[1] Is the capitalist appropriation of labour the only form of appropriation within the society, or, there is also patriarchal form of appropriation? For the fathers of Marxist thought, the capitalist appropriation of labour is the only dynamic which shapes the conditions of women within society. In Origin, Engels states that women’s participation in the labour force undermines men’s control over women within the working class family. Harry Braverman also argues that the market provides all the products and services provided by women within the home. Thus, for him, women will be disassociated from housework and pulled into the realm of free wage labour.[2]

However, Turkey demonstrates a peculiar case where capitalism provides jobs for men but not women. The level of women’s paid employment in Turkey is almost half of the countries with the same level of capitalist development (i.e. Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Malaysia, and South Africa). Turkey is in the top 20 per cent of worldwide manufacturers. However, its rank drops to the bottom 10 per cent when it comes to women’s paid employment.

Why is the majority of free wage labour in Turkey undertaken by men? In order to answer this question, I have investigated to what extent men’s appropriation of women’s labour has shaped the Turkish capitalist development. I argue that the male dominance of landownership, the dominance of small medium scale farms, and female unpaid family workers are the distinguishing features of Turkish agriculture. As the family mediates the surplus extraction relationship as the heads of households, men have established a strong control over women within small medium scale farms. Thus, women are not simply ‘free’ to join the free wage-labour. As a result, men’s appropriation of women’s labour within agriculture has shaped the trajectories of capitalism and patriarchy in Turkey.

Why is it important to analyse the conditions of patriarchal appropriation of labour? An attempt to investigate the ways in which men benefit from women’s labour is important with regards to assessing whether or not patriarchy can be reduced to a matter of gendered norms and behaviours. This attempt also contributes to a discussion about the relationship between patriarchy and capitalism by demonstrating that the advanced stages of capitalist development do not inevitably diminish patriarchal appropriation. In doing so, it supports the feminist movement in developing an effective fight back strategy.

In this article, first of all, I will investigate the historical preconditions for the male dominance of landownership in Turkey. Afterwards, I will briefly explain the implications of patriarchal appropriation over the proletarianisation process. Finally, I will discuss whether or not the capitalist appropriation of labour is the only form of appropriation within the society

What are the preconditions for the male dominance of landownership in Turkey?In order to answer this question, I have investigated historical evidence from the nineteenth-century Ottoman Empire onwards. Here, I will summarise the preliminary findings of my research. First of all, I will explain the reasons for the dominance of peasant proprietorship. Later, I will explore the dynamics that maintain male dominance over land ownership.


Karl Marx argues that at the initial stage of capitalism, the great masses of men and women are “suddenly and forcibly torn from their means of subsistence, and hurled as free and ―unattached proletarians on the labour-market” (Marx, 1976a: 876). Nevertheless, within the third volume of Capital, where he investigates the conditions of petty commodity production within agriculture, he emphasises the possibility of small producer to exploit others’ labour:

“In this form, too, greater differences arise in the economic condition of individual immediate producers. There is at least the possibility of this, and the possibility for the immediate producer to obtain the means whereby he may exploit the labour of others” (Marx, 1976b: 931, my emphasis)

The evidence from the historical context of Turkey implies that under the particular conditions, men dispossess women of the land and exploit women’s labour within agriculture. Therefore, the capitalist appropriation of labour is not the only form of appropriation. There is also patriarchal appropriation that relies on men’s exploitation of women’s labour. While, the bourgeois class’ exploitation of surplus value is the only form of capitalist appropriation, patriarchal appropriation has two different forms: 1) men’s exploitation of women’s domestic labour within the home, and 2) men’s exploitation of women’s labour within agriculture. Furthermore, as the appropriation of labour is purely a social relationship, as appropriators, men constantly need to utilise the state, family, violence, sexuality, and the cultural and religious conditions in a way which maintains the power of patriarchal appropriation. Finally, there is neither a one-sidedly determining relationship between capitalism and patriarchy, nor does capitalism supply the motor power of social transformation. Both patriarchy and capitalism mutually shape each other.


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[1] A different version of this paper is presented in the conference, titledThe strength of Critique: Trajectories of Marxism – Feminism, organised by Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung (Berlin, 20-22 March 2015). I want to thank Kate McNicholas Smith for her helpful suggestions and criticisms. I also want to thank the editors of Hysteria magazine for their generous help with the English language.

[2] The objects of work (raw materials) and the instruments of work (roads, tools, machines) together are called the means of production. The private ownership of the means of production in the hands of the bourgeois class is a prerequisite for the capitalist appropriation. Labourers must be separated from the means of production through the proletarianisation process so they cannot produce and sell the product of their labour. Thus, the free wage labour is a key feature of capitalism.



MARX, K. 1976a. Capital: A Critique of Political Economy (Vol I), England: Penguin Books.

MARX, K. 1976b. Capital: A Critique of Political Economy (Vol III), England: Penguin Books.


Artwork © NIL YALTER

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