Myths of Labor: Elements of an Economical Zoology

Author(s): Därmann, Iris


Labor is both punishment and curse.At least this is what the mythical scenes of division and exclusion in Hesiod and in the Old Testament dramatise.At the same time they can be regarded as symptoms of misogyny.Without doubt, those two mythical scenes and the divine power to curse and sentence have held their spell over the economic tractates from antiquity to the modern period. How do the ancient writings of economic theory—and specifically Aristotle’s Politics and Ethics—regulate female Pleonexia on the one hand, and the limitless penal labor imposed on men on the other? How in turn do the economic tractates of the modern period—and here specifically John Locke’s famous essays on the economy of labor—respond to the problem of female hybris on the one hand and the characteristical burden and suffering associated with labor on the other? What role does the differentiation and separation between free and unfree, productive and reproductive labor and, not least, the economic marginalisation of reproductive labor, play in this? And finally: In what way do »King Bee« and Queen Bee, Nurse Bee and Drone appear in this context as figures of an at once mythical and economic zoology, whose emblematic efficacy extends up to Bernard Mandeville’s Fable of the Bees?

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Preferred Citation
Därmann, Iris: Myths of Labor: Elements of an Economical Zoology. In: ZMK Zeitschrift für Medien- und Kulturforschung, Jg. 5 (2014), Nr. 1, S. 41-58. DOI:
 author = {Därmann, Iris},
 title = {Myths of Labor: Elements of an Economical Zoology},
 year = 2014,
 doi = "\url{}",
 volume = 5,
 address = {Hamburg},
 journal = {ZMK Zeitschrift für Medien- und Kulturforschung},
 number = 1,
 pages = {41--58},
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