Arguably the most infamous demand of The Communist Manifesto is the “abolition of the family.” The family, Marx and Engels noted, was where patriarchy and capitalism worked in tandem to produce willing, alienated workers, where women became little more than “instruments of production” for the men who lorded over them. Radical queer politics in the 1960s and ’70s added to their critique of the bourgeois family when activists challenged the heteronormativity of familial relations. That demand, however, has since almost completely vanished from the leftist imaginary.
Sophie Lewis, a feminist theorist and geographer, takes up this forgotten struggle in her work. Her new book, Full Surrogacy Now: Feminism Against Family (Verso, 2019) specifically links family abolition to a radical reconceptualization of pregnancy itself. The act of carrying a child to term, she insists, is work—labor that has long been exploited and overlooked by the academy—and so is mothering.
By thinking through the logic of commercial surrogacy arrangements, Lewis lays bare the ways motherhood has been weaponized as an ideological construct. She gives us an account of the material conditions—the biological and societal violence—that gestators, or people who are carrying fetuses, have to bear.