Faculty Writing: The Romance of American Communism and and Visions of Anticapitalist Sex

For Dissent Magazine, Alyssa Battistoni discusses the afterlife of Vivian Gornick’s recently republished classic The Romance of American Communism and the impressions it has left on political movements today. Musing on the transformative and paradoxical potential of politics and its dreams of revolution, Battistoni writes, “World-making projects can become warped, of course. If the courage and commitment of the Communists is recognizable, so too is their petty despotism. A whole world can become a solipsistic, asphyxiating, and delusional one—or simply very small. But such turns aren’t inevitable, and the details of how leadership turns into tyranny or rhetoric into rigid orthodoxy matter.” 

In Mal Journal, Sophie Lewis manifests the conditions of possibility for collective turn-on unmoored by the capitalist logic of work and obligatory enjoyment. Weaving through contemporary accounts of sex and its cultures— from Douglas Crimp’s foreboding “How to Have Promiscuity in an Epidemic” about HIV to Sally Rooney’s recently serialized Normal People—Lewis writes: “We will, as survivors of the old regime of sexual violence, design whole cities full of erotic biotic infrastructure … We shall all have become creatures well-versed in saying ‘I would prefer not to’ and ‘no.’ The lustlessness of the pre-Covid era will become shockingly obvious to us in retrospect. We will hardly believe the historians when they tell us about the old days of #MeToo and heterofatalism.”

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