In a post-capitalist utopia, the family has been abolished



According to the famous assessment of Tolstoy in Anna Karenina, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” This fundamentally unfair situation, it might be said, goes against the key socialist tenet of spreading all social assets around equally – particularly misery.

One contemporary far left thinker who seems to have come from an unhappy home is Sophie Lewis, an Oxford-educated German-British academic, lecturer and writer currently employed part-time at The Center for Research in Feminist, Queer and Transgender Studies, at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia.

Ironically for someone based in the City of Brotherly Love, Lewis is an open hater of the traditional family unit, as the proudly provocative titles of her 2019 book Full Surrogacy Now: Feminism Against the Family, and its 2022 sequel Abolish the Family: A Manifesto for Care and Liberation rather give away. As MercatorNet said of Lewis’ first book at the time, “Full Surrogacy Now is a bracing read, with something to offend nearly everyone.”



The mother of all lies


Lewis’ big idea is “gestational communism”, or the abolition of “dyadic modes of doing family”. Traditional bonds of love between a child and its parents only train infants to believe in the capitalist notion of private property, which is what many parents “selfishly” see their children as being, rather than the common property of society at large, or the State.

“Human nature”, so-called, is nothing but a sick illusion. The (generally) automatic love of mother for child is not natural at all, argues Lewis, but an emotional phantom conjured by the current dominance of global capital. The family is nothing but an artificial capitalist brainwashing factory, Lewis explained in 2019, designed for “training us up to be workers, training us to be inhabitants of a binary-gendered and racially stratified system, training us not to be queer.”

Traditional families even caused racial genocide. Whilst “black motherhood was always queer” and collectivized, she says, “it was the invention of the ‘natural’ private family household that entrenched the disposability of black life in America.” How else could you explain the sinister fact that “black gestators are dying in maternity wards” at higher rates than their white peers today are?

Wait, “gestators”? What are they? Lewis really means “mothers”, a term now so passé in the world of contemporary Marxist gender-studies that she prefers not to use it – after all, men can have babies too these days, at least if “men” are defined purely verbally, and not biologically.

To abolish these manifold ills and so usher in an alleged utopia of “queerer, more comradely” forms of reproduction, surrogate gestators from Africa and Asia should henceforth be used to birth all white Western children, demands Lewis, or maybe one day even artificial biomechanical wombs, in a rapidly-developing process known as ectogenesis.

“No to biogenetic possessiveness” and “Let every pregnancy be for everyone” are two mottoes of Lewis’ which will surely soon pop up on angry placards outside maternity wards.


There’s one born every minute


Pregnancy itself is nothing but an “extreme sport” to Lewis or, more accurately, a form of unpaid work (do we not speak of gestators “going into labour”?) and one with an absolutely abysmal Health & Safety record. In a 2020 interview, Lewis explained how:


“The World Health Organization estimates that more than 300,000 people died from pregnancy-related causes in 2015 … I reject the notion that there’s some kind of ‘biological’ necessity for this kind of human carnage … What other workplace or industry would society accept, if it injured millions and killed 300,000 a year?”

If those particular pregnancy-related stats make Sophie blanch, just wait until she hears how many people die every year from the long-term effects of simply being born!

But there is an even wider political agenda at work here too. Breaking down the barriers between men and women, parents and children, families and society, will also help erase other barriers.

No believer in borders, Lewis dreams that, if white Western women begin to habitually use non-white African or Asian women as their hired foetus-carriers, then this will help erase the supposedly artificial divide existing between Canadians and Kenyans, or Belgians and Burmese, hopefully making the idea of the nation state itself collapse. Then, everyone of every gender, sexual orientation and nationality can end up living together in perfect interracial queer harmony in a global post-capitalist paradise of her own imagining.


Pregnant with meaning


But would this be the actual likely result of Lewis’ grand designs? In her new book Feminism Against Progress, the conservative-minded English feminist Mary Harrington argues reproductive developments like ectogenesis and mass surrogacy will in fact only benefit Lewis’ hated Big Capitalism even further.

For Harrington, “The universal solvents of freedom and equality can only do their work by liberating us from ‘embedded’ life in a web of given social relations,” like that once spoken of by George Eliot in Middlemarch: social relations like those of family, friends and organic local communities. And, once this web is successfully dissolved, we can then be exploited even further by big business.

If not only child-rearing becomes a kind of semi-communal activity, as nurseries and pre-schools already provide today, but also child-gestating, then what does this actually leave the “liberated” mothers who have farmed out their duties in this respect free to do with those newly unencumbered nine months of their lives? For most, it will set them “free” to do nothing other than keep on working in their pre-existing jobs – maybe even taking on a few extra hours, to pay the hired Eritrean mothers or robo-womb operators their necessary fees.

Lewis dreams of a future world in which work has been abolished. Yet if our future truly is one of Full Surrogacy Now, there will probably be more work for women than ever. At least today’s new mothers get a few months’ maternity leave; within Lewis’ Brave New World of gestational communism they won’t.


The Handmaid’s fairy tale


Would most ordinary mothers – sorry, “gestators” – really want this to happen? And would most children really want to be raised not in an ordinary family, as today, but within a gigantic, inescapable “classless commune” encompassing our entire globe (or the gullible Western bits of it, anyway)? I’d imagine not, but Lewis, who is herself happily childless, doesn’t seem to care. “It’s true: I am not thinking of children here,” Harrington cites her as airily admitting.

So who is she thinking of, then? Only of herself. Lewis aspires for her own personal friendship networks of radical far left “aspirationally universal queer love” to become the ideal mode of all our future living, a New Model Family queerly engineered to spawn a world of “beautiful mutants hell-bent on [social] regeneration, not self-replication” of the family-line, as today.

In other words, a world filled only with self-styled “beautiful mutants” just like her. Her childhood was terrible, and so should everyone else’s now be.


Home is where the hurt is


By her own account, Lewis’ childhood relationship with her father was dysfunctional, to say the least. When she told him she had been raped aged 13, he allegedly accused her of lying, saying rape was “good for the feminist CV”, and blaming her for one of her mother’s past suicide attempts.

Unsurprisingly, Sophie left home the first chance she got. More surprisingly, she later formed her own dyadic family unit herself, by getting married (to a woman). Yet, at their wedding, they did not exchange vows but what a credulously celebratory portrait in Vice magazine called “disavowals: of the institution of marriage, of the biological family, and the dysfunction that both can breed.”

However, when her own mother later lay dying in hospital, Lewis still attended “my closest bio-relative’s bedside” – but, as Vice explained, this didn’t make her into a hypocrite:


“Lewis didn’t find that looking after her sick mother contradicted her stance on the nuclear family. If we had achieved the ends of family abolition already, there would have been a vast [communist] network of people to care for her mother in those final months of her life, not just Lewis and her mother.”   

How can Lewis guarantee that? If you can choose your family, as Lewis ultimately advocates – she says infants produced by gestational communism should adopt and periodically drop parents, grandparents and siblings voluntarily as we do today with our friends – then what happens to those poor souls who nobody wants to adopt? Who will look after them in their hours of need?


Losing the lottery of life


The ultimate stated aim of Lewis’ pseudo-philosophy of “Gestational Justice” is to ensure that “the provision of basic physical and psychological needs is no longer dependent on a genetic lottery”, i.e. that of birth. Theoretically, this will break the logic of Tolstoy’s celebrated aphorism, ensuring that, rather than just some lucky people being born into happy families, one day everyone will be able to choose their way into one, the exact reverse of Sophie’s fate as a child.

But whilst there are innumerable sad cases like her own, far more people are already born into more-or-less happy families anyway, just like Tolstoy implied. Stripping these lucky lottery winners of their prize in the name of “equality” will not necessarily make everyone equally happy at all, but simply run the very real risk of making everyone equally unhappy instead.

Still, that’s socialism for you.


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