Capitalism and western modernity (colonialism) has produced a rupture in world history, particularly the “third world” precisely for the reason that it has re-arranged the structure of relationships and kinship among our social reality, therefore qualitatively providing new foundations for our supposed objective foundations of culture. Here, I am speaking about the concept of the family for persons and nations of Non-European descent who exist in a very western and so-called modern world. In our attempts to merge our subjective life with our objective meaning, we constantly attempt to give meaning to our subjective selves by constructing and entering the social formation of the family. We do this to reproduce ourselves and its contingent culture: we wish to tell our children the myths of our ancestors, the struggles of our people and history, our own personal narratives, and the promise of the unfolding of the convent which is the liberation and welfare of our beloved nation. In this vein, our subjective lives arrive to its objective purpose: the passing of ourselves to the next generation so that history can continue with us but without our immediate presence.
However, there are several conceptual yet concrete implications in these kinship lineages that are imposed by capitalism and colonial history:
(1) Capitalism and colonialism re-arranged “native” social relations to model the western nuclear family consisting of an apparently heterosexual couple who form the gendered family par excellence. This family consists of a husband and wife who are defined by gender and sexuality – which are very much westernized – rather than any identity that is historically derived from their respective communities. In other words, this pseudo-universal gender and sexual identities become primary to the nation. (The nation and its people must be primary towards any sort of false template of gender and sexuality that negates its genuine interests)
(2) Our present day understanding of family overlooks the economic fact that capitalism produced modern subjects that are allowed to form unions and families based on their respective labour power; that is, we are allowed to construct crucial social and economic entities based on our ability to sell our labour wherever we choose. This privilege is granted to the bourgeois segment of any society but this access is constrained by western bourgeois culture’s insistence on the (heterosexual) nuclear family par excellence. In other words, our construction of family as allowed by capital is already constrained by the culture of (western) capital.
(3) And if bourgeois culture insists on the construction of the nuclear family par excellence, it poses a problematic question to our own history: Are we willing to construct a nuclear family, based on these supposed universal (see: western) gender analytics, despite it being dishonest to our own histories that are already disrupted and altered by western colonialism and capital? Extending this inquiry to its contingent yet fundamental question, we must ask “Does this concept of the family negate the nation because it only allows one mode of cultural reproduction as opposed to the overall flourishing of the nation?”
It is obviously that the nuclear family was never completely instituted outside of Europe precisely for the reason of capital whereas the nuclear family in the west is complete precisely because of capital. And yet because non-Europeans began to operationalize around the idea of selling our labour power wherever we choice (to maximize profits, economic or personal), the non-European subject begins to recognize the nuclear family as its base and ideal as our supposed base and ideal for our desire. And this desire is ultimately directed to the end goal of maximizing profit, which culturally translates to utilitarianism, or happiness. The nuclear family indeed takes on the language of neo-classical economics rather than the construction of authentic love.
The goal here is not to jettison the concept of the family precisely for the reason that if we remove the kinship linkages, we remove the objective foundations for our subjective lives. (We become who ourselves through our relations to others, particularly those most intimate to us.) The goal for any manifesto of love to merge our subjective being with our objective being in hopes that we arrive to a radicalized understanding of the possibilities of love. Therefore, the goal is to re-orient our existing understanding of family so that we can actualize a social entity that allows for the flourishing of our nation. My extended family was fond of the following phrase when I left the house: “Go out in the world and do good.”
So what does it mean to re-orient our subjective selves so that it merges with our objective being in the context of family? In Marxian terms, how do we re-arrange the social superstructure so that it critically engages with the base? Another way of posing the question is how do we construct our social relations within family so that it courageously engages reality-at-hand? This, of course, requires that we study the objective determinates in our reality so that we understand the dialectic between ourselves and our world therefore recognizing any contradictions that appear between the two. We must to do because contradictions in social reality is the fundamental cause of our own alienation and without recognizing the causes of such contradictions, we will only reconfigure the contradictions only to arrive again at where we started. And to be the fathers and mothers of those who will continue after us, we must be willing to confront that alienation in which our children will also face.
And ultimately, the rest requires struggle and the courage to make a tryst with destiny. It means to take on the responsibilities and burdens of teaching our people about their own humanity and it means to unconditionally love the people who are most intimate to us despite their own contradictions. And ultimately this means to produce and push history therefore towards the continued construction an authentic national culture.
Jonathan Việt Lưu is currently an undergraduate student studying philosophy and Africana studies at Texas A&M University. His research interests include social and political philosophy, critical race theory, theories of “the nation,” and Afro-Asian thought. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.