What is Family Abolition?
The abolition of the family has long been a demand of Marxist and socialist agitation. Marx and Engels called for family abolition in the Communist Manifesto (“this infamous proposal”); and French utopians had done the same, some decades earlier. Then as now, the foremost popular reaction to the proposal “abolish the family” is one of gut-deep, pre-conscious shock and horror. Even after that initial aversion has passed, sometimes the objection remains: but I love my family, I don’t want to abolish them! In fact, there is little in the history of family abolitionism to imply a ban on living with the people one loves. Rather, the demand, when it has been raised, has been for universal welfare; communal luxury; queer self-determination; a classless society; and transgenerational freedom from emotional scarcity and blackmail. But, what does the concept of family abolition itself mean? And, how does it figure within a larger logic of emancipation—from labor exploitation, racism, sexism, and sexual oppression?
In this course, we will explore the (1) utopian socialist; (2) Bolshevik; (3) Gay and Women’s Liberationist; (4) queer Black and indigenous feminist; and (5) trans Marxist approaches to the question of family abolition. While we shall look at criticisms as well as vindications, we will ultimately spend more time considering the view that family abolition is the real movement working to undo the care austerity that fundamentally structures life under racial capitalism. Centrally, we will ponder questions such as: Abolish which family? What does “abolish” mean? Does Covid-19 give us a unique opportunity to understand the need for family abolition?
Together, we will read from texts by Charles Fourier, Aleksandra Kollontai, Shulamith Firestone, Michael Bronski, Kim TallBear, Christina Sharpe, Jules Joanne Gleeson and ME O’Brien, as well as passages from my own work (including Full Surrogacy Now: Feminism Against Family).
Course ScheduleSunday, 3:00-6:00pm ET
June 13 — July 04, 2021