Cindi Katz on the History of Household and Families from a Marxist Perspective

[Photo by Chris Arnade.]
The idea of the nuclear family is not only part of our culture, it's embedded in the zoning code. In Minneapolis and Saint Paul, for example, the definition of family forms one of the key concepts in zoning and enforcement, For example, in Saint Paul zoning code, "family" is defined as:

Sec. 60.207. - F.
Family. One (1) or two (2) persons or parents, with their direct lineal descendants and adopted or legally cared for children (and including the domestic employees thereof) together with not more than two (2) persons not so related, living together in the whole or part of a dwelling comprising a single housekeeping unit. Every additional group of four (4) or fewer persons living in such housekeeping unit shall be considered a separate family for the purpose of this code.

Basically more than four adults who are not "direct lineal" cannot be a "family" under this definition.

I was listening to the David Harvey Anti-Capitalist Chronicles podcast, much of which is quite good,  digestable commentary on current political or economic affairs, or Harvey explaining basic Marxist concepts. The other day he uploaded a great conversation between Harvey and geographer Cindi Katz about the Marxist concept of "social reproduction." In other words, how we organize everyday life -- community arrangements around food, clothing, shelter, and child-rearing -- to ensure the welfare of future generations.

Along the way, Katz discusses how the concept of "the family" has played a central role in so mu h of our culture and how this occurred. Social reproduction in everyday life is her specialty, and I found her discussion of the concept to be very interesting.

Cindy Katz: Of course its very hard to get into social reproduction very far without getting into question of what is a household, what is family... What do we mean by family? What is communal work, you know processes and can you speak a little bit about all of that? 
CK: First off all the notion of what is a family or a household is itself a question of social reproduction. (You’ll see that for me everything is social reproduction.) [laughs] 
But in many ways, it is. So that how we constitute what is a normal household, what is a family, how do we feed clothe and take care of future generations, [that\ is a heteronormative idea. It's completely classed and radicalized. 
And ways around or under these conditions, might be to share, to have an extended family… 
I was just at this workshop on adolescence in Africa, and the idea of the extended family being able to absorb many of these sorts of [economic] shocks is something that we’ve offloaded onto individual households. And the pressure on the heteronormative nuclear family is huge. 
But there’s also a sense of, where does the labor to sustain it come from? So the more global question of social reproduction is [that] we see so much labor migration, and that’s a radicalized question [about] where inequalities among countries come from. 
We have domestic laborers who come to the Global North and to work in wealthier households, but even upper-middle class households, as relatively cheap labor, because they come as lone migrants for the most part. And their children in their households are being sustained by their extended family, again, in a stressed and disinvested state. 
And by having domestic labor who can help privileged families, the gendered division of labor doesn’t really change. And the kind of exploitation that’s trans-local, and goes across national boundaries, is enormous. 
But there are incredible transfers of wealth in that way, around the [concept off the] household, and [these transfers] stabilize the kind of heteronormative, white household. And that moves to having sets of struggles around redefining the household and domestic labor and how it can get accomplished.
Katz argues that the nuclear family is rooted both in the exploitation of women through a long history of patriarchal inequality, and also rooted in the exploitation of poor people through colonial and post-colonial inequality. After all, who is taking care of children and the elderly, in many cases, throughout American cities?

I would love to see the notion of the family removed from the zoning code altogether. Our cities need to make sure we are allowing a diversity of different kinds of communities and relationships, including intentional communities, extended families, cousins, grandparents, and basically anyone who considers themselves as such.

Check out Part 1 and Part 2 of the conversation if you are into good podcasts.


Presenting Ayd Mill Road: The Music Video

Well, my dream has come true thanks to you, dear readers.

Presented without further ado, I give you Ayd Mill Road: The Music Video.

Experience the hit song "Ayd Mill Road" as you drive through Saint Paul's most infamous trench.




Twin City Doorways #56

[Hamline-Midway, Saint Paul.]

[La Crosse, WI.]

[Trempealeau, WI.]

[Trempealeau, WI.]

[Onalaska, WI.]

[La Crosse, WI.]

[La Crosse, WI.]

[University Avenue, Saint Paul.]


Reading the Highland Villager #247

[A stack of Villagers passing time at a deli.]
[Basically the problem is that the best source of Saint Paul streets & sidewalks news is the Highland Villager, a very fine and historical newspaper. This wouldn't be a problem, except that its not available online. You basically have to live in or frequent Saint Paul to read it. Until this newspaper goes online, sidewalk information must be set free. See also: Three Reasons Why I Re-Blog the Highland Villager.]

Headline: Public financing of $77.5M outlined for Ford project; Subsidy would help pay for parks, infrastructure and affordable housing
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The Ford Site, a former truck factory, is being redeveloped and, using tax increment financing, the city is helping pay for some of the streets to the tune of $77M. [This was always part of the deal.] The Governor showed up at the announcement ceremony, along with other municipal and developer notables. Article has some quotes from the speeches. the "development agreement" is coming hopefully by the end of the year. The developer had originally asked for $107M.  It'll be about three years until anyone moves in.

Headline: Selby-Snelling is seeing green despite departure of O'Gara's
Author: Frank Jossi

Short short version: A long-time Saint Paul bar tore itself down, developed a building where it used to be, and then announced it was not re-opening. They could not be reached for comment [but then held a press conference when the guy shat on the City for some reason, and just for fun blamed "tap rooms" even though there are many bars that make money somehow]. Article includes history of O'Gara's, and the corner in general. [See also my audio documentary about this corner.] Some people thing it's just fine, and even "booming."

Headline: St. Paul voters say 'yes' to organized trash collection
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There was a referendum on whether to keep the system where the city choose your trash hauling company for you and it passed overwhelmingly. [And that is the final word on the matter, folks. NBD.]

Headline: City adopts final impact study on Ford site
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There was a study to look at how the development of an old truck factory might affect things like the amount of seconds someone might be stuck in traffic at an intersection twenty years from now. [These studies are mostly useless, IMO.] CM Tolbert is "especially pleased with the plan's focus on traffic and suggestion for potential mitigation impacts." [Honestly, if we're still complaining about traffic in twenty years, we're all doomed.] The report has some other things in it about pollution and other [more important] things.

Headline: City Council reduces trash rates over objections of haulers
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city negotiates prices for city-wide garbage collection and they went down slightly. [Seems like a good system! Glad we have it.] Article contains a lot of words [for some reason].

Headline: St. Paul re-elects six incumbents to City Council; Thao, Noecker, Tolbert, Nelson outline their priorities for the next four years 
Author: Kevin Driscoll

Short short version: There was a city council election and all of the people in office won. [Dai Thao was pretty close to losing though, holy moly, especially when you consider the fact that he had all the money and most of the endorsements.]

Headline: Citizens, city officials address the rise in gun violence
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: People keep shooting and killing each other. Article mentions the "shotspotter" debate. [See also.]

Headline: Committee supports plan to narrow Ayd Mill Road to two lanes
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A neighborhood group met to discuss the plan for a smaller Ayd Mill Road and decided it was fine. Neighbors are not concerned about traffic and parking. Quote from article: "No one favored the city's earlier plan to simply resurface the roadway." [I never thought that either I and/or the Highland Villager would live long enough to see this article appear in the Highland Villager.]

Headline: Federation supports 7-story building on W. 7th
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: An vacant lot owned by an auto repair shop might become homes for 150+ people. The property needs to be rezoned. Article describes the property. Some neighbors are concerned about parking, but others are not. Quote from the article: "the project will have more than the required 90 spaces."

Headline: Grand Avenue's bus route in line for improvements
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A bus line that runs down Grand Avenue will have fewer stops so that it can go faster, maybe. [Currently it stops every block, sort of. This change seems great, and long overdue.]  


Signed Copies of "Closing Time: Saloons, Taverns, Dives, and Watering Holes of the Twin Cities" Now Available

I am happy to report that I have a box of my new book, "Closing Time: Saloons, Taverns, Dives, and Watering Holes of the Twin Cities" now available for purchase at my online store.

"Closing Time" tells the history of the Twin Cities through the stories and images of fifty (50) bars. Beginning in 1839 with Pig's Eye Parrant's saloon, and ending with Lyndale Avenue's CC Club, the book is full of fun anecdotes and stories of Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and the occasional suburb. 

I'm super pleased with how the book has turned out, and can't wait to get it into your hands. And now you can get it straight from me, and I'll even sign it however you like!

Here's the copy about the book:
In Closing Time, Bill Lindeke and Andy Sturdevant dive into tales from famous and infamous drinking establishments from throughout Twin Cities history. Readers are led on a multigenerational pub crawl through speakeasies, tied houses, rathskellers, cocktail lounges, gin mills, fern bars, social clubs, singles bars, gastropubs, and dives. Featuring beloved bars like Matt’s, Palmer’s, the Payne Reliever, and Moby Dick’s, the book also resurrects memories of long-forgotten establishments cherished in their day. Lindeke and Sturdevant highlight neighborhood dives, downtown nightspots, and out-of-the-way hideaways, many of which continue to thrive today. Closing Time brings together stories of these spaces and the people who frequented them. 
Includes bars like Matt's, Palmer's, the Payne Reliever, and Moby Dick's, (AND MANY MORE) the book also resurrects memories of long-forgotten establishments cherished in their day. Lindeke and Sturdevant highlight neighborhood dives, downtown nightspots, and out-of-the-way hideaways, many of which continue to thrive today.

And here are some excerpts:

Order yours today. Limited supplies!

[Black Forest Inn.]

[Half Time Rec.]

[Spot Bar chapter.]