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As ongoing controversies over commercial sex attest, the relationship between capitalism and sexuality is deeply contentious. Economic and sexual practices are assumed to be not only separable but antithetical, hence why paid sex is so often criminalized and morally condemned. Yet, while sexuality is highly politicized in moral terms, it has largely been overlooked in the discipline devoted to the study of global capitalism, international political economy (IPE). Likewise, the prevailing field in sexuality studies, queer theory, has frequently sidelined questions of political economy. Nicola J. Smith's Capitalism's Sexual History (Oxford UP, 2020) calls for critical scholarship to challenge the dichotomy as it not only structures disciplinary debates but is part and parcel of capitalism itself. By exposing the historical mechanisms through which the economy/sexuality dichotomy has been constituted, the book opens up new space for critical inquiry into the intersections between sex, work, and economic and sexual injustice.
Nicola Smith is senior lecturer at the University of Birmingham, and a political economist working on feminist and queer theory, neoliberalism and austerity, sex work and reproductive labour, and the history of the British body politic.
Victoria Holt is a PhD student and a sex worker activist. Her research explores sex workers' experiences of domestic violence.
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