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Sexuality and Socialism: History, Politics, and Theory of LGBT Liberation Paperback – June 1, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-1931859790 ISBN-10: 1931859795

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Haymarket Books (June 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1931859795
  • ISBN-13: 978-1931859790
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 7.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #196,763 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Sherry Wolf is on the editorial board of the International Socialist Review. She has written for publications including MRZine and Counterpunch, and has spoken across the country on the struggle for gay and lesbian liberation.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Ashley Simmons on July 7, 2009
Format: Paperback
As an organizer that has been completely swept up in the movement for marriage equality and beyond, I found this book to be a clear, materialist analysis of where LGBT oppression comes from and what to do about it. It also makes a strong argument through some of the best LGBT history for political struggle from bellow being the decisive force in combating homophobia. The author makes a brilliant case for how sexual liberation of all people is inextricably linked to combating homophobia. Ultimately with a movement on the rise happening at the same time as rising unemployment and poverty, the politics of solidarity and socialism are more relevant than ever in building the LGBT struggle. It is so refreshing to talk about how gender and sexuality haven't always been this rigid and how things don't always have to be that way, that a revolutionary overthrow of the sexual order of the day is possible. Sexuality and Socialism contains vital history that has been buried from so many of our history books such as unified, steadfastly pro-gay black and white integrated workers organizations in the 1930's. This makes me proud to be a fighter for LGBT Liberation and ultimately, working class revolution.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By John Winters on December 25, 2010
Format: Paperback
I am absolutely shocked that the author of this book claims to be a socialist. The word 'equality' comes up hundreds of times, which is fine in connecting socialist politics with existing movements. However there's no larger vision directing readers to the general contours of what a liberated sexual society might look like. Without that vision, any movement for LGBT liberation will wither on the vine once the two main political demands Wolf makes in this book are met (repeal of DADT, which is mentioned on 30 pages, and same-sex marriage legalization, which is alluded to on 50 pages!). The fact that DADT has recently been repealed and gays have since this books initial publication won the right to get married throughout most of New England not only undermines her ill-advised functionalist argument that capitalism somehow depends upon and is therefore the source of homophobia. It also means that much of what she spends time getting outraged about in this book is quickly becoming a non-issue. So much for being on the cutting edge or vanguard of mass politics. Do LGBT people call it a day and rest contentedly on their laurels now, or is there something more to fight for in the realm of sexuality, like maybe liberation? Clearly Wolf would respond in favor of the latter, but by focusing so strongly on equality at the expense of liberation she is unable to offer a real way forward past the political framework established by bourgeois society.

Useful in breaking that framework would have been some discussion of the a-word: 'alienation,' a term that comes up on exactly two pages in what amounts to a superficial discussion of Wilhelm Reich's earlier work.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. Edgar Mihelic on September 5, 2009
Format: Paperback
Too much of a survey for me, I was looking for and hoping for a little more depth and less of a synthesis of things about history and theory I already know. The last two chapters reached for a prescription for depth, but did not necessarily get there. Well written, but you can see the author's obvious biases in some of the chapters. If I had worked my way through this book with a pen in hand I might have more to say on a point by point basis, but in a survey here there is so much information. What I expect will be the most useful and interesting part of the book is the bibliography and suggestion for further reading. It made me want to crack back open my old Marx/Engels reader and hit up some of the sections I haven't read yet, mostly Engels's take on the rise of the modern family under capitalism.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Keith Rosenthal on October 10, 2009
Format: Paperback
Whether you are someone learning about the history of homosexuality and gender variance for the first time, or are an erudite student in the field, this book is a 'must-have' on your bookshelf. This book is NOT an academic/abstract/unintelligible book. Rather, it is a broad attempt to offer a uniquely-materialist understanding of the development, evolution, and repression of homosexuality (or, to use a more apt phrase, "non-heteronormative lifestyles") in the modern era.

Starting with the obliquely homosexual practices of the Ancient Greeks up through the present industrial/financial times, Wolf explains how sexual preference and identity have ever been a product of the social & economic conditions upon which a given society has rested. In other words, for an individual to break free of the constricting bonds of the "normal, nuclear family (1 father, 1 mother, and 2.5 children)" and live out a variant sexual existence, that individual must have a means of providing for themselves independently and in connection with other, similarly "independent" individuals.

It is for this reason that the modern notion of a "homosexual" person as a distinct "type" set apart from "heterosexual" people, is a phenomenon that first emerges with the advent of capitalism and the industrialization of society. Capitalism tore apart the old, static family life based in the countryside with its suffocating traditions and monotony, and replaced it with the buzz, fluidity, anonymity, and diversity of myriad strangers, crammed in together at work and at home, beckoned with the promise of individual advancement via the market nexus.

However, just as capitalism offers the promise of new, more liberated lifestyles, it stymies them at every turn.
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