14 May 2009

Book Review: No Future

Be forewarned, I really didn't like American Professor of English Lee Edelman's No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive (of Tufts University). He reduces the symbol of the "child" to "the linchpin of our universal politics of 'reproductive futurism.'"

I found Lauren Berlant's classic Queen of America Goes to Washington City to be spot on in many instances and if you're interested in how popular American culture utilizes the symbol of the child for neocon propaganda, read her book. She predicted through her analysis of Forest Gump, George Bush II's election. If neocons could they would elect a fetus as president and Dick Cheney as vice president. And they got close with George Bush II.

I am not into fetishizing children in an intellectual way or otherwise. Children are children. I think fetishizing children creates the conditions for systemic child molestation in real life, as James Kincaid wrote in Erotic Innocence. I also think that in someways it either exposes an infantilized collective consciousness or a drive to infantilize society. Some have expressed not liking May Bukas Pa on these grounds.

I didn't enjoy Edelman's Freudian style also -- schizo-affective is perhaps the correct word. The only feeling I got from his writing was anger and hate toward children and society's projections on children. If you hate it, you need it (in a unconsciously negative way). His book reminds me of God Hates Fags. When I read No Future, I had not yet seen Children of Men. But he spares no words in expressing his highly intellectual hate for it. In his description, I saw him opposing the symbol of creativity and renewal and calling it pro-natalism and child fetish. He confused the symbol of renewal (as in the birth of something new) with the concrete birth of a child. That was only an intuition when I read his book with a feeling of nausea and the urge to vomit.

I subsequently saw Children of Men -- which I really liked -- and it confirmed what I felt about Edelman's twisted point of view. Edelman is simply wrong. Queer theory doesn't need to assassinate the archetypal struggle for renewal to support a theoretical framework or a safe space for sexual minorities. I don't agree with his main point. The queer is not positioned in opposition to the child. Edelman's simply can't integrate the Child archetype that has apparently appeared in his life with the rest of his psyche. One of the problems of this is that it has made him overly intellectual to the point where he has no feeling in his writing. Perhaps he has a negative mother complex?

Marie von Franz said in Problems of the Feminine in Fairytales:
If the dominant principle of collective consciousness is worn out, then the children would be the promise of the new thing, the new principle[.] The principle of consciousness in a single human being is tiring. There is need for renewal and this is the dangerous moment; one fears the breakdown which is absolutely necessary for renewal, one fears to give up and to be for a short time faced with nothing. But cowardice or ambition in conscious life tend to cling to the old ways and to prevent renewal, and so evil gets in. (p. 119)
Think of it this way, in many stories, the king marries a country/provincial girl. They are to have a child, but the evil step-mother of the girl or someone like that wants to take the child and kill it. The whole story is allowing the child to develop and grow into an adult. I see this motif in a story as the story of renewal of human consciousness. The king represents the dominant way of thinking, which is tired. He marries someone from the country/province (who is not part of the dominant way of thinking) and they produce something new (the king's son who will replace him when he grows up). Yet, there are elements that need to thwart the renewal, like a negative mother complex, represented by an evil step-mother.

Edelman, however, calls the protecting of the child and warding off the threat of elements designed to sabotage this renewal as pro-natalism or part of Berlant's fetus-fetish. He has created a theory which makes him like an evil step-mother. He ends up identifying with the evil step-mother and theorizes that anyone that wants the child to succeed is really thinking like a religious conservative! That is what is so crazy about the book. (I write at length, though, about the point of child fetishing because our culture does have a problem with that. We infantilize and over do it the other way which ends up stopping the maturation process of the psyche.)

I think fetishizing children and the attitude of infantilizing everything and arresting psychological development is a problem. But this does not put children in opposition to a sexual minority. Religious conservatives have attempted to make this case to "save the children" from sexual minorities. Their attempts to oppose children and sexual minorities is their own opposing renewal and change into a new ay. They haven't got the monopoly on the symbolism of the child yet Edelman just reacts to that.

I would not recommend buying or reading this book. The version I read was a 208 page paperback published by Duke University Press (December 2004), ISBN-13: 978-0814735855. It is written in English. Don't buy it, it's not worth it, really!

Note: Edited May 15, 2008 at 2:58 AM per Mr. Scheez's request for clarification/explication.


  1. Oooh, I love the movie Children Of Men. It is, for me, one if not the best movie the year it was released. I don't think the movie fetishsizes the child.

    I have to be honest, I'm actually confused on what the central theme of the book. Can you cite a famous story or movie perhaps for me to have a better grasp of what the author is trying to imply? I'm really sorry, I have an IQ of new born child. =)

  2. "Don't buy it, it's not worth it, really! "

    noted. hehe i bought a copy of children of men recently but i haven't seen it. i'll see it over the weekend.

  3. I really enjoyed Children of Men -- hopefully you will too. It was Edelman's book that I couldn't stomach -- so much hate.