Labour History

Thinking Capitalism from the Bedroom: The Politics of Location and the Uses of (Feminist, Queer, Crip) Theory

Labour History (2021), 121, (1), 9–31.

Abstract

The New Histories of Capitalism (NHC) boast a foundational narrative that decries the supposed elision of the “economic” during the long reign cultural and social history. Yet, at the same time, the NHC are themselves based on a recognition that ideas of “economy” are not natural, and hence must be historicised using the same intellectual tools that powered the cultural turn in the first place. In practice, however, the demographics and structuring assumptions of the “new” histories of capitalism are remarkably similar to the “old” labour and economic history. Both its historical actors and its practitioners remain, by and large, white cisgender men engaged with normative visions of “capitalism” and “economy” that privilege finance, waged labour, business and trade. As the NHC take shape within Australia, this article highlights the imperative to learn from - but crucially, not appropriate - the expertise of communities who have long theorised and critiqued “capitalism” due to their subordinate position within its cultural and economic hierarchies. Using examples from feminist, queer and crip theory, I argue that the knowledges of those marginal to or excluded from waged labour, capital accumulation and material consumption constitute a rich repository of intellectual tools with potential to engender more robust historicisation of “capitalism” and the worlds it helps create.

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Author details

Rees, Yves