and Mary McIntosh. Not only had no man ever been paid a ‘family wage’, it was argued, but also the very idea of the family wage hid the fact that many women were either primary or important, if supplementary, earners and that women were paid less then men for work ‘of the same value’. Inevitably these views threw the socialist and Marxist feminist movement into conflict with the trade union and labour movement. As Bea Cambell and Val Charlton wrote in 1979: ‘the labour movement has managed to combine a commitment to equal pay with a commitment to the family wage, you can’t have both’.
As pointed out by Shelia Rowbotham and Veronica Beechey, dual systems theorists, often referred to as socialist feminists, tended to separate out economic and sex relations: accommodating gender analysis within an exposition of patriarchy, rather than forcing the economic analysis of Marxism to answer the questions outlined above. Patriarchy and capitalism can be considered to be analytically distinct, with their own interests, laws of motion and patterns of contradiction and conflict resolution. The intersection of the systems is a contingent fact and can be less than smooth. But the twin track approach can supplement the sex-blind Marxist categories and make explicit the systematic character of relations between men and women. Marxism cannot answer why women are subordinate to men inside and outside the family and why it is not the other way round, whereas, according to Hartmann, feminist analysis can expose the fact that patriarchy has a material basis in men’s control over women’s labour power. The family wage debate noted above is one example of the resolution of conflict over women’s labour power occurring between patriarchal and capitalist interests. Mitchell contended that the two systems are theoretically irreducible and argued that there had been a tendency in Marxism towards reductionism, such that the function and role of reproduction, sexuality and socialisation were taken to be determined by the economic base (Mitchell, 1971). Indeed, in Psychoanalysis and Feminism, she suggested that the causes of women’s oppression are buried deep in the human psyche.