Prior to the recent global crisis a consensus was emerging that post-Fordism had ushered in a new sexual contract, one characterized not by exclusion and containment, but by the prospecting for potential, a prospecting that located women’s labor not as a reserve for capital but as a site of vitality and possibility. The global financial crisis and ongoing recession, however, have been positioned as undoing these radical transformations in women’s labor by threatening a return of the social formations characteristic of Fordism. Yet in this essay I suggest that to understand the ongoing recession as producing such a return is to thoroughly misapprehend value production in post-Fordism and, in particular, to bracket the process of the folding of the economy into society. To illustrate this process, I focus on unemployment, specifically the eventful productiveness of unemployment in recessionary post-Fordism. Confronting this eventful productiveness necessitates not only a recognition of a material reworking of unemployment in post-Fordism, but also undoes the idea that the ongoing recession is linked to a return to the social formations of Fordism. This essay therefore posits that unemployment is a crucial site for the theorization of post-Fordist labor, including the ongoing, radical reworking of the potentialities of female labor.
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