The Fracturing of LGBT Identities under Neoliberal Capitalism

in Historical Materialism

Abstract

Historians have linked the emergence of contemporary lesbian/gay identities to the development of capitalism. A materialist approach should also look at different forms of sexual identity, and their connections with specific phases of capitalist development. Marxist long-wave theory can help us understand how the decline of Fordism contributed to shifts in LGBT identities, speeding the consolidation of gay identity while fostering the rise of alternative sexual identities. These alternative identities, sometimes defined as ‘queer’, characterised by sexual practices that are still stigmatised, by explicit power-differentials and above all by gender-nonconformity, are particularly common among young and disadvantaged working-class strata. The growing diversity of identities is a challenge to any gay universalism that neglects class, gender, sexual, racial/ethnic and other differences, to the currently dominant forms of lesbian/gay organising, and ultimately to the prevailing division of human beings into gay and straight.1

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    Butler 1999.

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