(2008) Rethinking Difference, Rethinking Deference
It’s impossible to understand how to organize cooperatively without focusing on ‘sexual difference’, the French philosopher Luce Irigaray’s category for what has not yet been thought within our ostensibly sexually indifferent symbolic structures, but which we must think if we are to confront how patriarchy and hierarchy mutually reinforce each other. In this study of the struggle to create the egalitarian workplace in five worker cooperatives in Buenos Aires, I will follow Irigaray’s argument that hierarchical relations will be continuously recreated if the patriarchal underpinnings of our symbolic structures which consign women always to the position of the lesser is not confronted. Workers and bosses come in two sexes: the individual without a sex does not exist, and to use the sexless individual as an analytical category simply obscures who has power and who does not. An absence of attention to sexual difference, which maintains that symbolically women are the same as men and experience the processes of organizing in exactly the same way, obscures rather than clarifies how we as women and men might organize in fully participatory, contiguous or non-hierarchical ways to get things done. Dismantling hierarchical relations between bosses and workers also means dismantling hierarchical relations between women and men: this study is an examination of what was accomplished in these five coops in terms of rethinking deference and rethinking difference.