Capitalism and Heterosexism: Butler & Fraser

christian a. gregory driver at
Sat Jul 11 09:02:13 PDT 1998


i wrote a response to butler that nlr didn't take--though their reasons we're interesting, it's a different story. (i've attached it, just in case you want to peruse). but i think both butler (and fraser, to a lesser extent) ask the wrong questions and frame them badly. by my lights, neither place the "institutions" that they are talking about--historically, economically, socially, geopolitically (etc). for example, as fraser pointed out in her response to butler, judy, in writing an (extremely dubious) history of the alliances between feminism, psychoanalysis, and marxism, trots out mauss and levi-strauss to question the opposition between culture and economy in neo-liberal industrialized societies. hello? likewise, for all their talk about "capitalism," neither of them seems to have developed a notion of what that means, what its history is (etc), what might or might not be the "original" inflections of its current regime of accumulation (etc.) and attendant cultural forms. and, of course, all this depends on the location you're in and talking about. so, when fraser talks about gays not having participatory parity, i'm asking "who? where?" not because i think they do, but because "parity" is a vaguely defined promise, and "culture" is a pretty nebulous agent of oppression.

so, this is a long way of saying that i agree with you. "relations of recognition" seems like another way to talk about bourdieu's notion of habitus. and that, as we know, is built on the notion of distinction, and (as he argues, but no one seems to mind) an historically particular moment in the history of capital (his material in _distinction_ is drawn from the period from '56-64). another of his points, however, is to question the opposition between a specific historical moment and a generalizable principle--something neither butler nor fraser does.

all of which, i guess, is to say "we have to name the system" (as jameson says) so we know what we're working on. "heterosexism and capitalism" don't do the trick, as far as i'm concerned.

best christian

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