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Capitalism and Gay Identity

John D'Emilio

"[P]ersonal autonomy is only half the story. The instability of families and the sense of impermanence and insecurity that people are now experiencing in their personal relationships are real social problems that need to be addressed. We need political solutions for these difficulties of personal life. These solutions should not come in the form of a radical version of the pro-family position. . . . We do need, however, structures and programs that will help to dissolve the boundaries that isolate the family, particularly those that privatize childrearing. We need community- or worker-controlled daycare, housing where privacy and community coexist, neighborhood institutions--from medical clinics to performance centers--that enlarge the social unit where each of us has a secure place. As we create structures beyond the nuclear family that provide a sense of belonging, the family will wane in significance. Less and less will it seem to make or break our emotional security. . . . The building of an 'affectional community' must be as much a part of our political movement as are campaigns for civil rights. In this way we may prefigure the shape of personal relationships in a society where autonomy and security do not preclude each other but coexist."    read more


On 'Cruel Optimism'

Lauren Berlant

"I define 'cruel optimism' as a kind of relation in which one depends on objects that block the very thriving that motivates our attachment in the first place. . . . Cruel Optimism asks: Why is it so hard to leave those forms of life that don’t work?  Why is it that, when precariousness is spread throughout the world, people fear giving up on the institutions that have worn out their confidence in living? . . . I want better objects for better optimism (there’s a slogan!).  But to achieve this we need to move our analyses of the historical present into the exploratory mode that crisis, regardless, forces us to occupy.  This is not a time for assurance but for experiment—to have patience with failure, with trying things out, to try new forms of life that also might not work—which doesn’t make them worse than what’s there now.  It is a time for using the impasse that we’re in to learn something about how to imagine better economies of intimacy and labor."    read more


Beside Oneself: On the Limits of Sexual Autonomy

Judith Butler

"kinship ties that bind persons to one another may well be no more or less than the intensification of community ties, may or may not be based on enduring or exclusive sexual relations, may well consist of ex-lovers, nonlovers, friends, and community members. The relations of kinship cross the boundaries between community and family and sometimes redefine the meaning of friendship as well. When these modes of intimate association produce sustaining webs of relationships, they constitute a 'breakdown' of traditional kinship that displaces the presumption that biological and sexual relations structure kinship centrally. In addition, the incest taboo that governs kinship ties, producing a necessary exogamy, does not necessarily operate among friends in the same way or, for that matter, in networks of communities. Within these frames, sexuality is no longer exclusively regulated by the rules of kinship at the same time that the durable tie can be situated outside of the conjugal frame. Sexuality becomes open to a number of social articulations that do not always imply binding relations or conjugal ties. That not all of our relations last or are meant to, however, does not mean that we are immune to grief. On the contrary, sexuality outside the field of monogamy well may open us to a different sense of community, intensifying the question of where one finds enduring ties, and so become the condition for an attunement to losses that exceed a discreetly private realm."  read more


the social reproduction of sexuality

Alan Sears

"I think the social reproduction frame helps us make sense of the contradictory gains that have been made, and therefore contributes to figuring out the next steps in sexual liberation. The crucial contribution is to show how sexuality and gender are nested in a whole set of relations of “life-making” organized around specific divisions of labor and hierarchies of dispossession. We can’t have real sexual liberation without addressing the ways our bodies and our lives are enmeshed in relations of work, household, and market, and regulated by the state."  full interview


To Our Friends

The Invisible Committee

"Freedom and surveillance, freedom and the panopticon belong to the same paradigm of government. Historically, the endless expansion of control procedures is the corollary of a form of power that is realized through the freedom of individuals. Liberal government is not one that is exercised directly on the bodies of its subjects or that expects a filial obedience from them. It’s a background power, which prefers to manage space and rule over interests rather than bodies. A power that oversees, monitors, and acts minimally, intervening only where the framework is threatened, against that which goes too far. Only free subjects, taken en masse, are governed. Individual freedom is not something that can be brandished against the government, for it is the very mechanism on which government depends, the one it regulates as closely as possible in order to obtain, from the amalgamation of all these freedoms, the anticipated mass effect. Ordo ab chao. Government is that order which one obeys 'like one eats when hungry and covers oneself when cold,' that servitude which I co-produce at the same time that I pursue my happiness, that I exercise my 'freedom of expression.' 'Market freedom requires an active and extremely vigilant politics,' explained one of the founders of neoliberalism. For the individual, monitored freedom is the only kind there is. This is what libertarians, in their infantilism, will never understand, and it’s this incomprehension that makes the libertarian idiocy attractive to some hackers. A genuinely free being is not even said to be free. It simply is, it exists, deploys its powers according to its being. We say of an animal that it is en liberte, 'roaming free,' only when it lives in an environment that’s already completely controlled, fenced, civilized: in the park with human rules, where one indulges in a safari. 'Friend' and 'free' in English, and 'Freund' and 'frei' in German come from the same Indo-European root, which conveys the idea of a shared power that grows. Being free and having ties was one and the same thing. I am free because I have ties, because I am linked to a reality greater than me. In ancient Rome, the children of citizens were liberi : through them, it was Rome that was growing. Which goes to show how ridiculous and what a scam the individual freedom of 'I do what I feel like doing' is." full text