From Retroactivation to Futurity: The End of the Sexual Contract?

Adkins, Lisa. 2008. From Retroactivation to Futurity: The End of the Sexual Contract? Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research, 16(3), pp. 182-201. [Article]

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This article investigates the changing relations between gender and labour in contemporary capitalism. It challenges what has become a default although mostly implicit position for understanding this relationship, namely what I shall term, following the work of Carole Pateman (1988), a sexual contract position. This position will be shown to cast labour with a particular temporal structure, namely as a package of capacities and abilities which are developed, accumulated, and stored up over time and become, as Pierre Bourdieu might have it, part of the habitus of the worker. But the relevance of this model is questioned in a context where labour appears not to be organized with reference to embodied accumulation but with reference to an open and vital future. And if labour now concerns such futurity, this article asks, does this imply that the sexual contract has passed away? Certainly the latter is implied in the view that we are witnessing a break with a previous synchronicity between work and life and in the idea that (particularly young) women are now hyper-charged with economic capacity. But do these ideas and interventions fully grasp the passing of the sexual contract? This article suggests that they do not. To do so requires a direct confrontation with changing arrangements of labour.

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Date Deposited:

23 Apr 2010 07:24

Last Modified:

22 Apr 2016 16:32

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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