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349 Philippine Sociological Review (2013) Vol. 61 pp.

349-370
John AndRew G. eVAnGeliStA
On Queer and Capital:
Borrowing Key Marxist
Concepts to Enrich
Queer Theorizing
This article puts Marxist and queer theories in conversation with one another
to advance thinking about gender and sexuality. I argue that Marxist concepts
such as class, mode of production, and struggle need to be borrowed to
sharpen queer theory. My arguments are situated in the context of the Philippine
literature that has examined the local queer experience. Such approach
productively re-imagines contemporary discourses and performances of
sexuality in Philippine society.
Keywords: queer theory, Marxist theory, gender, sexuality, class
350 Philippine Sociological Review (2013) Vol. 61 no. 2
Pink Money? (Photo by Rod Singh. First published in Anong Pangalan Mo Sa Gabi? by
UP Center for Womens Studies in cooperation with UP Babaylan and Babaylanes, Inc.)
351 Philippine Sociological Review (2013) Vol. 61
John Andrew G. Evangelista is an instructor from the Department of Sociology,
University of the Philippines-Diliman. Email the author at ejohnandrew@yahoo.
com.
The author thanks Dr. Nicole Curato for commenting on the manuscripts
earlier version; Gwyneth Aliga, Solina Bianca Agra and to the members of KAIBA
for their contributions in sharpening the analysis of this paper.
W
hen faced with questions about sexuality, one rarely thinks of
Marxism as a potential frame of analysis. Trends on studies
of sexuality and queer theory heavily draw from different
versions of constructionist epistemology rather than Marxist theorys
objectivist standpoint. This constructionist bent has been guiding Filipino
scholars in their account of sexuality. The works of Tan (2008), Garcia
(2004; 1994a; 1994b), Manalansan (1997), Johnson (1997), and Hart
(1968:211-46) are some examples that illustrate the dynamic construction
of gender identities.
This paper slightly diverges from these works by engaging in a
creative dialogue between Marxism and queer theory. I borrow key
Marxist concepts and use them in a way that enriches contemporary
queer analysis. I formulate an argument on the possibility of critically
deploying these key concepts in the context of sexuality studies and
contemporary queer theory. I argue that Marxist concepts, when treated
as partial and fractured can aid our understanding of sexual life.
The paper is structured in fve sections. The frst part characterizes
queer theory as the nemesis of Marxist theory. Here, I illustrate the
seeming disconnect between the two theories due to their epistemological
divergence. I continue the discussion in the second section by highlighting
the analytical tensions between the two. While Marxist theory emphasizes
the centrality of class as frame of analysis, queer theory celebrates the
partiality and fragmented nature of reality and identities. There are,
however, attempts to reconcile these perspectives. In the third section,
I briefy discuss Floyds work on Queer Marxism, a theoretical position
that seeks to fnd convergence between the two theories. This approach,
while promising, has several limitations. I argue in the fourth section for
the need to temper the deterministic tendency of Marxism and instead,
appropriate this vast body of work by borrowing concepts that can
352 Philippine Sociological Review (2013) Vol. 61 no. 2
sharpen queer theory. Among the concepts developed in the subsequent
sections include production and consumption, class identity, and struggle.
I conclude the paper by identifying directions for future research.
QUEER THEORY AS MARXIST NEMESIS?
Queer theory
1
emerged as part of the poststructuralist trend in the 1980s.
Post-structuralism is a critique of grand narratives and causal tendencies
usually offered by classical Marxist theory and its derivatives (Agger
1991). One of post-structuralisms main objections is structuralisms
tendency to treat identities as static, a priori and almost natural (Plummer
2011:200). It argues that identities do not smoothly ft within socially
constructed categories (Green 2010:39-144; Plummer 2011:201).
Instead, identities are always multiple or at best composites, with an
infnite number of ways in which identity componentscan intersect or
combine (Seidman 1994:173).
This is the epistemological scaffolding within which queer theory
rests. Emerging as a critique against the binary understanding of
categories of gender (male-female), sexuality (heterosexual-homosexual)
and other identities including race (black-white), queer theory has been
conveniently labeled as post-structuralism applied to sexualities and
genders (Plummer 2011:201). It theorizes identities as products of
socially constructed categories which, like other social categories, are
always partial instead of completed, fractured instead of cohesive, and
dynamic instead of static (Green 2010:139-144).
Queer scholars usually frame their critiques against two conventional
constructions of gender and sexualityin terms of the discursive trend
and performativity trend. First, the discursive trend as pioneered by
Foucault, theorizes that discourse and knowledge confgure expressions
1 The terms queer theory and queer theorists are used in this article to
refer to works and scholars associated to the feld of sexuality or gender
studies. Their use is not meant to connote a smooth and unifed stance
among their work. At best, these categories only connote some shared
assumptions and understanding of the sexual life. I also acknowledge that
some of the scholars cited do not label themselves as queer scholars. I use
the labels to organize my discussion in this paper.
353 EVANGELISTA on Queer and Capital
and economies of sexuality and gender (see Spargo 2000; Halperin
1997). In History of Sexuality, Foucault (1984) examined how discursive
practices constitute the body and sexuality. He was primarily interested
in looking at what could be talked about and what could not be talked
about within a given discourse. This constitutes acceptable knowledge at
a given historical moment. Foucault was critical of how the deployment
of discourses produces knowledge, particularly in relation to sexuality.
This laid down the premise of later critiques provided by queer scholars
against the hegemony of conventional thought practice concerning gender
and sexuality.
The history of classical sociological theory is an apt example of
privileging a particular discourse which is the heteronormative gender
regime. Sedgwick (1990:1) argued that classical accounts of society are
not only incomplete but also damaged because they fail to consider
the heterosexual/homosexual divide. Privileging accounts of working
class men as in Marxist theory or enforcing the male-female binary as
in functionalist theories of the family (Medina 2001; Parsons and Bales
1955) have contributed to hegemonic accounts on how our social worlds
are made (Warner 1993). Connell (1997) argues that the canon-making
process that catapulted Weber, Durkheim, and Marx as the pillars of
sociology excluded not only writers but problems that sociology could
deal with (Connell 1997:1545). What counted as existential problems
worthy of the sociological gaze were issues and concepts heavily linked
with modernity like class, labor, mode of production, alienation and
integration among others. In this canonical view of sociology, Connell
argues that issues concerning gender, sexuality and race were essentially
disqualifed from sociology or at the very least were treated as secondary
problems. A latent implication of classical sociological theorys apparent
silence on homosexuality can be considered tantamount to the ascription
of homosexualitys inferiority or relegation as subjugated knowledge. It
is through the relatively recent emergence of queer theory that infuential
heteronormative discourses are confronted. They are confronted by
laying down the discursive operations of domination that make them
more accessible for engagements. This illustrates gender as a discursive
regime that can be continuous and discontinuous at the same time.
354 Philippine Sociological Review (2013) Vol. 61 no. 2
Second, the performativity trend examines the performance of gender
and sexuality (or gendered sexuality). The leading fgure here is Judith
Butler who advanced Foucaults legacy and characterized gendering as
a series of performativity (Butler 1988:519-531; 1990:128-141; 2009;
Jagose 1996). Performativity is the repetitive practices of gender and
sexuality. Butler argued that there is no inherent identity. For her, identity is
continuously and discontinuously constructed by cultures and discourses.
Hence, gender performativity is always unfxed. Universal claims about
gender and identities are impossible. Attempts to perform culturally
constructed gender roles lead to failure because performing pure roles
that gender categories like masculinity and femininity assume to be
natural is impossible. Butler critiques the gender regime by claiming that
the binary conception of gender category is never completely decisive
insofar as it is performed and these performances can go awry in the
imperfect repetition. Butler concludes that the concept of identity must
be subverted and replaced by its plural version, identities.
Although there are differences between the discursive and performative
accounts of sexuality (Scharff 2011:210-221), both are consistent in
putting forward a constructionist epistemology a paradigm that sees
the social world not as the product of objective, autonomous or natural
structures but as the product of categories of thought, which themselves
arise from human interactions or practices. Discursive practices and
performances are socially constructed, not historically predetermined.
This is one reason why it is convenient to pitch queer scholars as
suspicious of Marxist theorists.
Marxisms view of gender is anchored on the premise of economic
determinism. Marx and Engels considered gender as predetermined by
the mode of production of a specifc historical period. Although Marx and
Engels had some account of gender, their explanation does not account
for sexuality. Tan (1998) implies that while intersecting with each other,
gender and sexuality are two different concepts that refect two different
realities. He defnes gender as the social role prescribed by society for
example, familial roles while sexuality has something to do with sexual
desire and relationships. Clearly, Marx and Engels were talking about
gender rather than sexuality.
355 EVANGELISTA on Queer and Capital
Apart from Marxs silence on the sexualized aspects of labor and
uneven effects of capitalist accumulation, there is what Floyd calls a
theoretical impasse due to queer theorys rejection of Marxs economic
determinism. Marxism considers the mode of production as the primary
determinant of the selfs social location. Marxs objectivist epistemology
appears to reinforce the naturalized and universalized understanding of the
social, and, consequently, the sexual. There had been recent reappraisals
of Marx to show that it could account for subjectivities (Bourdieu 1984;
Adorno 1991; Baudrillard 1981). These efforts, although predominantly
Marxist in orientation, cannot escape borrowing from other thinkers
like Weber or reinterpreting orthodox Marxist thoughts to account for
subjectivities. The fact that they borrow from other thinkers or re-
argue Marx shows that these reappraisals also see orthodox Marxism as
deterministic and not inclusive of subjectivities.
REAPPRAISING MARX
In trying to account for sexuality, many have tried to reappraise
orthodox Marxism. Seidman (2010:13-24) argued for a pragmatist post-
structuralism and suggested to view Marxist theory as one that allows
us to see human nature as shaped by society and history. Marxism tends
to always put economy in the center of analysis of identities. It argues
that sexuality is historically constructed within or determined in the last
instance by economic relations.
In early capitalism, sexuality is repressed to discipline laborers. It
is seen by early capitalist structures as a threat to the effciency of the
labor force. On the other hand, late capitalism changed the construction
of sexuality where it is seen as a commodity. The expression of sexuality
is depicted as form of empowerment as long as it is expressed within the
boundaries of consumption. Industries like pornography, prostitution and
media that particularly aim at gay men as individualized consumers and
bearers of the so-called pink currency have fourished as established
markets where sexuality fnds its expression. While some Marxists
recognize that the construction of sexuality is an important social
phenomenon, they still see this construction as a product of the economic
mode of production and consumption.
356 Philippine Sociological Review (2013) Vol. 61 no. 2
In spite of this development, a number of post-structuralists continue
to question determinism and react against the Marxist notion of sexuality
as described by Seidman. Integral to post-structuralism is a critique
against a universal categorization of the social life (Agger 1991:112).
Weeks (1981:1) appears to react to the universal categorization of
sexuality when he said:
The usual assumption is that sex is a defnable and universal experience,
like the desire for food I want to suggest that it is the centrality given to this
concept of sexuality that constitutes a problem for historians, for it ignores the
great variety of patterns that history reveals, and the very different meanings
given to what we blithely label as sexual activity (Weeks 1981:1).
Poststructuralist analysis is hinged on an epistemology that sees social
life as fractured and discontinuous. On the contrary, in Marxist terms,
ones class or ability to produce and consume remains central in the
construction and expression of ones sexuality. While the poststructuralist
analysis of sexuality does not deny the infuence of class in constructing
sexuality, it denies the centrality of class in the analysis of the sexual life.
Class is not the result of determinist social structures but a product of
discourse.
FLOYDS ATTEMPT AT QUEER MARXISM
Floyd (2009) attempted to end the impasse between queer theory
and Marxism by mapping their consistent critiques of reifcation
and understanding of totality. Floyd interpreted Marxist theory as an
attempt to expose the reifcation of capitalist relations. In simple terms,
reifcation refers to the misapprehension of social relations as objectively
mystifying, or those that exist independent of human agency or
consciousness and exempt from dialectics of social forces (see Floyd
2009:17; also see Lukcs 1971). Reifcation functions by naturalizing
particular social relations, including those that are structured by the
mode of production. Capitalism conceals the fact that social relations
are products of structural patterns of exploiting labor instead of natural
tendencies of economic life.
357 EVANGELISTA on Queer and Capital
Floyd found a similar logic in queer theory. Sexuality also suffers
from reifcation by framing desire as natural, local, and private. The
privatization of sexuality, Floyd argued, tends to characterize sexuality
as asocial. He cites the example of artisanal labor as reifed or naturalized
as part of the masculine bodys corporeal ability. Mens labored
performances, Floyd argues, has been integral in meeting twentieth-
century capitalisms demands, particularly of the Fordist variety. At the
latter part of the century, commodifed queer culture has emerged to
sustain the production of new subjectivities. A materialist perspective on
sexuality rebukes reifcation by exposing sexualitys dynamic, political
and agentic nature. Viewed this way, queer theory shares the same
commitment with Marxist theory in denaturalizing social relations and
not just an epistemological fetishizing of difference (Floyd 2009:6).
Floyds efforts in mapping the convergence of queer and Marxist
theories are commendable for conceptualizing a theoretical approach
responsive to the complexity of ever-changing social worlds. However,
his work has two major shortcomings. First, his work is dismissive of the
critique against Marxs tendency for economic determinism. The question
of merging epistemologies comes up, whether this is a real possibility or
that Floyds work ends up prioritizing the constructionist epistemology
over the objectivist one. I address this critique in the next section by
introducing the method of borrowing. Second, Floyds version of Queer
Marxism is largely built on a narrow historical focus, grounding his
theoretical contribution on the particular experience of North American
gay men (Hornsey 2010:5). In the subsequent sections of this piece, I
aim to locate the theoretical debate in the Philippine context.
METHOD OF BORROWING
The debate between Marxs humanism and determinism has become one
of the most enduring debates in sociological theory (Resnick and Wolff
1982). Marxs works undoubtedly underscored the creative character
of labor as well as the large infuence of technology and the mode of
production in shaping social relations. The question then is not whether
Marx was determinist but to what extent Marx left space for human
agency.
358 Philippine Sociological Review (2013) Vol. 61 no. 2
Without having to go through this debate, this article takes the position
of rejecting the determinist interpretation of Marxism as this does little in
enriching queer analysis. Instead, my approach is to borrow concepts
from Marxist theory rather than build on Floyds attempt at merging their
epistemologies. Thompson (2009) carried this methodological stance in
her analysis of unfolding youth sexualities when she borrowed concepts
from Bourdieu and Foucault.
Through this approach, I argue that it is important for queer theory to
remain constructionist but it has to be better cognizant of the economic
structures operating in society that make these constructions possible. It is
important to acknowledge that a critique of conventional gender regimes
is also a critique of the economic forces that aid the constructions of these
regimes. Hence, utilizing Marxist concepts in queer analysis is not just a
possibility but also a necessity.
There have been several efforts in queer theory that have attempted
to bring together both approaches. Green (2010:139-144), for example,
argued that while Marxism has to realize that categories of class should
not be taken as completely decisive in defning identities, queer theory
should also not undermine capital as a powerful source of identity and
social relations. In effect, he tried to forge a queer framework where
Marxist concepts like class, capital and alienation among others are not
ignored. These concepts must be treated like social realities that intersect
with each other. Hocquenghem (2009) also reappraised Marxism in his
analysis of sexuality. His observations depict the bourgeoisie society as
one that relegates homosexual expression in the dark. It was acceptable to
be gay as long as it is done in private and discreet spaces like the tearoom
or underground bars. Homosexuality is not perceived as abnormal but as
a failed normalcy, in the same way that the proletariat is constructed by
capitalism as people who are free yet to a certain degree controlled. In both
cases, both homosexuals and the proletariat can express their identities
within the confnes of private spaces, divorced from the publics gaze.
It is this kind of attempt that I aim to further develop in the
subsequent sections. I suggest that utilizing Marxist concepts requires
an understanding of social realities that intersect with each other in
multiple ways to constitute the social and sexual life. The discontinuities
of relationships among the realities Marxist and queer concepts refer to
359 EVANGELISTA on Queer and Capital
should be exposed as they facilitate the reconstruction of sexuality and
gender regimes.
MODE OF QUEER PRODUCTION AND CONSUMPTION
Marx and Engels, in The German Ideology (1845) postulate that the most
scientifc way to study history and society is to use a materialist view.
This is a view that considers the mode of production as the most basic and
fundamental constitution of every society across time and space. History,
for Marx (see also Singer 1980:66-68; Callinicos 2004:81-104; Ritzer
1996:Chapter 6), is studied by looking at how revolutions of technologies
of production develop.
This approach to studying social reality has been challenged in
several ways. The Frankfurt School for example, argued that Marx was
overly concerned with the mode of production that compromised the
theorys relevance in accounting for late capitalism. Adorno (2001:98-
106) pointed out that in late capitalism there is the emergence of a culture
industry where cultural items carry elite ideologies. Baudrillard had a
similar idea during his early neo-Marxist phase. He (1981) argued that
the primary feature of contemporary capitalism is consumption rather
than production. Consumption in late capitalism is based on sign value
rather than use value and exchange value that Marx posited.
The shift from production to consumption is an important development
in sociological theory. Rather than undermining the value of Marxist
thought, I argue that this shift updates Marxism by building on its key
concepts. Even if Baudrillard argued in favor of sign value in the sphere
of consumption, this sign value is also created in the sphere of production
and distribution. The ambiance or aura of a commodity is created in the
process of its production (see Haug 1986).
These ideas can be applied to queer theorizing in three ways. First,
the concept of the mode of production still provides a timely account of
how commodities are produced by the culture industry. Some of these
commodities signify sexual and gendered meanings, thereby creating a
sexual sign value. The production technology of sexual sign value, in turn,
contributes to the emergence of discursive practices that deploy sexuality.
For example, as a commodity, condoms signify a safer and therefore a
more pleasant sexual encounter as manifest in advertisementsa major
360 Philippine Sociological Review (2013) Vol. 61 no. 2
player in the culture industry. The production of condoms as a material
commodity and a cultural product facilitates discursive practices in
which safe sex could be deemed ideal. This occurs in the context of late
capitalism, where sexual agency is celebrated while at the same time
limited by the logic of capitalist production of commodities. The discourse
of sexual agencypeoples ability to control their own bodies and develop
identities through sexual practicesoperates in late capitalism where the
supposed private realm of intimacy has been discursively framed as one
that also entails making commercial decisions (to buy or not to buy a
condom). Hence, the Marxist emphasis of materiality, technology and
mode of production allows for a better understanding of queer or sexual
discursive formation.
Second, the Marxist idea of production provides the language for the
production of meanings of sexuality as politico-economic endeavors.
This process of producing and consuming sexual meanings embedded in
commodities allows owners of the mode of sexual production to amass
capital. It also perpetuates the domination of privileged knowledge claims
attached to sexual sign value of commodities. For example, Solers study
shows how flms present a fractured discourse in view of amassing
capital. Soler (1988) analyzed the portrayal of gays in Filipino flms
from 1986 to 1987 and the insights of actual male homosexuals about
these gay portrayals. She observed that while these flms usually portray
homosexuals as the palengkera-type of homosexual,
2
her interviews with
male homosexuals reject this portrayal. Her study reveals the dissonance
between portrayals and the actual perception of male homosexuals
about themselves. Furthermore, her interviews with flmmakers reveal
that as agents in a market-driven cultural industry, they ultimately
see flmmaking as a business that aims for proft. By portraying gay
characters in a stereotypical manner, flmmakers are able to appeal to a
larger audience but they do so at the expense of making male homosexual
2 The word palengkera came from the root word palengke. Palengke means
public market place. Palengkera means a vendor (usually a woman) in a
public market. She is usually seen as loud, tactless and gossip. In Philippine
popular culture, palengkera is used to describe a loud, tactless, and cheap
woman.
361 EVANGELISTA on Queer and Capital
viewers feel disconnected to these portrayals. This research shows that the
concept of market-driven production is indispensable in the analysis of
culture industry. The authenticity of the public expression of homosexual
identities is compromised by the logic of capitalist accumulation.
In the research cited above, we see an example of a culture industry
(flmmaking) presenting a discontinuous discourse that constructs
fractured categories of homosexuality in view of amassing capital. Further
studies on sexually symbolic commodities and modes of production could
situate production in the structure of late capitalism in which signs are
produced in view of accumulating capital and an attempt for domination.
Conversely, this structure of amassing capital and attempt at domination
should be seen as only one of the many discontinuous social felds where
hegemonies of gender are constructed and reconstructed.
INTERSECTIONS OF CLASS IDENTITY
It is often inferred that Marx reduces social identities to issues of class
or ones relation with the mode of production. Individual identity is
subordinate to class identity, and, in some instances, a barrier to the
culmination of the proletariats class-consciousness. Queer theory
challenges this view by borrowing the feminist concept of intersectionality
(see Fotopoulou 2012:19-32). Intersectionality, according to Choo and
Ferree (2010:132), is a way of thinking about identities as a composite
result of different social inequalities, hierarchies and the multiple effects
of social institutions. The term is usually used as a lens to analyze the
infuence of gender, race and class in creating identities and social
inequalities (Collins 1997 and 1993). Queer theory contributes to
intersectionality by including sexuality in the matrix of social categories
that shape inequalities and identities (Fotopoulou 2012:19-32).
Queer scholars have found utility in the concept of intersectionality
because of its epistemological premise. By including sexuality in the
trilogy of class, race and gender, sexual identity is linked to other social
hierarchies simultaneously at play. This, however, does not discard the
importance of class. Class, within the intersectionalist lens, remains as
an important component of identities and social inequalities. However,
there is a substantial concession that the most effective way to describe
the relationship among the three categories is to assume their equivalence
362 Philippine Sociological Review (2013) Vol. 61 no. 2
(Collins 1993; 1997). Class remains to be a part of the matrix that
organizes identities and inequalities. There is recognition that the ability
to produce and consume could infuence an individuals social location
and identity. In late capitalism where consumption and production of
sign value are seen as primary expressions of the self, class becomes
one of the important sources of identities and inequalities. In this way,
the legacy of class analysis to the performance of gender and identity is
diffcult to ignore even in late capitalism.
It is, however, imperative to reconceptualize the concept of class as
a source of identity. Given that late capitalism is characterized as the
consumption of sign values, class can be understood as ones capability of
consuming valuable signs and symbols based on ones economic status.
Class plays a role in ones consumption of sexual meanings embodied in
contemporary commodities. Class also plays a role in the performance of
ones sexuality.
This borrowing is best articulated in a pioneering ethnography
by Manalansan (1997) about the Filipino gay men in New York. He
describes how interracial romantic relationships among Filipino gay
men are gendered, racialized, and classed at the same time. According
to his participants accounts, important decisions in these relationships
are usually done by the partner who earns more money. Class plays a
role in positioning ones self in the context of romantic relationships.
It enforces an often-unarticulated normative code for gay couples. This
research illustrates classs intersection with gender, sexuality and race
in order to infuence ones position in the social hierarchy of romantic
relationships. However, such position of infuence is always tentative and
subject to change once the couples life experiences shifts as in the case
of a breadwinner losing his job.
In contrast with Manalansans analysis of the homosexual experience,
Tan draws heavily on class in his analysis of homosexual population in
the Philippines. Tan (1995:87) provided a typology of homosexuals or
in his terms men who have sex with men (MSMs) in the Philippines.
He classifed MSMs in the Philippines into three categories such as
callboys, parloristas, and gays. Tan characterized each category based
on their economic class. Callboys are male sex workers whose clients
are usually self-admitted gays and/or middle-aged women. Most callboys
363 EVANGELISTA on Queer and Capital
do not identify themselves as homosexuals and play the masculine
gender. Most of the callboys come from poor families. On the other
hand, parlorista is a generic term that refers to MSMs from low-income
backgrounds.
3
Most MSMs of this category work in beauty parlors. They
are usually feminine in behavior and mannerisms. Many also work as
domestic servants, vendors, and waiters. Parloristas organize their own
activities like pageants rather than participating in gay establishments.
Lastly, the gay category consists of those who identify as homosexual or
bisexual, often coming from middle class or high-income backgrounds.
Middle class gays, according to Tan, are those who usually participate in
gay establishments like bars and clubs in Metro Manila. Tan states that
these middle class gays try to remain discreet about their sexual identities
at home and at work. He attributes this closet behavior to the insecure
economic status of the middle class gays. This typology connotes a
hierarchy in the local LGBT community on the basis of class.
Manalansan was quick to react to Tans typology. Tan tends to confate
class, self-identifcation and other social dynamics (Manalansan
1997:39). Tan tends to classify the MSM community using class as a
social demarcation. Tans taxonomy appears to be in contrast with the
reconceptualization of class put forward in this article as partial and
fractured. Tans taxonomy homogenizes a range of social categories by
using class as the most evident criterion of unity. This tends to undermine
the effect of other social dynamics like sexuality, ethnicity and gender in
the defnition and practice of ones sexual identity. When class is put in
the center of sexual life, some nuances in the analyses of discourses and
performances are potentially lost.
THE FRACTURED STRUGGLE
Finally, a crucial concept from Marxist theory that can be borrowed to
enrich queer theorizing is the concept of struggle. Marx argued that
3 The word parlorista comes from the root word parlor. In the vernacular
usage of the word parlor refers to a beauty salon. Parloristas are persons
who work in beauty salons. In the Philippine popular culture, the parlorista
is stereotypically portrayed as feminine gays usually transgenders (man to
woman) who dominate the beauty salon industry.
364 Philippine Sociological Review (2013) Vol. 61 no. 2
change will be achieved by revolutionizing the structure of capital and
production (Marx 2008; Farganis 2004:23-54; Ritzer 1996:Chapter 6).
Many have taken this Marxist version of revolution as hinged on the
inevitability of its occurrence. The argument that Marx posits here is that
the contradiction in capitalism is intrinsic, so much so that capitalism
produces the antagonistic conditions that will lead to its own demise.
This, he asserts, is made possible by the proletariats class consciousness
which will make them aware of and organize to overturn their exploited
status in capitalism. In this conceptualization of social change, Marx
envisions a radical systemic change, one that liberates labor from the
oppressive nature of capitalism.
On the other hand, queer theorys notion of struggle is often critiqued
for its conservative approach to contesting power and domination.
Foucault, for example, has conceded that the matrix of power is
inescapable. Resisting dominant discourses through corporeal practices
is still within the same matrix of power (see Halperin 1997). This implies
that to aim for liberation outside that matrix is futile. Foucaults impact
on the gay movement is the prescription of continuous resistance rather
than liberation (Halperin 1997). While Marx envisioned a revolution
that liberates the proletariat from the oppression of capitalism, queer
theorists like Foucault frame political action as resistance within the
system. For these reasons, queer theory has been accused of being
a dictatorship of fragments (Floyd 2009:6) composed of flim-
flamming free-loaders who celebrate contingency while limiting
the sphere of action (Paglia 1994:71). The challenge, therefore, is to
determine the usefulness of the Marxist theory of action and struggle to
sharpen queer theory.
One way of going about this is by foregrounding queer theorys
orientation to liberation against capitalist constructs of normal practices.
As Song puts it, by bringing queer theory into our bedrooms and into
the streets, we can begin to expand what may not be thought of as in
need of liberating (Song 2012). Marxist theory can be used to expose
bourgeois expectations of marriage and monogamy which, even in the
age of late capitalism, are taken for granted mechanisms for regulating
private property through inheritance (Engels 2004; also Ahmed 2006:17).
Contesting monogamy through the practice of polyamory, for example,
365 EVANGELISTA on Queer and Capital
challenges the view of ones partner as possession or property which
one can exclusively own. Polyamory can set new terms for sexual
relationships, defned not by exclusivity but by mutual aid and celebration
of subjective sexual experiences. Class and sexual liberation are intimately
linked struggles, as both can reinforce the contestation of the boundaries
of capitalist heteronormativity. It is through the contestation of everyday
practices where alternative consciousness emerges which can facilitate
the undermining of insidious capitalist ideology and practice.
CONCLUSION
The task of this project is to borrow concepts from Marxism to sharpen
queer theory. Borrowing is made possible by appreciating Marxist
concepts as a fragmentary set of ideas rather than importing the Marxist
grand narrative in its totality. This piece demonstrated the analytical
value of Marxist concepts including class, production and struggle when
they are used in relation to queer concepts like discourses, identities,
gender regimes and subjectivities. I have argued that it is important
for queer theory to remain faithful to a constructionist epistemology
while remaining sensitive to queer categories close connections to
economic structures and the insidious nature of capitalism. Critiques
of heteronormative gender regimes are simultaneously critiques of the
capitalist structure that infuences dominant knowledge and practice. It is
important to underscore that utilizing Marxist concepts in queer analysis
is not just a possibility but a necessity. Failure to acknowledge Marxist
contributions to queer theory reduces queer theorys critical sharpness
and potency examining market-driven societies.
Needless to say, this article is a preliminary effort at examining
possibilities for deploying Marxist concepts in better understanding
local queer experiences. Diffcult questions warrant further refection,
particularly the epistemological divergence between Marxism and
queer theory. Further theorizing is necessary to test the boundaries of
Floyds argument, whether it is indeed theoretically productive to merge
structuralism and constructionism to create Queer Marxism. Another
direction for further research is to reverse the analysis, whether a
structural Marxist epistemology could serve to enrich queer theorizing.
Indeed, if queer theorizing is about denaturalizing what appears to be
366 Philippine Sociological Review (2013) Vol. 61 no. 2
normal on the surface, then scholars of queer theory should also be
ready to denaturalize queer theorys apparent affnity to constructionist
epistemology.
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