequally distributed across race, class, sexuality and gender identity, disability, geopolitical location, migration status, etc. with people at the lower end of the income and power distribution having a higher burden of unrewarded social reproduction labour in terms of both supporting their families and communities and fighting for social change. The purpose of this project is to conceptualise a recovery plan that places social reproduction at the centre of policy-making with the aim to repair the inequalities embedded in socio-economic-legal systems, instead of relying on social reproduction work just to fix the failings of official policies. This project also aims to recognise the epistemological value of feminist grassroots activism.