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Tag: queer

Capitalism and Gay Identity

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The Birth and Short Lived Life of Gay Marxism: Capitalism And Gay Identity in Context*  by Rosemary Hennessy

The Stonewall uprising in New York City in June 1969 was the most immediate catalyst for the formation of the gay liberation movement. Before the end of the summer of 1969, the Gay Liberation Front had formed in the United States, and within the following year gay liberation groups sprang into existence across the country (D’Emilio 1983, 232–33). Gay liberation was itself an outcome of the adjustments of late capitalism that spawned the general international insurgency circa 1968. Most immediately, it was inspired by the black power movement and the rise of feminism — both of which included fractions that aimed to articulate the historical relationship between culture and class, local and global forces. As in much of the New Left, there was general agreement within gay liberation thinking that capitalism was oppressive. Many gay liberation manifestos at least rhetorically drew connections between capitalism and repressive sexuality, racism and imperialism. But the gay liberation movement was by no means thoroughly influenced by marxism or a united socialist front, and its internal debates sorted out in what seem in hindsight to be predictable ways. There were those who, despite references to capitalism, basically focused on and advocated for cultural change, and there were those more avowedly marxist groups that stressed that political and cultural concerns needed to be linked to more global economic structures in some way.1

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On Queer Privilege

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In these intersectional times, it will not, I hope, be too controversial of a claim to suggest that, in different contexts and at different moments, hierarchies of power shift, and with them the relationship of different groups and individuals to what we have come to call “privilege.” Among the most common expressions of privilege as it is widely understood is a certain priority of speech: the right to be listened to, to be taken seriously, to be seen and heard as speaking from a position of conceptual and experiential authority. That priority of speech is often accompanied by the tacit assumption of an equivalent moral priority.

I would like to speak about something I can only call “queer privilege.”

Queer privilege is not everywhere. Even after decades of activism and “theory,” there is still a bigoted wide world out there, full of enforced normativity, compulsory heterosexuality, and relentless, violent policing. That goes without saying. Plenty are the spaces where queers are still shunned, vilified, or punished. But there are also spaces where the opposite is true. Activist spaces, social justice spaces, critical theory spaces; universities and meetings and small presses. Oh, and Tumblr. In these spaces, where a generalized ideology of anti-normativity holds sway, queerness is a badge of honor, a marker of specialness, and a source of critical and moral authority: in short, a form of privilege. It is the privilege that allows social justice discourse to use the phrase “cis white patriarchy” a shorthand for everything that is wrong with the world; it is the privilege that allows academics like Lee Edelman and Tim Dean to claim not only a value but an ethical imperative for non-reproductive sexual acts; it is the privilege that leads people who have never had sex with someone of the same gender to write impassioned essays about their choice to identify as queer because of their discomfort at being identified with the oppressive forces behind the label “straight.” Queer privilege is what allows a tenured NYU professor, tongue supposedly in cheek, to talk about starting a “barstool-roots movement for left wing urban homosexuals,” as if it’s heterosexuality that keeps most people from drinking in the West Village while they theorize and not the fact that they have to work 3 jobs and don’t have tenure at one of the most powerful universities in the world.

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Nothing but Violence

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Communism for Children by Bini Adamczak is not even out in English for a while, and yet its already getting praised by the left (critical-theory.com) and attacked by the right (national review).

From the National Review: “It’s always tempting to get sucked into the fascinating boredom of Marxist dialectic. In this case the author seems to be setting up the story for some kind of reversal wherein the apparent utopia turns out to be false and another start must be made toward the immanentization of true communism — which, like the English-language edition of Adamczak’s book, is always right around the corner but never quite gets here. Since applied Marxism has to date produced nothing but violence, there is plenty of material for stories where things don’t quite work out. Google translates the book’s title as Communism: A Short History, like finally everything will be different, and if that slightly blasé tone comes across in the original German, it suggests a kind of millennial “whatever” attitude toward the promises of the past. Commies are always sure they won’t get fooled again.”

From Critical-Theory:  “The book uses a children’s book language in order to tell the story of capitalism and six different trials of its overcoming,” Adamczak tells us. Though it should be noted, Adamczak claims the book is for people of all ages. “Communism for Children” was originally published in German in 2004 by the leftie independent publisher Unrast. Adamczak got the idea for the book after a conference called “Indeterminate! Kommunismus” (English: “Indeterminate! Communism”) in Frankfurt. That conference, she notes “was the first attempt after 1990 to really promote the term communism after the fall of the Soviet Union. It attempted to free it from its Stalinist heritage and reuse it as an assemblage for different currents and movements on the left. It was highly anti-dogmatic, very open. Not party-based, but an association of anti-racist, queer feminist, and anti-capitalist movements.” The book takes a “queer communist” approach to telling the story of capital. Everybody in the book is somehow female,” Adamczak tells us, “but there are as many different shades of femininity as there are people.