In Wisconsin, Coercive Police Force Can Now Be Used TO COLLECT LIBRARY LATE FEES

WI Library Bill

In a turn that conjures scenes from Seinfeld with officer Bookman, library cop, the Wisconsin state Assembly passed a bill that allows libraries to call the police on people who have late fees. The bill passed the WI assembly on Tuesday February 16 and it passed the senate last week. It now goes to the desk of Scott Walker to be signed.

Public libraries are a service that are paid for by everyone in society and a service that is meant for everyone in society. In a way, the dissemination of books among the public is exactly what the purpose of the library is.

Libraries are disproportionately used by women overall and disproportionately by Black folks and Hispanics for internet usage¹. This bill will disproportionately impact Wisconsin’s homeless, women, as well as Hispanic and Black residents.

The involvement of the police in library operation is an overreach and it is a recipe for disaster. As the Black Lives Matter movement has made clear over the last year, interacting with the police can lead to fatal conclusions, even more so when the interaction is between police and Black males, transgender and people with mental disabilities. Using the state apparatus that has the legal right to use force and to escalate situations quickly to collect on fines from somebody who is trying to better themselves but does not have the resources to buy all the books they need themselves, is a policy that is shortsighted and ignorant of the violent and repressive role that police play in this society.


For More on the Repressive Role of Police in Society

Besides from being disastrously dangerous for the citizens of Wisconsin, this bill will put even more obstacles in the way of citizens who use the library’s book and internet services to better themselves, find jobs and make money on the internet. It will serve to further the income gap in WI, disproportionately among Blacks and Hispanics.

This attack on public services should be seen as part of the neo-liberal agenda of the Scott Walker government. This is yet another maneuver to put the burden of the financial crisis, that Walker has failed to address, on the backs of the homeless, poor, women, Hispanics and Black Wisconsinites. Although this would arguably do little to alleviate government spending and might even cost more than it saves, it is indicative of the neo-liberal ideology of austerity for the people and a nanny like relationship between the state and corporations.


For More on Neoliberalism

If Wisconsinites are having trouble returning library materials then why punish them? What is so bad about a government, that we pay for, buying books for its citizens? If folks are in a position that they can’t return library materials, then the issue is not lack of punitive measures but lack of public infrastructure, we need better public transportation and a rail system that runs often and is cheap or free.

If people are truly stealing library material, the solution is to address the reason that they feel they need to steal books in the first place. If a Wisconsinite is in a position that they need to steal books to survive then the answer is not more punitive measures, it is an income inequality issue.

If libraries are strapped for cash and materials so bad that they need to use the police to collect, then the real solution is to give them more money. We need more social services, not more police!

1.) “Libraries at the Crossroads”, Chapter 1: Who Uses Libraries and What They do at Their Libraries.


Social Reproduction and Personal Responsibity


The way the economy was setup in the middle ages resulted in different modes of production than today. The peasant would need to produce all of the things that the peasant needed to survive, without help from others. They needed to make sure there was a roof over their head and that they were producing enough food so they don’t starve to death and to pay off the local king or nobleman. This meant that the peasant would need to make their own buckets, shovels, pitchforks, candles, clothes etc.

In the modern capitalist economy, people don’t create what they need to reproduce themselves individually, such things are now produced collectively. We come together, albeit not necessarily by choice, and manufacture things like brooms, buckets, soap, food etc.

The production of things everyone in society requires to survive is done by everyone in society, the global workforce. This means that we all benefit from having people in society who work. We will ignore the fact that it is actually the capitalist class, the 1%, that benefit most from the labor of workers.

During the years of early capitalism the bosses would force displaced peasants to work morning day in night in deplorable conditions in hazardous conditions. The resulting average life span for an early worker was extremely small, they were being worked to death. This was profitable because the more hours a laborer worked in a day the more profit the bosses would make, a concept that Karl Marx explained with his Labor Theory of Value.


To Learn More About the Labor Theory Of Value, Check Out This Book

Capitalists worked early proletarians to an early death. This posed a problem for the bosses. The problem of an ever decreasing workforce. This turned out to be against the capitalist’s own interest because of the inherent need for the capitalist to expand production and expand business to be able to compete against other manufacturers on the free market. Expansion is a trait native to the capitalist economic system.

This conundrum, the need for an expanded workforce juxtaposed against the ability of the capitalist to profit more when a worker was forced to toil for long hours, meant that the bosses needed to rationalize their strategy going forward. The need of long work days and the need to expand in order to compete would need to be balanced. In addition, the capitalists now recognized the need for a living wage to be paid to the early proletariat, otherwise their workers would starve for want of food or freeze to death for want of shelter and not be able to come to work the next day.

It was clear that reproducing labor, reproducing the worker, was a fundamental need for the capitalist system. If the worker could not be reproduced, then the capitalist could not profit off of them. Social reproduction was necessary. Social because of the social nature of production we engage in under capitalism compared to earlier modes of production. Reproduction because workers need to feed themselves, shelter themselves and live a healthy life so they can return to work the next day.


Sharon Smith’s Book Provides a Detailed Analysis of Social Reproduction Theory

One area of social reproduction work that interests this author is child care and household work. These are things that are a necessity for the economic system to continue. When mothers raise children, feed families, wash dirty laundry and all of the peripheral work associated with these jobs, they do it not for themselves but for the good of everyone in society. Everyone benefits from our socialized mode of producing useful commodities when compared to individual modes of production such as the peasant making all their tools from scratch.

In order to pass on the responsibility and the costs for these roles that are fundamental building blocks of the capitalist system, the ruling class have a need to create a narrative of personal responsibility. By creating a narrative that sees women’s place as being in the home, the system uses sexism to pass off the costs of social reproduction squarely on the backs of women. The personal responsibility mantra operating alongside the protestant work ethic that is prevalent in this country serve as a boon to the system’s need to socialize the costs of reproducing workers.

This is the reason for the rise of the ideology that sees mothers with children in public places as a nuisance and not as someone you have a social responsibility to help. One can see the personal responsibility ideology in full effect when you see people offering their opinions to mothers about how they should be raising their children without the slightest inkling of an effort to actually help mothers with their kids. Fallacies of personal responsibility are the reason why mothers are over worked and under appreciated in today’s society. It is why so many mothers are enslaved by the exorbitant amount of work necessary to raise children without any help from the very society that they are doing the work for in the first place.

It still takes a village, unfortunately the village has been indoctrinated with the ideology of personal responsibility to such a degree that they no longer see it as their responsibility, even though it most certainly is.


Lise Vogel’s Groundbreaking Work on Women’s Oppression


Nuclear Families and Societies

If you think about it, the nuclear family is a necessity of class society. Whenever human beings were first able to produce enough agriculture such that there was excess, there needed to be a fundamental re-configuration of traditional familial structures.  This was needed so that accumulation of excess agricultural production was possible.

Traditionally, families were arranged communally. Whole communities were responsible for raising children, thus the phrase “it takes a village.” Entire communities did the sowing, maintaining, and harvesting of food from the land. The land was communally owned.

Due to the ingenuity and ability of human beings to come together in groups and rationally decide the best way to produce what was necessary for life, eventually, excess food was produced above and beyond what was required to keep everyone in the community alive. In these early societies women did not have as much opportunity to be involved in agricultural work because infant formula did not exist and biological circumstances dictated that they were in charge of child rearing. As humans became better and better at producing excess food, it was men who happened to be closest to this newly possible resource and therefore were in an advantaged position to take control of it.

Slowly, over time, excess began to accumulate, it was clear to the men who were in control of it that there was power in controlling it. Motivated by power, it became obvious that maintaining control of the excess would require an entirely different system to facilitate their desires for power.

In a communal family system where the land and familial responsibilities are shared equally with everyone, taking control of accumulated excess food production was impossible. Once you take control of the excess who do you spend it on? Where would the accumulated excess go once you died? Where would you get it from, the very land in which everyone owns together? Such a communal system was not conducive to seizing control of accumulated excess food production, something new was needed.

Origins Pic

To Learn More About the Origins of the Nuclear Family, Read This

Thus the concept of the nuclear family and private property were born. The nuclear family was a necessary development of class society due to the need to be able to seize control of excess accumulated food that was produced. The nuclear family arose not because it is “natural” “holy” or the right way to order society but rather because it was needed as an economic unit to maintain control of excess, of wealth. Now a man could seize control of wealth and be sure that it would not be redistributed to society as a whole when they spent it and when they passed away. Instead of the wealth going to everyone in the community upon the passing of the man who seized control, it would only be able to go to members of the man’s nuclear family.

Along the same vein, it was now important that the man knew who his offspring were whereas in the past it was not important since everything was shared with everyone anyways. The need for men to possess women arose so that it was certain who were members of the nuclear family acting as an economic unit he was a part of. Along comes patriarchy and subordination of women as yet another necessary mechanism for maintaining control of wealth.

Finally, land would need to be taken possession of. Otherwise how would the man be able to claim that whatever excess was produced was indeed his? From communal land only communal goods can be produced, that needed to change.

The advent of excess agricultural production required a paradigm shift in the way society was ordered so that the possession of excess agricultural production, of wealth,  was possible. This required the existence of a nuclear family, private property and a sexist patriarchal system of oppression of women.


Check This Out for More on Myths of Motherhood