Re: Judith Butler

Dave Hugh-Jones writes:

>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?

Yes it is. I certainly didn't mean to suggest any kind of cultural
relativism or cultural totalitarianism. Clearly there is no such thing as a
society in which all the "lines of force" point in the same direction. Power
is always - more or less - a site of contestation (this is where Lyotard's
concepts of the differand and enchainement are useful) - which is why all
social formations, if they are to persist at all, require the kinds of
"coercive" forms of maintenance outlined by Rich. The very fact of coercion
(especially its more dramatic kinds), of course, opens a space for
contestation and resistance.
I agree with you that this is a "hopeful point" (and I agree that we
should try to construct a society in which "all the lines of force don't
point in the same direction"), but it would be naive to suppose that this
will be a society that eliminates "coercion" - at least if we define
"coercion" as widely as Rich does. It would be naive to suppose that there
could be a society in which sexuality is somehow non-discursive or
extra-social - in which either we all freely invent our sexuality from
scratch or have a sexuality that is simply "dictated by nature".

Hugh Roberts

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