Re: Judith Butler

On Sun, 12 May 1996 Hugh.Roberts@xxxxxxxxx wrote:

> But what really disturbs me about Rich's argument is its apparent
> Rousseauist assumption that there is some ideal, "natural", state for human
> society which would emerge if only the coercive forces of (in this instance
> heterosexual) socialization were negated. I thought one of the central
> insights of the Foucaultian analysis of Power was precisely to undermine
> this conception of power as alien and external to its subjects. If one tries
> to imagine a society that Rich would consider - at least with regard to
> expressions of sexuality - "non-coercive", and then tries to imagine it
> persisting through time one instantly sees that in order to maintain its
> "non-coercive" social practices it will require precisely the kinds of
> "coercive" techniques which currently maintain our contemporary discources
> of "heterosexuality". There will, inevitably, be structures of power (legal
> institutions, art, literature, mass-media, etc. etc.) which work to
> constitute and maintain a "non-coercive" sexuality - compulsory non-coercive
> sexuality, if you like.

Yes, but... perhaps we could use the earlier distinction someone made
between 'power' and 'domination'. The current state outlined by Adrienne
Rich is a situation where heterosexuality is so over-determined that it
becomes omnipresent. But not inescapable, because at least by now in the
90s we have, for example, a strong gay/queer community (or rather set of
communities); in More (popular UK girls' magazine) there are regular
stories about lesbianism; other sexualities become visible quite
regularly (although how they are portrayed is a different matter); and so
forth. In short there are lines of escape. To become a bit
autobiographical, I remember my trajectory from guilt and fear at
fancying a guy in my house (at an all-male school, hee hee), to deciding
to give in and accept myself, to coming out, to realizing I still felt
attracted to women; then an on-going series of self-definitions (bi, gay,
straight, bi, etc. etc.) until I decided to leave the issue as open as
possible. The story isn't finished but I think it's an example of how you
can sort of side-step the lines of force that propel you into
heterosexuality. I think many people on the list would subscribe to a
utopia in which the lines of force didn't all point in the same direction
- not a power-free society which is impossible, but a society of
contradiction. And the way towards that is to set up our own
countervailing powers. There's a bit in an interview with F. where he
says that the forces of subjectivization have all been working in one
direction: to prevent the will to power, to prevent the proletariat [or
whoever] from desiring power. I find this a very hopeful point in his work.

Is that any use?

Dave Hugh-Jones
'Yes, that's my mother all right, but my mother's the Virgin Mary, you know.'

Re: Judith Butler, Hugh . Roberts
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