chapter  nine
13 Pages

Gayle Rubin: The Abstract Determinism of the Kinship System

WithNancy C.M. Hartsock

Gayle Rubin takes Levi-Strauss and Freud as dual points of departure in pursuit of the project Engels “abandoned when he located the subordination of women in a development within the mode of production". She proposes to take over his method to identify the “relationships by which a female becomes an oppressed woman". Rubin notes that anthropologists have long considered kinship to mark the discontinuity between semihuman hominids and human beings. Rubin sees Karl Marx’s analysis of capitalist production as locating the key to the operation of the working class in the “traffic in merchandise.” Her summary of the production and extraction of surplus value in capitalism is marked by an extraordinarily consistent focus on exchange. Rubin’s re-creation of Levi-Strauss’s system makes it impossible for her to give an account of women’s oppression located in daily life activity, and instead requires that she locate its source in the purely social and even intellectual realm of ideology—in taboo, convention, and cultural tradition.