Homosexuality and surplus value

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at SPAMosu.edu
Sun Dec 3 10:58:03 MST 2000

Lou Paulsen writes:

>  >[Yoshie:]
>>However, one cannot equate "living under the heavy hand of the
>>Church" with "pre-capitalist social relations."  Not everyone in the
>>world was Christian before the rise of capitalism.
>>Even under Christianity, there were great variations in terms of
>>treatment of sex.
>>If religion (esp. Christianity) & pre-capitalist social relations
>>were the causes of the oppression of homosexuals & bisexuals, Japan
>>(which has never been Christian or even religious in the Western
>>sense for that matter) would not be homophobic & heterosexist today.
>  >The problem is capitalist modernity.
>Hmm.  Yoshie, your argument works only against people who argue that
>"pre-capitalist social relations" would have the same effects EVERYWHERE
>with regard to creating sexual oppression.  What about someone who would
>argue that the particular pre-capitalist social relations in Europe created
>forms of sexual oppression , possibly for particular reasons that aren't
>basic to the feudal economy, which were NOT reproduced in pre-capitalist
>Japan (etc.), but which have survived into the present day and which have
>subsequently been spread worldwide through the process of imperialist

The problem is that even in the area now called Europe
"pre-capitalist social relations" did not necessarily involve the
prohibition of same-sex eroticism & activities at all.  Ancient
Athens is another good example of a pre-capitalist society which was
_patriarchal, instead of homophobic & heterosexist_.

As John Boswell, etc. have shown, the rise of Christianity alone was
not responsible for the persecution of same-sex eroticism &
activities either.  Only during the _late_ feudal/_early_ modern
period did England & several other "European" powers give rise to the
secular -- as opposed to ecclesiastical -- criminalization of sodomy
for political reasons: struggles against the old tributary empires &
the Catholic Church, in the process of the creation of the national
state, national culture, national language, & national church;
primitive accumulation that targeted the land holdings of the
monasteries, etc.

However, prohibition of sodomy (non-procreative _acts_) and
persecution of homosexuals (a specific _category of individuals_)
cannot be conflated.  The latter is the result of industrialization &
urbanization which created sexual identities -- homo, hetero, & bi --
upon which persecutions are based: in other words, the
nineteenth-century affairs, in which new "sciences" of psychology,
psychoanalysis, etc. played a formative ideological role.

These modern categories have come to spread worldwide to a certain
extent, yes, but they exist on the margins of older homosocial
patriarchal regimes in some countries (for instance, Mine's example
of Pakistan).

>If oppression of lesbians, gays, bi- and trans people is to be attributed to
>'capitalist modernity', I rather think that you have to attribute it to an
>OLD form of 'capitalist modernity', because it seems that what you have had
>for the last 50 years in the imperialist countries has been a shift in the
>terms of sexual oppression toward a much more bourgeois, much more
>market-oriented, much more commodified form.  In unpublished stuff I have
>called this a 'bourgeois revolution in the private sphere'.

Do you mind posting your article here or sharing it with me offlist?

I agree that in recent decades, with the partial success of gay &
lesbian movements as well as feminist movements, more people than
ever have come to detach themselves from the short-lived hegemony of
the nuclear family (wife, husband, & biological children).  To the
extent that the control of families & communities over children,
women, & "sexual deviants" has weakened, it is safe to say that the
exploitation & oppression through the market have become more salient
than ever.  That said, it seems to me that one needs to pay attention
to combined & uneven development.  For instance, it is still
primarily women who raise children, so the revolution in the private
sphere has not commodified biological & social reproduction fully.
Moreover, capital will be unable to do so, since it is dependent upon
the non-commodified reproduction of labor power.


More information about the Marxism mailing list