For many of us on the left, it would probably be uncontroversial to say that seek a political horizon in which class society, and all of its manifold expressions, has been overcome – wage labour, private property, the capitalist state, white supremacy, settler colonialism and anti-Blackness. But what about the family? In a world that is often bereft of love, compassion and stability, it seems far more controversial to call for its abolition as well.
‘Family Abolition’ may be an alarming slogan, but this is what M. E. O’Brien argues for in her fantastic new book, Family Abolition: Capitalism and the Communizing of Care. Published by Pluto Press in June 2023, the book traces the changing family politics of racial capitalism in the industrial cities of Europe and in the slave plantations and settler frontier of North America, explaining the rise and fall of the housewife-based family form. From early Marxists to Black and queer insurrectionists to today’s mass protest movements, O’Brien finds revolutionaries seeking better ways of loving, caring, and living. Taking us beyond the past and present of family politics, Family Abolition looks also to the future, into a speculative vision of the revolutionary commune, imagining how care could be organized in a free society.
M. E. O’Brien writes on gender and communist theory. She co-edits two magazines, Pinko, on gay communism, and Parapraxis, on psychoanalytic theory and politics. Her work on family abolition has been translated into Chinese, German, Greek, French, Spanish, and Turkish. She received her PhD from NYU. She is the co-author of the novel Everything for Everyone: An Oral History of the New York Commune, 2052–2072. She tweets @genderhorizon.
Podcast listeners can get 40% off the book on plutobooks.com with the coupon PODCAST.