Neoliberalism, Citizenship and Activism

Authored by: Diane Richardson

The Ashgate Research Companion to Lesbian and Gay Activism

Print publication date:  August  2015
Online publication date:  March  2016

Print ISBN: 9781409457091
eBook ISBN: 9781315613147
Adobe ISBN: 9781317042914


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This chapter examines neoliberalism as a major influence on the shifts in lesbian and gay activism that has occurred in many parts of the world in recent years. The first section describes some of the key changes that have occurred in sexual politics since the second part of the twentieth century, in particular the trend towards defining the goals and strategies associated with lesbian and gay activism in terms of human rights rhetoric, and in demanding equal rights of citizenship of nation states. The discussion also illustrates how the concept of normalization has been central to different forms of activism, from social movements which contested core social institutions and cultural norms to those which embraced a “politics of normalization,” albeit with the term normalization variously deployed and defined. The next section of the chapter considers how processes of professionalization, linked to a scaling-up of political organizing, are an important aspect of the production of neoliberal spaces, with important implications for political activism. It then goes on to examine the interrelationship between neoliberalism and lesbian and gay politics. This section looks at different ways of thinking about neoliberalism, highlighting how these different understandings have important implications for lesbian and gay activism. It considers how, in addition to processes of professionalization and normalization, changes in political organizing have been linked to processes of commodification and deradicalization. Finally, the last section examines some of the contradictions and complexities of neoliberalism in terms of its impact on lesbian and gay politics, considering how neoliberalism can both constrain political agency and organizing as well as sometimes providing spaces for activism.

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