by Sophie Lewis
What if we could do better than the family?
We need to talk about the family. For those who are lucky, families can be filled with love and care, but for many they are sites of pain: from abandonment and neglect, to abuse and violence. Nobody is more likely to harm you than your family.
Even in so-called happy families, the unpaid, unacknowledged work that it takes to raise children and care for each other is endless and exhausting. It could be otherwise: in this urgent, incisive polemic, leading feminist critic Sophie Lewis makes the case for family abolition.
Abolish the Family traces the history of family abolitionist demands, beginning with nineteenth century utopian socialist and sex radical Charles Fourier, the Communist Manifesto and early-twentieth century Russian family abolitionist Alexandra Kollontai. Turning her attention to the 1960s, Lewis reminds us of the anti-family politics of radical feminists like Shulamith Firestone and the gay liberationists, a tradition she traces to the queer marxists bringing family abolition to the twenty-first century. This exhilarating essay looks at historic rightwing panic about Black families and the violent imposition of the family on indigenous communities, and insists: only by thinking beyond the family can we begin to imagine what might come after.
"I am consistently dazzled by Sophie Lewis's work, which is both intellectually capacious and heart-expanding. Abolish the Family is a liberatory demand and a world-making project proposed here with revolutionary love and inimitable style. Without fail, Lewis clarifies, disrupts and inspires." -- Natasha Lennard, author of Being Numerous: Essays on Non-Fascist Life
"Sharp, engaging, and bursting with intellectual energy, Abolish the Family is a triumph. Whether you come to this book as a critic of The Family or as its most ardent supporter, you're sure to find something within its pages to move, challenge, or provoke you. It's a joy to read, and I cannot recommend it highly enough." -- Helen Hester
"In her writing, Lewis shows us the kind of feminist care that is within our reach and the intellectual work we must do to actualise it. Generous, charged and always underpinned by a comradely orientation to its reader, Abolish the Family traverses historical and contemporary arguments for unmaking the bourgeois family and methodically interrogates the idea that it is an unshakeable, ubiquitous institution that must be protected at all costs. Lewis draws on a number of radical political genealogies to say 'no'--the nuclear family is a deficient provider of care and resource, a conceptual footstool for the racist nation-state and its many border regimes, a hotbed of gendered exploitation and violence ... there are other possibilities! Let's embrace them together!" -- Lola Olumfemi
About the Author:
Sophie Lewis is a freelance writer living in Philadelphia, teaching courses for the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research. Her first book was Full Surrogacy Now: Feminism Against Family, and her essays have appeared in the New York Times, Harper's, Boston Review, n+1, the London Review of Books and Salvage. Sophie studied English, Politics, Environment and Geography at Oxford, the New School, and Manchester University, and is now an unpaid visiting scholar at the Feminist, Queer and Transgender Studies Center at the University of Pennsylvania.