Sunday, July 07, 2002

It’s always amused me how many people refer to queer theory and queerness as being attacked by the right, without defending it explicitly as being of the left. But Queerness isn't a critique of class and economics; it's defined as mocking bourgeois normalcy. Over the past two centuries both the left and right have done that and now especially there's confusion about who's doing it and why.

But what replaces normalcy? For the majority of whatever political, sexual, religious or philosophical persuasion, the answer's, "nothing".  Fantasies of permanent revolution, the entrepreneurial spirit or the fabulous life, are all fantasies of a minority; most people want stability and stability is boring.The focus of contemporary theory on systems of power relations assumes that if society and normalcy are coercive they must also be unjust. It's an argument from hypertrophied individualism mixing Plato, Foucault and Ayn Rand with the accent on one or another according to preference, and stating either that the powerful are powerful because they are and that this therefore is just, or that rules will always be broken and we shouldn't defend them nor even the ambiguous relations of laws and their undoing—that being the definition of the arts and specifically of literature—but merely celebrate their breaking. All of this is based in turn on a romantic reading of Freud and a hatred of him for his mistakes, a fondness for de Sade and The Story of O, and/or a televangelist’s version of Adam Smith. If capitalism in its ascendancy was the child of humanism, anti-humanism has become the philosophy of it's maturity. It's held variously that we are never conscious, that we do not behave responsibly in the face of desire, that we need to be free, that we're greedy, and that the greedy are the most free.

That these ideas should have grown out of post-war Europe and been adapted in the U.S. post-Vietnam seems absolutely logical: nihilism has always been modern.  By the same token it should be obvious at least in retrospect that both de Man and Robbe-Grillet wrote to elide/efface/exorcise their history as collaborators.  It should be just as easy to see Borges' mannered paeans to Gaucho masculinity as tied to his politics and to see both his thin and illustrative writing and reactionary attitudes in turn as symptomatic of his curdled sexuality. It’s obvious too though nobody seems to have thought of it that the Cambridge spies acted not in rebellion against the old aristocratic order but as conservative rebels against capitalism: the disorder that had already destroyed the stability they loved. So this is a story of the aristocracy and the peasantry rising against the vulgar middle class. In the words of an old queen who knew Duchamp and who answered my question with a laugh , "Of course!" Duchamp was a monarchist.

Anti-humanist philosophies are popular. Capitalism thrives on instability but needs to defend itself as conservative and grounded. Those who love to move can thrive in service of the ruler. In this age’s confused mix of left and right Leo Bersani’s theory of the ‘asocial’ nature of homosexual males has found it’s ideal in the creepy winner of ‘Survivor’: the Homosexual is the perfect capitalist. Another author argues that one of the perks of homosexuality is the acquisition in American high school of a fake British accent, which I imagine the author using when speaking to workmen redecorating his West Village home. I make most of my money as a carpenter and I've experienced that snobbery, as I've experienced also the generosity of pseudo-aristocrats with a better sense of history. And I've listened to children of the very rich defend the "violence and criminality" of capitalism; you gain a new understanding of the world while listening to a 22 year old Rockefeller on his way off to graduate school at the University of Chicago defend "the moral necessity of war".

Only fascism treats everything solely in relation to power. Monarchism is a system of justice: rules govern action. The rules may not be fair and equal but even the king follows them. Read a description of the daily schedule of Louis XIV. Barbarism too is a system of justice; look up the Wergeld or Afghan tribal law. At first I wrote here that under fascism there's no law, only relations of power, but fascism is more than the non-existence of law: it's the absence of laws that once existed, a mockery, an inversion of law as anti-law, law made into kitsch. A violent decadence is worse than barbarism. By conflating all societal arrangements with authoritarian or totalitarian ideologies, bourgeois anti-bourgeois intellectuals—mostly academic, mediocre and cribbing from the works of people of real imagination and intelligence—undermine democracy without asking for what would replace it.

If heterosexuality is considered by theory to be either a model of monarchy or an illusion—or both, as a "hegemonic" force—then homosexuality, as ideology, as sexual nationalism, is either a parody of a monarchy, a parody of an illusion, or both. Sexuality as a part of life is polymorphous. To ideologize it as anything else is fascism.