Monday, October 20, 2008

The self defeating nature…

Of right-wing politics' espousal of capitalism.

I think that John D'Emilio draws some fascinating conclusions about the way that the project of Capitalism is one that contradicts the strength of the classically defined family. Read his article here. Essentially he points out that with the advent of Capitalisms 'free labour' market, the family needed to shift its identity. Formerly when the family was the locus of production and was essentially self sustaining sexual identity (as a way to define yourself) did not exist. Sex was essential to procreation to produce labourers that sustained the family fortune. When individuals sought employment outside the home and no longer required the home to be the main source of production (since they could essentially purchase the products they needed). Sex, then, gradually came to be experienced as more dominantly an emotional expression and experience. As such D'Emilio contends that people were now free to form a sexual identity which was not available to them previously. His contention is that homosexuality became an identity at that point – not just an act. He points to several crucial historical events that he feels have shaped the growth of homosexuality in the last hundred years. I'm not nearly as interested in D'Emilio's claims to the establishment of the homosexual identity – even though I would find them mostly amenable. What I am really interested with is how he frames the oppositional nature that the essence of the family is to capitalist ideology.

"Finally, I have suggested that the relationship between capitalism and the family is fundamentally contradictory. On the one hand, capitalism weakens the material foundation of family life, making it possible for individuals to live outside the family, and for a lesbian and gay male identity to develop. On the other hand, it needs to push men and women into families, at least long enough to reproduce the next generation of workers. The elevation of the family to ideological pre-eminence guarantees that capitalist society will reproduce not just children but also heterosexism and homophobia. In the most profound sense, capitalism is the problem."

Bigotry of any form is certainly not foundational to the values of western society (let alone Christian values). And it is not that D'Emilio blames the family for the problem of bigotry rather the contradictory nature of capitalism to nature of the family. I think he coyly hints that the rise in divorce rate could be attributable to this contradiction as well. What is interesting is that right wing politics which has advocated more strict adherence to capitalistic principles in regards to economy is also the 'side' that claims to most ardently defend the nature – essence of the family. It also occurs to me that the rhetoric around the moral defence of the family serves only to heighten the tension that produces hatred toward people who choose alternate lifestyles. These idea could apply far more broadly to include racial and economic prejudice.

Again, I am not sure that D'Emilio's solutions in the last few paragraphs of this text are ones I agree with but I think there could be some value, for those of us who defend the family (of which I am one) as the essential component to a healthy society, in talking about how our ideological frameworks inform our political positions.


roverT said...

hmmmm...very interesting.

Paul Morgun said...

I find this fascinating!