I was talking to Sam the other day about hauntology and, in the midst of our conversation, I was reminded of a story I heard recently about black market sperm donors. This analogy requires a little introduction…
Sam and I had briefly discussed Nick Land’s essay “Kant, Capital, and the Prohibition of Incest”. In the essay, which remains one of his better ones, Land explores how patriarchy and capitalism are closely related. Darwin’s “primitive horde” and Marx’s “primitive accumulation” essentially refer to the same process at different scales. The relationship between a capitalist and their workers is the same as the relationship of a father and husband to his wife and daughters — a way of supressing “the nomadism of the anonymous female fluxes that patriarchy oppressively manipulates, violates, and psychiatrizes.” Because women, least of all, need a family to have children and ensure the continuation of the human race. They are entirely capable of wandering the world and finding mates all on their own. But men don’t like that. They want to keep and control “their” women for themselves. This control cannot be absolute, however. Incest does not made for a healthy bloodline…
Patriarchy, then, is a compromise, within which an important tension remains. The patriarch knows that exogamy is essential but he also wants his sperm to be doing all the exogamising. So he has to lock down a woman for breeding purposes and, if he can’t keep them entirely to himself, he has to at least maintain control over his daughters and their relations. Land argues that this is also how capitalism is set up.
“A capitalist trading empire is a developed form of exogamic patriarchy, and inherits its tensions”, he writes. Both are constituted by a “domination of the other”, but this domination is only ever a form of partial control. The relationship must be coercive rather than fully authoritarian. Why? Land argues that it is forbidden for domination to develop “into full absorption, because it is the residual alterity of the other that conditions the generation of surplus.” Consider, for example, how it is a patriarch’s control of their children that allows for this surplus to be retained, so that it does not become squandered excess. It is in this way that “great” families of old built dynasties — by marrying off their kids to the right people, accumulating power just as an investor accumulates capital.
We might argue that liberalism is essentially a balance of power in this regard — an attempt at an ethical capitalism. Land argues that the liberalisation of patriarchy bacisally allows women to have more rights so that men can have a little bit of incest. But this is ultimately unsustainable, because both patriarchs and capitalists are greedy. The tension always remains. The capitalist, like the patriarch, may accept that exogamy is essential to a healthy state economy, but a given state economy always wants everyone to buy their commodities over anybody else’s. It is for this reason that capitalism tends to slide into fascism — and why fascists are also often incels.
Capitalism is stuttering under coronavirus. In the UK, this exogamic tension is all the government has spoken about for a year. Closing our borders has restricted our capacity to trade, just as Brexit meant we had to renegotiate all of our trading partnerships. To cope with the transition, there have been tales of cronyism and economic incest filtering out of government at a steady pace, as lucrative contracts for PPE are given to ill-equipped friends of government ministers. All the while, culture stagnates. The Bank of England prints money for businesses as communal spaces are the first to close their doors for good. British capitalism is essentially alternating between shagging its siblings and wanking into a sock, and the government knows if it doesn’t get its rocks off properly soon, it’s gonna be left with one weird, malformed post-pandemic generation.
Maybe that’s enough of the sex metaphors… But isn’t it telling that, at the same time as capitalism stutters, we’ve newly engaged in radical conversations about the future of procreation for our species? Israeli scientists recently announced they’d developed artificial wombs for mice, whilst there have been a dozen articles written about how sex has essentially been illegal for people who don’t live in the same household this past year. The pandemic might have fundamentally changed how we think about intimacy.
In the midst of all this, something else caught my ear recently. My girlfriend was listening to a segment about online sperm donors on Woman’s Hour. Experts have apparently raised concerns that amateur donors, who are selling their sperm online outside of official channels, may cause problems for future generations if they aren’t properly regulated. Black market semen has always been a thing, of course, but apparently business is booming under lockdown. With fertility clinics closed or taking on vastly reduced numbers of patients, many couples having nothing better to do and so are looking to have lockdown babies however they can. As patriarchal capitalism spasms, women are doing it for themselves.
One of the (hopefully) obvious reasons why sperm donation needs to be regulated, however, is that, if a donor sires too many children in a single region, the chances of grown-up children meeting and mating with their biological relatives becomes more and more likely. Before you know it, you’ve got a load of accidental incest going on and people end up having weird children. Donors no doubt know this, of course. But I suppose there comes a point when the profit motive outweighs the risks later down the line…
Coronavirus continues to mutate our sense of ourselves. The dichotomy is clear — further loosen the shackles placed on female nomadism, finally affirming the cyberhysteria of automated wandering wombs, or get ready for incest as men continue to drive capitalism into the ground at the expense of all the rest of us. That’s the line in the sand between current definitions of accelerationism — the former is the only one that has ever been worth a damn.