Sexual Capitalism: Marxist Reflections on Sexual Politics, Culture and Economy in the 21st Century

  • Paul Reynolds Edge Hill University
Keywords: sexuality, politics, culture, community, commodification, political economy


From an apparent impasse and crisis in the 1970s and 1980s – politically and intellectually – Marxism has recovered to offer critical insights into contemporary changes and developments in late capitalist societies. Sexuality has been one area where Marxist critiques of commodification and consumption, reification, cultural production and its hegemonic effects and the structures of feeling and meaning-making that compose contemporary subjectivities have been of significant value in decoding legal, political and cultural changes in the regulation, prohibition and propagation of forms of sex and sexuality. This discussion will draw from some of the most important contributions to Marxist critiques of sexuality, contemporary and historical, to outline the contours of a critique of contemporary sexuality in society, notably Peter Drucker, Holly Lewis, Rosemary Hennessy, David Evans, and Keith Floyd. The Marxist critique of contemporary sexual politics and rights claims both recognises the importance of these struggles and provides a materialist critique that demonstrates both the contemporary power of Marxist analysis and a critical engagement with queer and constructionist “orthodoxies”. Marxism has become a central and important ground for exploring the vagaries of sexuality under capitalism in all its objectifying, commodifying, alienating and exploitative forms.

Author Biography

Paul Reynolds, Edge Hill University

Paul Reynolds is Reader in Sociology and Social Philosophy at Edge Hill University. He is a member of the editorial board of Historical Materialism (HM): Research in Critical Marxist Theory and co-editor in chief of the INSEP Sexual Ethics and Politics journal. He co-convenes both INSEP and HM Sexuality and Political Economy Group. He writes on sexuality and radical theory and ethics and most recently has published, with Alison Moore, Childhood and Sexuality: Issues and Controversies (Palgrave; 2017).

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