The Repetitious in the Circulatory: Reconceptualizing Butler’s Heterosexual Matrix as Fetishistic Displacement/Deferral

Darko Vinketa


This paper proposes situating Butler’s concept of gender performativity in the sphere of capital circulation and rethinking the notion of heterosexual matrix as a spatio-temporal fix to the problem of overaccumulation, executed at the site of the body as variable capital in the historically specific context of an orientation towards an extraction of relative surplus value. In opposition to Marxist feminist’s invocation(s) of pre-capitalist bodily difference, it recasts gender (performativity) as a fundamentally Marxist category – as a content of the circulation process distinct to variable capital whose circulation is understood as a circulation of embodied gender norms. The sexed body here becomes a provisional displacement/deferral of the limit internal to capital.
This conceptual move is accomplished by tracing Butler’s engagement with Freud’s notion of acting out, whereas gender becomes a repetitious reenactment of characteristics of a prohibited same-sex object choice. Through recourse to György Lukács’s understanding of reification of psychoanalysis, it recasts such a prohibition in terms of skilled epistemological labor. In this sense, the body as an objectification of the repudiated and non-appearing prohibition on homosexuality is understood as a type of commodity fetishism specific to variable capital in which objectified (psychoanalytical) dead labor appears in the guise of gender as variable capital’s commodified surface. It emphasizes how such fetishistic displacement of the body can only be understood if that body is situated in the sphere of circulation, and not exclusively in the sphere of production, as Marx unadvisedly did.
Additionally, this paper expands on Pierre Macherey’s reading of Marx’s notion of Arbeitskraft and argues for understanding of gender as one of Arbeitskraft’s contents; performatively consolidated in and as circulation of variable capital, and then retroactively inscribed as that gendered body‘s essence, attached to the worker‘s productive power, in this way appearing as an always-already-there, permanently enclosing its social and laborious origins behind an illusion of the body as a surface.

gender performativity - heterosexual matrix - spatio-temporal fixes - capital bondage - overaccumulation - reification of psychoanalysis - queer marxism - commodity fetishism - acting out - capital accumulation - arbeitskraft