four in one – A Contribution to the International Women’s Day

Four-in-One-Perspective – or One Divided by Four Equals One

Thoughts in connection with Frigga Haug’s presentation of Die Vier-in-einem-Perspektive (Haug, Frigga, 2008/20092: Die Vier-in-einem-Perspektive. Politik von Frauen für eine neue Linke; Hamburg: Argument Verlag – reference [i.e. page numbers in brackets], where not specified otherwise, is made to this book. Translations by P.H.)

That the capitalist welfare state, based on the rule of law, can only maintain itself by simply prolonging the strategies which arguably led to its dominance is not only obvious from the very recent developments, i.e. the severe crisis emerging from the collapse of the finance system. If we are realistic, this will be historically just one crisis amongst many – and leaving its harshness aside, we have to accept that the capitalist system itself is still very well able to cope with it in its own terms. Even more so, it is exactly at the moment of this severe economic crisis that capitalism comes to its height: unadorned, free of all supposed ‘ballast’ and ‘social junk’ it shows its immaculate purity, its true face: here ‘immaculate’ simply means that it is only concerned with what capitalism in its purest form is about.[1]

There is a ‘but’, of course: as well known this ‘pure capitalism’ undermines its own existence on at least four dimensions.

* First, this system fails in its own terms. We may look at different dimensions as for instance the tendency of the profit rate to fall. Two other aspects may be highlighted as they play a particular role at stages of developed capitalism: (i) developed capitalism is very much based on mass consumption – a feature that is not only linked to the so-called Fordist stage but goes much beyond. However, put bluntly, pure capitalism is undermining this condition as it systematically prioritises mechanisms in order to reduce income – (i) by way of (aiming on) low wages (with major impact on purchase power), (ii) by way of keeping social support low and relying on family support based on the argument of subsidiarity (‘privatisation of the social’ which is of course a contradiction in terms) and (iii) by asking for low (corporate) tax (lowering this way possible public demand).

* Second, the latter two moments are, however, also moments of further capitalisation.[2] On the one hand it takes the form of privatisation of economic activities which are at their very core public (already moving into the areas of ‘privatisation of public security’. On the other hand it is about the inclusion of an increasing array of issues into the realm of capitalist production.

* Third, the legitimacy of this system is further limited with every further move into any of these directions. On the one hand we may point on the development that had been characterised as contradiction in terms: the ‘privatisation of the public’ and the ‘individualisation of the social’. On the other hand we have to point on the increasing and specific ‘socialisation’ as it emerges from the increasing and even complete absorption of previously private household (production) by the market – such process goes much beyond colonialisation of life worlds: we are witnessing the complete subsumption of all spheres of life under the principle of a profit-based ‘market’ system – already well known from the works of Karl Marx. This represents an objective dimension of redefinition. And we are witnessing a specific hegemonisation as we know it from the works of Antonio Gramsci and which can be seen as subjective dimension of redefinition.

* Fourth, capitalism is thus historically characterised by another fundamental contradiction: Pure capitalism cannot survive as it is economically undermining the conditions of its existence (mass consumption and ‘fair competition’); socially creates an increasing number of ‘outcasts’, not least by pushing people into precarity and involuntary freelance work (‘self-employment’), thus undermining its legitimacy; ecologically it is not able to solve the fundamental problems as it is based on the feature of growth as end in itself, thus being inclined to unscrupulous exploit fossil resources. However, capitalism cannot survive either by even modest alteration: changing the system of remuneration and introducing protective mechanisms around working conditions, introducing social protection, in particular by acknowledging the social character and meaning of certain previously private activities and environmental protection even of a modest kind are undermining the system as well: requiring its distancing from profit as central criteria of control ….

This means not least that especially at such a crossroads thinking about alternatives faces in particular the difficult fourfold challenge of (i) developing alternatives that are going far beyond the current system, moving beyond alterations; (ii) avoiding voluntarist approaches, (iii) not loosing out of sight that such search and future reality has to take the given conditions into account – not only as something given but furthermore as something that developed and can only be understood in the perspective of its development and finally (iv) avoids glorification of patterns that had been characterising earlier historical stages, at the time appropriate but not allowing being (mechanically) transferred.

Frigga Haug, based on the experience from research in varied fields and following a feminist research strategy, took up this challenge by the presentation of the Four-in-One-Perspective. Politics by Women for a New Left. It is a compilation of contributions with very different foci, however: as such providing more and other than a patchwork. The overall topic is the search for a new strategy, but more so: for a different (understanding of) society. Point of departure is not primarily the analysis of the general crisis of the current epoch of capitalism. Rather the analysis of the fundamental division of society – going hand on hand on the one hand with the division of labour and on the other hand with the social division as class division and here even more the gender division are at the centre of the debate. And the second angle is a general vision of the society that is envisaged, asking for social justice which is derived from the most fundamental principle of equality.

In concrete terms the elements of society, societal structuration and politically-strategic development of society are located in four areas, namely employment, reproductive work, cultural development and politics from below.

Importantly the approach is not simply looking for policy changes – although they play also a role in some contributions (for instance explicitly in the contributions on ‘The [female] patient in the neoliberal hospital’ or ‘Quota for women and gender mainstreaming’) – but for politics. At least from the perspective of mainstream policy making (sic!) and in particular in the Anglo-American perspective this is an issue that needs to be emphasised. This is even more important as the now widespread orientation on governance in the EU-(member states)-context is actually more closing the orientation than it is opening up perspectives. The fact that more ‘stakeholders’ are involved – thus opening the ‘stage’ – has the paradox effect of narrowing the agenda, being one moment in the increasing technical and instrumentalist approach we find in the political arena.[3]

Implicitly this means that the feminist perspective – and this is an important point – is in actual fact not so much a feminist perspective in a restrictive understanding. Although there are important aspects explicitly coming from such perspective in the strict sense, I would see it with a different emphasis. At the end it may be called a ‘genderist perspective’, meaning that we are dealing with a perspective that is not primarily proposing a politics by women but in actual fact politics that takes societal arrays into account that had been and still are faded out, a fact that is very much due to the fact of being issues that are treated in this way due to the fact of their gender bias but where we are mainly dealing with issues that may be not less importantly approached by an overall perspective. This is made clear on another occasion – the presentation of the perspective the in an article in Das Argument (Haug, Frigga: Die Vier-in-einem-Perspektive als Leitfaden für Politik; in; Das Argument; Hamburg: 291/2011: 241-250), where we read:

On this basis we can see that for women the question cannot be simply about equality within these structures of the system but this very structure is at stake. Consequently the segregation of many areas as politics on women-issue is emerging as critical point from a feminist perspective. This segregation made politics on women-issues a trap: in last instance moving within such realm meant to maintain the overcome structures. Therefore the 4-in-1-perspective develops into politics concerned with general liberation.


Of course, the question ‘And what is with women?’ remains an important one, going through all spheres of life. However, not less important is – and this in actual fact one of the main threads through the work in question – that many issues are societal in a much wider sense. Though, being here and now ‘gender issues’, requiring a feminist approach in the narrow sense, they are not less issues that also need to be approached in a wider perspective. Of course, this can easily lead to hair-splitting debates. But Frigga Haug makes also reference to the importance of related questions when she makes reference to the contributions by Althusser and Structuralism (passim).

Therefore some hesitation emerges when the core of the project is presented by saying that

we develop as guideline for a perspective of politics a fundamental modification of division of labour. We aim on a systematic conjunction of those four areas of human practice.


This is followed by a short elaboration of the underlying understanding of the relevant areas, namely employment, reproductive work, cultural development and politics from below. In my view the notion of ‘four areas of human practice’ deserves special emphasis and I would suggest going a step further, seeing all the areas as matter of a process of relational appropriation. Leaving other aspects aside, my attempt is to open the door for two important aspects: first such approach may bring us a step further towards a thorough integration of these areas and with this it allows us secondly to elaborate the genuinely social dimension of human practice. Institutional forms and also the core-reference of the activities: production of commodities and means of sustenance, production of the ‘humane human’, the lifelong unfolding of own personality and the codetermination of society (s. ibid.), are in this perspective getting secondary, the social personality move centre-stage. We can specify this by the following systematisation of relationality, we are dealing with

*  auto-relation

*  group-relation (as general sociability)

*  ‘other’-relation (as ‘institutionalised and ‘defined’ socialbility – including class relationships etc.) and

*  environmental (‘organic nature’) relations.

Mind, however, this systematisation is not more than a heuristic, analytical tool and we have to avoid the danger of drawing a horizontal dividing line, aiming to replace the vertical division. With this perspective a notion brought forward by Michael Brie in his short Draft of a Political Strategy based on Frigga Haugs Four-in-One-Perspective (linked from – 02/12/2011 10:16 a.m.) opens a trap: he orients on a

strong sector that is characterised by public finance and extensively self-organising sector in the area of education, culture and science, which is not least nurtured by the voluntary engagement of the many who live socially secured


and presents the ‘exchange society’ as something that is globally given and more or less unquestionable. It is surely a matter of a new mode of life. But Frigga Haug goes beyond that – without psychologisation/individualisation – stating that

the ‘fundamental question’ of sociology, concerned with the relationship between individual and society is augmented by the psychological question, asking for the architecture of the individual her/himslef. With thus we do not think individual and society as initially separate in order to be subsequently able to ask for their link/interpenetration as it is usually undertaken in sociology. The other way round we begin by saying that human beings are soci(et)al beings. This means we do not ask in which way society deforms and alienates the individual; instead we ask how they are (by societal conditions) hindered to unfold their sociability.


This is an important step – and as much as it links back to ancient thinking as for instance the famous Aristotelian notion of the political being (see Aristotle’s famous phrase of the ‘political animal’ in Book I and for instance extensively Book II of Politics). However, it is now open to the necessary transposition into complex soci(et)al conditions.

With this we see on the one hand that gender relations are relations of production (contribution in Das Argument; op.cit: 241), but with this the challenge that we have to focus more on the changes within the different areas. Calculating 4 times 1 has to arrive at two results: it results in four matters that need to be changed ‘internally’ and it results in one, a new soci(et)al entity. Indeed, we are importantly concerned with the need

to revolutionise the fundamental structures of soci(et)al practice: profit as driving force and that means the power of the realisation of capital taking precedence over the labour, based on division of labour and property


Importantly it means:

In order to move the realms out of their marginalised position they would need to be generalised and consequently they would need to be revaluated. And in the same vein the realm, that is seen as societal work would need to be occupied by women, with this its dominance needs to be undermined. If both sexes would share into all areas … a negative power and control relationship is broken up. To me, this seems to be a precondition for allowing love returning into labour. Subsequently the movement of women will be central on the way to humanise society.


With this we have to ask if it is sufficient to put the important separation in the life of wageworkers … between work and leisure time on one level with the notion that wageworkers are ‘during their leisure time at home and, as private beings, that escape work’ (49). In my view there is need for a thorough reflection on private, public, individual and social. This is surely a matter of investigating the model of civilisation (a term and concept introduced on page 103). But it is not sufficiently getting clear if such a shift away from the concept of the mode of production can sufficiently cope with the danger of a new pattern of exclusion. On the one hand the proposed orientation is excitingly opening political debates for seriously dealing with sociological theories of civilisation as matter of increasing ‘inner socialisation’ (as for instance elaborated by Elias’ Socigenetic and Psychogenetic Investigations under the main title of The Civilising Process [Elias, Norbert, 1939: The civilizing process: sociogenetic and psychogenetic investigations. Translated by Edmund Jephcott with some notes and corrections by the author; edited by Eric Dunning, Johan Goudsblom, and Stephen Mennell; Oxford, UK; Malden, Mass., US: Blackwell Publishers, 2000). On the other hand it needs to be elaborated further by making full use of and developing further the investigation into the process of production as undertaken by Karl Marx in the Outline of the Critique of Political Economy (Grundrisse) [1857-1861], where he dedicates a chapter to Production, Consumption, Distribution, Exchange (Circulation). Taken seriously, looking at the General relation between production, distribution, exchange and consumption, means looking seriously at the actual model of civilisation. In case we elaborate this understanding of production further, the 4-in-1-perspective can be tightened and extended by orienting on a sociogenetic and psychogenetic investigation of the civilisation of the mode of labour.[4] Thus we arrive not least at labour – or perhaps we should speak even of production with its four dimensions – as a matter of (i) development of personality, (ii) development of inter-personal relationships, (iii) development of society, and (iv) working[5] conditions (cf. importantly 114). For my own work this is inspiring for further elaborating the theory of régulation which I tentatively extended by adding to the accumulation regime and the mode of regulation the life regime and the mode of life (see for instance Herrmann, Peter, 2011 b: Mergers and Competition: Whereto leads the Economisation of the Social Sector? In: Herrmann, Peter [ed.]: The end of Social Services. Economisation and Managerialism; Bremen: Europaeischer Hochschulverlag: 18-61, in particular 56; Herrmann, Peter, 2011 a: Deciphering Globalisation – An Introduction; in: Herrmann, Peter (ed.): All the Same – All Being New. Basic Rules of Capitalism in a World of Change; Bremen: Europaeischer Hochschulverlag: 3-60).

The important point is that this is on the one hand strengthening the actor and practice perspective; however, on the other hand it is opening the perspective on the positive role of ‘The World that does not end in the private home’ (contribution on page 162 ff.). My point here – and this follows from the extended approach to relationality – is to aim on overcoming the apparent dichotomy between human actor and organic environment. This allows also to engage with the contradictions that arise from ‘the disruption and contradictoriness of the soci(et)al being as such’ (180) under consideration of the fact of society being not least a reflection of how people (and humankind as such) engage at a given stage with the organic environment. The understanding of ‘cultural practice’ as it is introduced later by seeing cultural as ‘action/activities that are an end in themselves’ must be somewhat problematic. As social beings and this is as relational beings, even self-reference is by definition also ‘means-tested’. However, this does not refer to any usual understanding of a restrictive stance nor does it refer to a utilitarian understanding. Rather, it is about what had been said before: the process of relational appropriation – we should revisit the principle underlying the Kantian approach as it is expressed in the categorical imperative, demanding each individual to

treat himself and all others never merely as means but always at the same time as ends in themselves.

(Kant, Immanuel, 1785: Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, passim)

The challenge is to elaborate on the tension between ‘never merely’ and ‘at the same time’. The question is if this tension allows sufficiently determining the character of what social personality is about. This means that – for women and men – an important question is not ‘mastering of nature’ (241) but appropriating relationships – as matter of developing ownership (the ‘property’ dimension) and as matter of suitability (being appropriate in social practice). As correct as the claim of mastering of nature is made in the contribution on ‘Women – Victims or Culprits?’ as much we need to extend the question in a relational perspective, searching for a perspective on true soci(et)al development rather than arriving at the trap laid open by easing the situation of individuals and groups. On a different level, we are here dealing with the same tension as we are facing it when discussing quota-politics/policies and mainstreaming: what is a legitimate orientation on one level and during a certain phase, is in danger of turning into a constraints at another stage. Means-tested can now be understood as moment of personal development, better: development of personalities, freely adapted from Friedrich Schiller who elaborates on this by looking at the role of play, pointing out

… as the sensuous impulsion controls us physically, and the formal impulsion morally, the former makes our formal constitution contingent, and the latter makes our material constitution contingent, that is to say, there is contingence in the agreement of our happiness with our perfection, and reciprocally. The instinct of play, in which both act in concert, will render both our formal and our material constitution contingent; accordingly, our perfection and our happiness in like manner. And on the other hand, exactly because it makes both of them contingent, and because the contingent disappears with necessity, it will suppress this contingence in both, and will thus give form to matter and reality to form. In proportion that it will lessen the dynamic influence of feeling and passion, it will place them in harmony with rational ideas, and by taking from the laws of reason their moral constraint, it will reconcile them with the interest of the senses.

(Schiller, J. C. Friedrich von, 1794: Letters upon the Æsthetic Education of Man. Letter XIV)

And of course, in the Marxian interpretation we see from here the meaning of the definition of freedom as it is outlined in the contribution of the Marxists-Internet archive:

Freedom is the right and capacity of people to determine their own actions, in a community which is able to provide for the full development of human potentiality.

I suggest to go from here beyond the orientation on self-realisation as oriented along the lines of action that is an end in itself – and in this sense self-reflexive – and focus instead on socio-personal development as practice of appropriation by which power as ability and power as control are balanced with each other. Self-realisation gains with this – as socio-cultural practice – an immediate character of a higher form of socio-personal activity. As important as it is to rebuke the notion of double-burden of women – employment and housework – as quantitatively oriented reductionism (184), it is necessary to move further and add the explicit and elaborated ‘social dimension’. Here it seems to be necessary to clearly spell out what the consequences of the change are actually for men. Power moves again to the centre of the soci(et)al dispute. And as much as this is a question of power of men over women, it is much more the power distribution on a structural level, concerned with counter-balancing the process of production as organic whole as Marx outlined it in the Grundrisse. A closer look at this question would allow developing further the question of the soci(et)al character of those activities that are distinguished as (a) ‘production and administration of the means needed to life and in the relation to which the means of production are developed further, thus providing the foundation for further division of labour’ and (b) ‘the area in which life is created, cared for and maintained and which is marginalised against the other area’ (contribution in Das Argument; op.cit: 241).[6] And it requires to address at least the following three moments: (i) exactly determining the actual soci(et)al character of this work, (ii) looking at the recognition of this soci(et)al character and (iii) the exact way of ‘designing’ this soci(et)alisation (see also on this topic 199). Having in this way a look at the inner conflict and inner-rebellious attitude allows us to develop a new perspective. Two-foldedness of existence (Doppeltheit der Existenz), developed with reference to Klaus Holzkamp’s work (202), means that the individual produces society and with this her/himself. In the perspective of the presentation of the 4-in-1 perspective it means ‘that in the bourgeois society this twofold challenge humans face is distributed unequally between women and men’ (ibid.). It is now proposed to go a step further, proposing that gender-specific culture (205) has to be developed more explicitly as transition project (see contribution in Das Argument; op.cit: 246) and as such it has also address explicitly its own abolition – if and to the extent to which this is agreeable we may learn from the discussion of Marxist theory of the state and the discussion of the question of the need to overcome the capitalist-bourgeois state by a new state which had been suggested as a state in dissolution. Philosophically it means to overcome static approaches, by inherently processualising any structural thinking.

From here we will be able to move further when looking at the ‘double character of soci(et)al production, on the one side producing life and on the other side producing the means necessary for life’ (323). In the presentation this double character appears somewhat disjoined from the previously mentioned ‘two-foldedness of existence’. Merging the two-by-two perspectives may be developed further, class and gender question can be elaborated further in order to find the points of their clear overlaps and their clear separations.

With this, the emphasis of the ‘dispute over time’ which is centre-staged on another occasion (contribution in Das Argument; op.cit: 242) may also be enriched by another perspective, clearly defining time as being not more than a container – a container for the dispute over the social and social quality as it is dealt with in another four-in-one perspective: the search for social quality (see Laurent van der Maesen/Alan Walker [eds.]: Social Quality. From Theory to Indicators; Houndmills. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).

[1]      This puts recent debates on a more humane capitalism, on revitalising the so-called social market economy also on the spot of dubious mis- and wrong understandings, dangerously opening the doors of ideological trimming.

[2]      It is more accurate to speak of capitalisation rather than monetarisation. We are in actual fact concerned with the aim of capital as a moment that realises itself.

[3]      This could be seen in very concrete terms with the consultation processes of green/white papers issued by the EUC.

[4]      Mind the shift from work earlier in this text to labour at this stage. Also, instead of speaking of labour conditions it has to be highlighted that we are now speaking of the mode of labour.

[5]      Here again working conditions as matter of immediate involvement not least into the process of capitalist production.

[6]      All this not least needs elaboration with respect of the two sides of power and also appropriation as mentioned on another occasion in this comment.

4 pensieri riguardo “four in one – A Contribution to the International Women’s Day


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