Pomo Periscope XIV: Queer Economics

28 September 2007 at 10:09 am 21 comments

| Nicolai Foss |

Here. I am speechless.

Entry filed under: - Foss -, Pomo Periscope.

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21 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Steven Horwitz  |  28 September 2007 at 11:06 am

    FWIW Nicolai:

    1. Joyce Jacobsen, one of the co-editors, has a terrific “Economics of Gender” text that I’ve used several times. It’s very balanced and very student-accessible. Not a whiff of pomo in the air.

    2. As I’m writing a book on classical liberalism and the family, I’ve done some reading in this area and I recognized the names of a couple of contributors who have done good work. John D’Emilio is a very big name in the history of sexuality and has written sensible stuff on the relationship between capitalism and gay identity.

    As for the rest of the book, who knows?

  • 2. Alf Rehn  |  28 September 2007 at 11:33 am


    Why would “queer” automatically be “pomo”? Jeez, I thought people were adult enough by now to realize that queer people exist, and that one might study them as specifically that. Why would for instance “queer demographics” — which might discuss the problems of assessing the number of people with alternative sexualities (I haven’t read the book, mind you) — be “pomo”? With the same logic one could call “Austrian economics” pomo…

  • 3. Nicolai Foss  |  28 September 2007 at 12:04 pm

    Steven and Alf,

    There is clearly a case to be made for associating pomo and so-called queer theory. Here is a randomly picked quotation:
    “The post-modern perspective has served to propel queer theory, itself originally marginalized, into an avant-garde position with respect to the academic mainstream, an irony very much in keeping with the post-modern commitment to doubleness and duplicity, and with the penchant of post-modernism for appropriating, installing, and reinforcing, as much as for undermining and subverting, the conventions and assumptions it appears to challenge.” (From http://www.glbtq.com/literature/postmodernism.html). Lots of other similar gobledygook can be found. And what all this may have to do with economics is beyond my comprehension.

  • 4. Alf Rehn  |  28 September 2007 at 2:15 pm

    But dear Nicolai, surely you are able to realize the following:

    1. The fact that there is postmodern queer theory does not mean that all the cases where theory and queer intersects is postmodern. In the same way one would be erroneous to claim that because there are postmodern economists, all economists are postmodern.

    2. Queer and queer theory are not synonymous — much as culture and cultural studies is not the same thing.

    3. Why would it be so odd to claim that there could be a subset of economics that deals with the issue of queer? Last I checked there was a subset of economics that discusses wage inequality — does the fact that I could construct an argument about wage inequality that namechecks Deleuze mean that this entire field is forevermore tarred with the pomo brush?

    You seem provoked because a word in a title sends you the wrong vibes. In fact, the postmodernist here is you, as you overinterpret a word and assume that you from it i can nfer a number of conspiratorial “meanings”.

  • 5. Nicolai Foss  |  28 September 2007 at 3:05 pm

    Ad 1) I didn’t say that.
    Ad 2) I haven’t claimed that.
    ad 3) Oh well….
    If you continue, the next pomo periscope will be on this paper:


  • 6. anonymous  |  28 September 2007 at 3:26 pm

    I, for one, call for a return to neoclassical queer theory…

  • 7. Alison Kemper  |  28 September 2007 at 8:39 pm

    The only one of the list I know is Gary Gates at UCLA. He did most of the statistical heavy lifting that generated the gay index for Richard Florida’s work.

    It seems to me that economic geography is pretty legitimate. There are queer dimensions written all over it. And it seems to me that real estate economics has looked at sexual orientation as one of the demographic variables. Certainly there are all kinds of labour economists who look at disadvantaged populations, incluing queers.

    Is the problem that this stuff is aggregated in a single volume? It might get economics into the queer studies curriculum. That can’t be all bad.

    If the problem you’re having is that we should all be assuming that the demand curve for all goods is the same regardless of sexual orientation, so what’s the problem, I think you’re likely giving up a lot of data that isn’t very hard to use.

    Certainly most marketing departments know their economics and their demographics well enough to segment markets on the basis of sexual orientation. Maybe economists could take a page from them.

  • 8. Alf Rehn  |  29 September 2007 at 1:03 am

    Nicolai, baby,

    If you wanted to find a “postmodern” paper of mine I could point you towards far worse.

    And while it might be logically true that you didn’t claim any of the things I suggested, you actually “claimed” very little. You linked to a book none of us seem to have read, slapped on a headline you regularly use to condemn stuff (sometimes quite rightly), and proclaimed you were “speechless”.

    Maybe I’m a little stupid (people have claimed that and worse), but that seems a lot like a general attack on a book simply based on its title and a (highly tenuous) link to pomo queer theory (bolstered by a quotation from an entirely different source in comment #3).

    Hell, I have no problem with you attacking postmodernism (even though you mainly seem to have an issue with poststructuralism, not postmodernism per se — by which some of us understand a more general movement in society, not a bunch of French theory). Nor do I hide away that I’ve dabbled in poststructuralist theory. But can’t we agree that not even the world of the science wars is completely black and white?

    Yes, in your eyes I may be the “enemy”, and I can claim some poststructuralist credentials (e.g. a major Swedish newspaper asked me to write Baudrillards obituary, which I gladly did). But I try to read across the divides, and I follow this blog (which to some of my colleagues represents the “enemy”), and I’ve even read some of your stuff. Didn’t agree with all of it, but thought it had some interesting ideas.

    However, this doesn’t mean that I won’t comment, nor be cowed by the threat to be “periscoped” (a great word), when you make sweeping claims of scientific inadequacy based on little more than a title.

    Now, I may be wrong here. This book might be just a collection of poststructuralist linguistic trickery and tenuous links to Judith Butler. Then again, it might be a sombre analysis of an existing social group. I don’t know, and I’m thinking you don’t either. If you do, I apologize — you were right and I was wrong. But you haven’t really argued that case yet. If I am right, will we see a “Pomo Persicope Mea Culpa”?

  • 9. Nicolai Foss  |  29 September 2007 at 3:21 am

    Alison, Serious points. Worth considering.
    Alf, Settle down, dude (or is it baby). This is the blogosphere. Enough said.

  • 10. Alf Rehn  |  29 September 2007 at 4:17 am


    Sure. No prob. But remember, if you’re OK with making unfounded claims, you really can’t criticize others for doing so. Blogosphere or no.

  • 11. Nicolai Foss  |  29 September 2007 at 4:25 am

    Alf, Don’t believe that the purpose of Pomo Periscope is to engage in dialogue with “pomists” It isn’t. It is ridicule. Which may well be the best way to fight pomo. Nothing has been worse to the pomo cause than the Sokal episode.

  • 12. Alf Rehn  |  29 September 2007 at 7:49 am

    But Nicolai, I’ve never assumed it was. I am just pointing out that if you try to ridicule things as being “pomo” without checking whether they actually are or not, this’ll make people think you actually don’t understand what you’re talking about. I have no problem with you ridiculing pomo, but I do have a problem if you don’t even check if something is or not before you pass judgement. Do you know if this book is “pomo” or are you just wildly guessing? It could, as suggested, be a case of very straight (sic) economics. Or are things pomo just because you say they are?

  • 13. Alf Rehn  |  29 September 2007 at 8:11 am

    In other words, I’m not trying to argue with you about pomo, or argue for it. I’m saying you may have misunderstood what the book was about.

  • 14. Jan Madsen  |  29 September 2007 at 10:49 am

    Ad 6

    Doh, now I have to look up the article you linked to see what it’s all about, ’cause the abstract made absolutely no sense what so ever.

  • 15. Nicolai Foss  |  29 September 2007 at 10:54 am

    Alf, OK, so we are back: I say there is a case to be made for associating queer/queer theory with pomo. You say …. well …I am not sure I completely understand what you actually say. This suggests that a future Pomo Periscope should provide a working definiition of what we mean by “pomo” here at O&M. I see this as the positive outcome of this debate.

    Jan, Don’t worry. A future PP will make an attempt to decipher, sorry, deconstruct, this piece.

  • 16. Jan Madsen  |  29 September 2007 at 11:14 am

    Ah, what a relief.

  • 17. Warren Miller  |  29 September 2007 at 11:18 am

    Nicolai, before you and I know it, we’ll be dragged into something really off the wall – think “the critical perspective on organizations and markets.” That will probably take both of us, along with anyone else in her/his right mind, right over the edge!

    In the meantime, however, I wonder how many undergraduates might think that “queer economics” is redundant. :-)

  • 18. Rafe Champion  |  1 October 2007 at 12:20 am

    What if someone tells us what the goddam book is about, like the main theme and theoretical assertions etc.

  • 19. Steven Horwitz  |  1 October 2007 at 10:26 am

    Again, FWIW..

    John D’Emilio’s fairly canonical piece “Capitalism and Gay Identity” attempts to argue that the rise of capitalism, and wage labor specifically, made it possible, by separating work from the heterosexual family, for gays then lesbians to live their lives “as” gay or lesbians. That is, it enable them to move from engaging in homosexual acts to the more fullly realized “identity” we today associate with gays and lesbians. He links this to urbanization and other aspects of economic development.

    He’s no friend of capitalism, but I believe his analysis in that paper is right on the mark and there’s near zero “pomo” jargon or analysis in it. Though I wouldn’t use the term, it is indeed a species of “queer economics” in some broad sense. And it’s a very good piece and one that is largely recognized as such by scholars of sexuality.

    The problem, Nicolai, is that you assume that “queer economics” must involve all the sins of post-modernism. It might, but it might not. Isn’t it an empirical question that requires more than a book title to settle?

  • 20. Niklas Hallberg  |  1 October 2007 at 4:40 pm

    Is “Queer Economics: A reader” pomo? The book is introduced as a “[…] response to the effects of heteronormativity on both economic outcomes and economics as a discipline.”. The key term here is “heteronormativity”, which was (to the best of my knowledge) coined in an article appearing in Social Text.

  • 21. k  |  7 May 2008 at 8:31 am

    “The key term here is “heteronormativity”, which was (to the best of my knowledge) coined in an article appearing in Social Text”

    The reader is PoMo because it uses a word that was coined in an article that appeared in a Journal that Alan Sokal says is PoMo. The only way I’d be more convinced is if the chain of identification involved someone’s cousin in West Virginia.

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