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You are here: Platypus /Read and Discuss January 18 texts: gender, sexuality and revolution (Mitchell and D'Emilio)

Read and Discuss January 18 texts: gender, sexuality and revolution (Mitchell and D'Emilio)

January 18, 2009 readings

1960s paths not taken (2): gender, sexuality and revolution

“The situation of women is different from that of any other social group. This is because they are not one of a number of isolable units, but half a totality: the human species. . . . They are fundamental to the human condition, yet in their economic, social and political roles, they are marginal. It is precisely this combination — fundamental and marginal at one and the same time — that has been fatal to them.” (Juliet Mitchell, 1966)

Participants of SAIC, MIT, NYU, and University of Chicago reading group should post summaries/reflections of their discussions on the following readings:

· Juliet Mitchell, “Women: the Longest Revolution” (1966)
[revised version from Women's Estate (1971)]

Quintin Hoare, “On Mitchell’s ‘Women: the longest revolution’ “ (1967)

Mitchell, reply to Quintin Hoare (1967)

Clara Zetkin and V. I. Lenin, “My Recollections of Lenin: an interview on the woman question” (interview 1920)

Lynne Segal, “Psychoanalysis and Politics: Juliet Mitchell then and now” (2000)

· John D’Emilio, “Capitalism and Gay Identity” (1973)

Theodor W. Adorno, "Sexual Taboos and the Law Today" (1963)

One comment

  • Posted 10 years ago

    The Mitchell reading is central to this reading group discussion and is the most theoretically important. Mitchell’s debate with Quintin Hoare is not very important, but helps illustrate the kind of “Marxism” from which Mitchell was departing, both politically and analytically-theoretically.

    D’Emilio’s article is an excellent attempt to push beyond the bounds of traditional Marxist approaches to understanding sexual life in relation to family and kinship structures. Both emphasize the historical character of the questions they take under consideration, specifically how the historical dimension is itself a function of capitalism, of the effects on concrete ways of life of the historically-specific and very peculiar capital dynamic.

    Clara Zetkin’s interview needs to be read “against the grain,” for trying to understand why revolutionary Marxists were not lifestylists (even though they had many contemporaries who tried to politicize personal life). But it would be a mistake to think Lenin was a philistine or a prude! Rather the issue of the relation of sexual life to politics is centrally posed here.

    Adorno’s essay, like Mitchell (and Lenin) points to the fact that it is difficult if not impossible to prognose the concrete character of an emancipated future from within the distortions of life under capital in the present.

    The question is how modern life makes all sorts of pursuit of new and different forms of concrete human life possible while only allowing the expression of such possibilities in pathological forms — including the pathology of trying to “repress” these possibilities.

    Lynne Segal’s profile of Mitchell “then and now” is entirely symptomatic. Read this to see how affirmative accounts of dominated life mask themselves as a “radical” rejection of the “normative,” and how Mitchell’s authentically radical critique of gender and sexuality under capital could be mistaken by the post-’60s “postmodern” sensibilities as being “conservative!”

    Mitchell, D’Emilio and Adorno (and Lenin!) are all, by contrast, expressing possibilities of theory and practical political orientation that went unrealized or have been otherwise suppressed. They point to a Marxian departure on such questions that was never pursued and has since become a historical curiosity, and therefore fertile ground for our retrospective reconsideration.

    by Chris Cutrone on January 18, 2009 2:42 pm

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