Sexual Hegemony

Statecraft, Sodomy, and Capital in the Rise of the World System

Book Pages: 240 Illustrations: 5 illustrations Published: August 2020

Author: Christopher Chitty

Editor: Max Fox

Contributor: Christopher Nealon

Gender and Sexuality > Queer Theory, Theory and Philosophy > Marxism

In Sexual Hegemony Christopher Chitty traces the five-hundred year history of capitalist sexual relations by excavating the class dynamics of the bourgeoisie's attempts to regulate homosexuality. Tracking the politicization of male homosexuality in Renaissance Florence, Amsterdam, Paris, and London between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, as well as twentieth-century New York City, Chitty shows how sexuality became a crucial dimension of the accumulation of capital and a technique of bourgeois rule. Whether policing male sodomy during the Medici rule in Florence or accusing the French aristocracy of monstrous sexuality in the wake of the French Revolution, the bourgeoisie weaponized both sexual constraint and sexual freedom in order to produce and control a reliable and regimented labor class and subordinate it to civil society and the state. Only by grasping sexuality as a field of social contention and the site of class conflict, Chitty contends, can we embark on a politics that destroys sexuality as a tool and an effect of power and open a front against the forces that keep us unfree.


“In this theoretically sophisticated and historically rigorous book, Christopher Chitty builds a compelling argument for an approach to the history of sexuality that is embedded in property relations, economic crises, and political institutions. The result is a modernized History of Sexuality that speaks to contemporary concerns with increasing forms of precarity. A work ahead of its time, Sexual Hegemony makes an uncannily prescient and powerful intervention. Its importance and brilliance cannot be overstated.” — Petrus Liu, author of Queer Marxism in Two Chinas

“[Sexual Hegemony] is extraordinary, even singular—and my hope is that it will change the way we think about sexuality and anticapitalist struggle alike.” — Christopher Nealon, from the Introduction

"Both a labor of love and a collaboration across the frontier of death, Sexual Hegemony is one of that desire’s most uniquely affecting expressions." — Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic

Sexual Hegemony is not a theory of sexuality but a history of it. It’s a history of the people who were left out of previous histories and who more closely resemble the same people left out of the modern, mainstream gay and lesbian movement…. In Chitty’s history, queerness is criminality and vice versa, and until we undo the stigmatization of those working against the regime of property and its armed wing, the state, our gender and sexuality will be, in Chitty’s phrase, only ‘partially emancipated.’… The implications of Chitty’s history are not just for those who study the broad movements of capitalism but also those who live within it now.” — Adam Fales, Homintern

“Homosexuality is a modern invention, and 150 years later, we’re still arguing about what it means and where it came from, and whether it was invented at all. It is, to quote Andrew Holleran, ‘like a boarding school in which there are no vacations.’ Chitty invites us to burn the boarding school down, and in the ashes, with history as our guide, to build something for everyone.”

— Ben Miller, The Baffler


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Christopher Chitty (1983–2015) was a PhD candidate in the History of Consciousness at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Max Fox is an editor of Pinko magazine, a former editor of the New Inquiry, and translator of The Amphitheater of the Dead.

Christopher Nealon is Professor of English at Johns Hopkins University and author of Foundlings: Lesbian and Gay Historical Emotion before Stonewall, also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Foreword / Max Fox  vii
Introduction / Christopher Nealon  1
Part I: Sexual Hegemonies of Historical Capitalism
1. Homosexuality and Capitalism  21
2. Sodomy and the Government of Cities  42
3. Sexual Hegemony and the Capitalist World System  73
4. Homosexuality and Bourgeois Hegemony  106
Part II. Homosexuality and the Desire for History
5. Historicizing the History of Sexuality  141
6. Homosexuality as a Category of Bourgeois Society  167
Notes  193
Index  217
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0958-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0867-5