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Sexual freedom and the promise of revolution: Emma Goldman’s passion

Hemmings, Clare (2014) Sexual freedom and the promise of revolution: Emma Goldman’s passion. Feminist Review, 106 (1). 43 - 59. ISSN 0141-7789

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Identification Number: 10.1057/fr.2013.29


This article explores the contributions to a history of sexuality, capitalism and revolution made when we consider the work of anarchist thinker and activist Emma Goldman (1869–1940). I suggest that Goldman's centring of sexual freedom at the heart of revolutionary vision and practice is part of a long tradition of sexual politics, one which struggles to make sense of how productive and reproductive labour come together, and to identify the difference between sexual freedom and capitalist opportunity. Goldman's concern with the significance of kinship in holding together capitalism, militarism and religion, as well as sexual feeling's capacity to disrupt those relationships, echoes across more than a century to resonate with Marxist, feminist and queer scholars' engagements with similar issues. But where contemporary scholars often tend to retain the opposition between culture and society, representation and the real, making it difficult to produce a materialist analysis of sexuality as transformative rather than always already overdetermined, Goldman's energetic insistence on sexual connectivity as freeing provides an important vantage point. Not only does Goldman consistently situate sexuality in a broad political context of the sexual division of labour, the institutions of marriage and the church, consumerism, patriotism and productive (as well as reproductive) labour, she frames sexual freedom as both the basis of new relationships between men and women, and as a model for a new political future.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2014 Palgrave Macmillan
Divisions: Gender Studies
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Date Deposited: 22 Nov 2017 15:58
Last Modified: 05 Jun 2024 23:11

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