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Feminist Demands and the Problem of Housework

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 March 2022

Harvard University, United States
Katrina Forrester, Assistant Professor of Government and Social Studies, Department of Government, Harvard University, United States,


This article develops an account of demand-making and provides a novel framework for evaluating the demands and strategies of social movements. It explores three features of demands, arguing that they disclose social conditions, create constituencies, and set the horizons of the world that social movements seek to build. It does so by considering two feminist demands: the demand for wages for housework and for the socialization of housework. By revisiting revolutionary feminism in the 1970s, it contrasts two strategic perspectives articulated in debates about housework: what Selma James called the “perspective of winning” and what I call the “perspective of investment,” a strategy for change that sees short-term reforms as investments in long-term transformations. In light of this, I endorse the demand to socialize housework as apt for the contemporary care economy and show how my account of demand-making contributes to the political theory of social movements by clarifying movement demands for “non-reformist reforms,” such as defund the police.

Research Article
© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the American Political Science Association

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