The perspective of society: queer theory, postrriodernity and late capitalism
As I have suggested, queer theory stems from movements in academic theory that developed after the upheavals of the 1960s, specifically postmodernism and post-structuralism. The
‘post’ of postmodernism and post-structuralism supposes something after, beyond what has already been experienced and accomplished. It is both a theoretical and a historical description. As the literary critic Terry Eagleton has so concisely summed it up, ‘postmodernity’
has real material conditions: it springs from an historical, ephemeral, decentralized world of technology, consumerism and the culture industry, in which the service, finance, and information industries triumph over traditional manufacture, and classical class politics yield ground to a diffuse range of ‘identity politics.’ Postmodernism is a style of culture which reflects something of this epochal change, in a depthless, decentered, ungrounded, self-reflexive, playful, derivative, eclectic pluralistic art which blurs the boundaries between ‘high’ and ‘popular’ culture, as well as between art and everyday experience.
‘Postmodernity’, then, is part of what Mandel (1972) has termed ‘late capitalism’, and post-modernism is a reflection of this era. It has destabilized everyday experience and with it the identity politics that characterizes much of gay and lesbian studies. In doing so, it has projected a view of experience and change that is very much in sync with the realities of the dominant ideologies of the present period. The thesis here is that queer theory is a reflection of this period, part of the ideological underpinnings of capitalist relations of production. As these connections are elucidated, WolEs (1972) paradigm that theory is very much the product of the period in which it is written becomes an important baseline for analysis.
We know that in capitalist societies those in power are in control of the means and rewards of production. They are the same individuals and classes that effect the production of what we call the dominant culture, the nexus of relationships and ideas that condition the way that members of society act in accordance with the rules and structure that govern social functioning. Capitalism has produced the ideal of the individual as separate and self-sustaining, a position that enhances the role of the self in determining consciousness and action.
Mandel (1972) argued that late capitalism is a period where advances in the attempt to increase profit are centred on the use and further development of technology to automate everyday actions and the labour that has historically prevented the unfettered flow of capital accumulation through class struggle. In late capitalist terms, the individual is presented as the basic unit of production, consumption and indeed being.