After Queer Theory - The Limits of Sexual Politics
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After Queer Theory makes the provocative claim that queer theory has run its course, made obsolete by the elaboration of its own logic within capitalism.
James Penney argues that far from signalling the end of anti-homophobic criticism, however, the end of queer presents the occasion to rethink the relation between sexuality and politics.
Through a critical return to Marxism and psychoanalysis (Freud and Lacan), Penney insists that the way to implant sexuality in the field of political antagonism is paradoxically to abandon the exhausted premise of a politicised sexuality.
After Queer Theory argues that it is necessary to wrest sexuality from the dead end of identity politics, opening it up to a universal emancipatory struggle beyond the reach of capitalism's powers of commodification.
"The audacious and sound thesis of Penney's new book - that the political as such is structured by sexuality - reties the knot between Freud and Marx in a way that exposes just how politically anaemic theories of their pairing have become in recent years. Opting for an emancipatory rather than lifestyle politics, After Queer Theory wrests the anti-homophobic project from the grip of an at once hopelessly narrow and uselessly general queer theory."
Joan Copjec, Brown University
"Whether you're convinced or outraged by After Queer Theory, Penney's impressive research demands that you engage with it in the most serious terms. Via a return to Marxism and psychoanalysis, he suggests that contemporary Queer Theory, particularly in its all-too-comfortable, academic mode, is predicated on a misunderstanding of both desire and politics. His return to the neglected radical work of Guy Hocquenghem and Mario Mieli, as well as to Lacanian conceptions of lack and desire and Marxist understandings of class, capitalism and political emancipation, reveal an alternative and vital current to today's often insipid and safe 'queer' theorising."
Nina Power, University of Roehampton, author of One-Dimensional Woman
James Penney has done it again. As with his previous work, he is careful, in After Queer Theory, to explain his key theoretical terms and ground them in an informed and nuanced history of where the terms come from. Perhaps one of the most original (and intriguing) aspects of the project is his idea of the “homosexual unconscious”, which is worked out dialectically through reference to a multiplicity of urgent, current, socio-political events. He is correct to state that Queer Theory is now at a crucial turning point, when the only option is to undertake a radical and thorough critique of its presuppositions and present state. No other critics have undertaken such a project at the present time."
Clive Thompson, School of Languages and Literatures, University of Guelph