"The flipside of progress is shit. The concept of shit, in fact, of something both disgusting and superfluous -- and disgusting precisely because superfluous -- is uniquely capitalist; is uniquely the product of a surplus-producing economy. Only within an economic system predicated upon not only the possibility but the exigency of excess, surplus, profit -- only within such an economic and cultural system can there be a concept of uselessness, discardability, flushability."
When Barbara Ehrenreich writes, "Almost everything we buy, after all, is the product of some other person's suffering and miserably underpaid labor," she not only establishes the political significance of underpaid labor - a point she makes throughout her essay - but also of individual, consumerist choices: choices seemingly inconsequential, because their consequences are made invisible (in order for some to freely reap the benefits). In the spirit of Cynthia Enloe, I pose the question: what does delimiting "the political" do? For "the political" just may be as infinite as the questions not asked -and, thus, unexplored: so, rather than speaking of the political importance of "shit" work, perhaps it would be more productive to consider the political consequences of devaluing such work as "shit" (shit work/work shat (?))- situating that which has been situated as worthless at the forefront of the discussion.
The intention of my curiosity on this issue stems from Ehrenreich's discussion at the conclusion of her essay, "Maid to Order," where she illuminates the "consequence-abolishing effect" of constantly being cleaned up after - of regarding oneself as free from recognizing the waste one produces; which does produce an effect (and an affect), that is not inconsequential (or invisible - not to those upon whom it weighs). Shit, of course, is, by definition, an adverse category - on the hierarchy of value, "shit" is by far the lowest variant - and, as Ehrenreich states, those whose livelihoods depend upon the waste of others are expelled from the vault of value: flushed away, as it were, out of sight - out of mind - out of political discourse. What Ehrenreich aims to propose at the close of her essay is a transvaluation of 'shit'; suggesting that Were 'shit' to be made visible, the consequences of individual waste would be made visible as well.