12. 1. 2023

What We Mean by Community is Our Yearning for Communism

 M.E. O’Brien

David Camfield

Families are political. They’re part of how most people survive under capitalism; they’re places of love and support as well as, often, violence, other forms of oppression, and suffering. M.E. O’Brien’s new book Family Abolition: Capitalism and the Communizing of Care is an important radical analysis of families in capitalist society, and of communist politics of the family from the mid-1800s to today. We’re excited to present here a conversation between M.E. and Midnight Sun editor David Camfield, adapted from an episode of David’s podcast Victor’s Children. The conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

David Camfield:

In official politics – the world of legislatures and parliamentary elections – politicians often talk as if families are nothing but good and everyone lives in one. This is also true for most union leaders, leaders of LGBT organizations, and other prominent voices on the left in its broadest sense. I have in front of me the winter 2022-2023 issue of Our Times, Canada’s independent labour magazine, and on the back cover there’s an ad from the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), which says, “Family, it’s what we are.”

Of course, the reality of families is very different from the way they’re depicted in official politics. In the book Family Abolition: Capitalism and the Communizing of Care, M.E. O’Brien writes, “The family is a joy for some, a necessity for most, and a nightmare for too many.” The family is “a limit to human emancipation” and a “limit to our imagination.” The book argues that a transition to communism – that is, a free society without class division or state power – would need to involve moving beyond the family.

So what led you to write Family Abolition?


M.E. O’Brien:

I coordinated a multi-city study on revolutionary feminism and helped edit a reader that we put together covering a century of thinking about gender and sexuality on the far left. One of the things I noticed, working on that [project], is that in each phase, each period we were looking at, people had a lot of different kinds of critiques of the family as a really important plank or dimension of communist thinking. And then that disappears for a while, particularly since the early 1980s. Up until just a few years ago, we’d seen a real diminishment of serious critiques of the family as a dimension of socialist politics. One of the things that struck me, in working on that reader, was what people meant by family seemed to vary significantly. I was interested in developing a historical materialist analysis, trying to make sense of how the role of family has changed over the history of capitalist development, particularly the role of the working-class family. I tried to understand how at different moments of mass working-class struggle throughout history, the critique of the family and its particular place in capitalist reproduction and white supremacy has played a really integral role in reflecting the farthest limits of thinking about gender and sexual freedom within the revolutionary left.

There were a number of contemporary issues that were also weighing on me. I coordinated the New York City Trans Oral History Project for three and a half years. The project’s interviews are with trans New Yorkers sharing about their lives, about their systems of taking care of each other and survival. One theme that comes up is the sort of strategies of mutual aid and chosen family that have been a huge part of New York City history, particularly in Black and Latinx trans communities, but elsewhere as well – that was really influential for me. I began, over the course of years, to think of family abolition as a way of [taking] how we think about gender, sexuality, our care relations to each other, our private domestic lives, and more deeply and thoroughly integrating [all of that] into broader questions about capitalist society and the possibility of communism. So that was a lot of my motivation in writing the book.



In the book, you argue that families, markets, and states make capitalism’s ongoing reproduction possible. Can you share your thoughts on how the family in particular contributes to that process?



There’s a major dimension of Marxist feminist thinking, called social reproduction theory, that has done excellent work drawing attention to the family, the nuclear family under capitalism, the working-class family in particular, as reproducing the labour force necessary for capitalist society, as preparing and educating young people who later become workers. In these frameworks, the family is where people perform the social-reproductive tasks on a day-to-day basis that enable people to make it back into work the next day. So that’s a whole dimension of the book, and an important one, in my mind. As a related but distinct second dimension, the family is a means of surviving in a very difficult world. We can look around and think about what it takes to survive under the difficulties of racial capitalism; there’s so much violence and atomization and isolation that the family plays a very powerful and very important role as the strategy of survival for working-class people, people of colour, queer people. Forming private households, gathering a small number of people who you create long-term commitments to, is necessary in many ways to survive in capitalist markets and against racist state terror. And so [the family] also functions very importantly in questions of day-to-day reproduction for so many people, not just from the perspective of capital but also from the perspective of people’s survival.

I’m interested in these two complementary dimensions of thinking about reproduction. Working-class people are both motivated to form and maintain families as a strategy of material survival in a really difficult world and, on the other hand, the forming and maintaining of families is playing an integral role overall in the reproduction of capitalist society. 

You also mentioned markets and the state. At different historical moments, people have envisioned family abolition very differently. People imagine family abolition as the left somehow invading and destroying people’s ability to form nuclear families and leaving people at the mercy of the racist state and capitalist market forces; people experience their families under all sorts of pressures under racial capitalism, so there’s this real fear that if you get rid of the family, you will be left having to survive in a very hostile world. I’m quite sympathetic to those fears; I’m sympathetic to the reasons that people form families. [Yet], ultimately, family abolition is a way of envisioning overcoming class society, a way of envisioning the basis of collective human emancipation and a free society. It’s a dimension of thinking about the communist struggle. And visions of family abolition, I argue, really need to incorporate the overcoming of the state and the market as integral to any possibility of collective human emancipation. 

There are lots of changes we can and should make to the family right now. There are ways that we can expand opportunities for people to live outside of the private household, and outside of nuclear families. We can demand state reforms that validate and support the rich diversity of ways that people find to care for each other. But ultimately, family abolition is beyond these sorts of necessary reforms; it is about imagining a society where who you love, who you care for, and who you choose to live with is not the basis of your material survival. And that necessitates also critiquing and rethinking the consolidation of social reproduction in the form of the state, and overcoming the wage form and market society as the basis of organizing human work.



Families as they exist today are very different from what they were like in earlier periods of capitalist history, as well as very different from what they were like in societies before capitalism, both those that were class-divided and not. So in the world today, in our era of capitalism, maybe roughly since the end of the post-Second World War economic boom in the mid-1970s, what would you highlight in terms of the most important ways in which families have changed?



I take the post-World War Two period in North America, the rise of suburbia and the white nuclear family norm, as the pinnacle of a trend that had been unfolding for multiple decades: of expanding access to the bourgeois family, to a housewife-based family form that had previously, in the late-19th century, really been accessible only to capitalist families. Expanding that to become accessible to a substantial tier of more “respectable,” more “stable” white working-class people – effectively the creation of what became known as the middle class. 

That had begun to unfold at the end of the 19th century in industrial centers in Europe and had really lasting consequences for the socialist movement. The creation of the working-class family as something that could resemble the bourgeoisie depended on the material success won by the socialist movement. Working-class organizations were able to win wages high enough to allow – for some – a housewife to stay at home and not work in the market. This historical emergence of the working-class housewife-based family form split the socialist movement in the working class and created a divide between “respectable” working-class people and the poor, queer, Black, colonial, all these excluded others that were omitted from a great deal of socialist organizations, labour unions, and the formation of a “respectable” working class. The family was central to this splitting of the proletariat.

And then after World War Two, in the massive economic development of the United States through the construction of the suburbs, the family ideal was central. The family ideal served as part of a regressive rolling-back of the gains of Black people and queer people in the post-war era, and the re-assertion of a kind of gender conservatism linked to a politics of racist, homophobic capitalist development in the US. I trace that history, and then the rebellion against that familial conservatism, in the form of the civil rights movement, and then the broad rebellions that unfolded at the end of the 1960s into the early 1970s. Many of these rebellions sought to overcome the limits of the white suburban family form as they saw it: in the gay liberation struggles, in radical feminism, and, importantly, in Black feminism and welfare rights struggles in the 1970s. These were all rebellions around class, around gender, but they were all partially, in one way or another, rebellions against a certain kind of family ideal.

But it’s not those rebellions that ultimately led to the dissolution of the housewife-based family form for working-class people. It’s the changes in capitalist society, and what I argue is a protracted crisis in capitalist profitability since the 1970s – what’s widely called neoliberalism – that have effectively eliminated the possibility of working-class people being able to survive on one adult’s wages. Where from the 1890s on, there had been this kind of split in the working-class movement between more “respectable” white workers and more marginal excluded workers, since the 1970s we’ve seen a real erosion of the possibility of working-class people forming normative families. 

That has had both a really negative dimension and a positive dimension. The progressive side, aided by feminist and queer movement gains, is a lot more people choosing to marry later, being able to choose when to have kids and perhaps choosing to have kids later, being able to pursue queer relationships, being able to pursue non-normative decisions about how they form households. But that has come at a real cost in our present era, at the cost of poverty, at the cost of increasing dependence on the wage – and, I argue, increasing dependence on the private household altogether, with the decay of welfare supports and other means of surviving outside of the nuclear family that people might [need to rely on] to make more non-traditional decisions about who they love and live with. We all remain within the structure of the private household. People are often very, very dependent on who they’re related to or who they live with, even if there’s been an expansion in freedom [around] the kind of decisions that people are able to make about their intimate relationships and how to organize their families. 

We arrive at the present moment where people feel, nearly across the board, a very intense precarity, a very difficult survival that, of course, is much worse for poor families, for people of colour. And that the idea of being able to form and maintain a family effectively relies on inherited wealth. Maintaining stable families is extremely difficult for the vast majority of working-class people.



In the book, you argue that there’s more to the family than [its role as] a private household that organizes forms of privatized care. What else do we have to understand about families? 



One very important dimension to the book is thinking about the family as a link in the chain of capitalist reproduction. That I draw from social reproduction theory, but I also am really interested in engaging Black Studies, Black feminisms, Indigenous Studies, currents of queer studies that also recognize the family as a normative ideal that is deeply tied up with the history of white supremacy and property. The family ideal is used to violently police African Americans, Black people broadly in Europe and Canada, migrants, Native people, as part of the dynamics of white supremacy and genocide. I look at that historically, in the 19th century: the role of allotment policy in Canada and the United States, the importance of the white family in settler colonialism. I look at the plantation family and the way that slavery created what’s called natal alienation, which fragmented the care bonds between enslaved Black people. I look at that unfolding, and the experiments in different forms of love and care during Black Reconstruction, and then their violent rollback during Jim Crow and the enforcement of white supremacy that was built into sharecropping. 

This history continues today in the ongoing role of the family policing system in the state intervening in, destroying, and eroding strategies of care between Black people, between migrants, between Indigenous people. This sort of history of external violence, often from the racist state, plays a very important role in the history of the family. In my mind, family abolition has to be [not only] the overcoming of a universal dependency on the private household, but also a destruction and radical re-imagining of the racial politics of a family norm being the means through which parent relations are evaluated and policed. I link that to thinking about the internal violence within families: the isolation within the private household, the dynamics of privacy that have been such an important part of the formation and consolidation of nuclear families; the dynamics of patriarchy, of heteronormativity; the imposition of gender norms on children. 

Right now, there’s a lot of news about the right wing trying to roll back the ability of trans children to transition, trying to criminalize transition altogether. It’s been magnificent and very beautiful for me to see, over the course of the last two decades, the proliferation of children coming out as trans and pursuing genders that resonate with them. That, I think, is one of the most positive things that’s happened in our society. And that has been taken up in this far-right panic and attack on trans children. But there are problems with a certain sort of liberal perspective that is defending trans children through asserting the rights of parents who want to support their child’s transition…that’s a great thing to do, of course we should support parents who are supporting their children’s transition and defend them against right-wing attack, but that leaves another whole question about what happens to all the trans children who are unfortunate enough to be born into really transphobic and violent families. Violence within the family is a fate that many, many people face. One’s family is the place where we are mostly likely to be raped, to be violently beaten, to be murdered. The family is organized as a site that enables a tremendous amount of violence. And we have very little recourse in how to deal with that. Child protective services is an extremely racist system that does very little to actually protect children. Relying on the state to intervene in nuclear families has really not been successful, and we need to think much more deeply about the sorts of social forms that could actually enable gender freedom for children.



The book looks at this multi-dimensional, highly contradictory set of relationships that we have in families as they exist today. As you see it, the political response to all of this should be a perspective of family abolition. The book notes, “Family abolition is not a slogan to rally around, nor a platform that will easily win people over.” That made me think that in some ways, perhaps, it’s a bit like the idea of degrowth, [a political perspective that] raises important ideas that are not easily understood because of the extent to which today most people assume growth and family are both inevitable features of any imaginable society. So could you maybe say a little bit more about how you understand what family abolition means? And importantly, what it doesn’t mean?



A lot of people, when they hear about family abolition and engage some of my work, one of the main resonances that comes up is the idea of “chosen family” or non-traditional families, of trying to form alternative arrangements for households. I think chosen family is a great thing. It should be encouraged, it should be facilitated, it should be materially supported by state policy, by whatever resources we have available. I think defending alternative forms of care relations is a very important part of supporting queer people, fighting racism, supporting Black and migrant survival strategies. 

But that is not ultimately the focus of my book. I do have a chapter about it, and it is important to me and it certainly has been important in my personal life. But ultimately I see forming chosen families, forming alternative systems of care, as being exceedingly difficult to sustain under racial capitalism. They come under a lot of the same pressures that nuclear families do: the fragmenting effect of state violence, the atomizing effect of labour market competition. There are many historical examples where people form group houses in a range of contexts, but then if somebody needs to move for a job, who moves with them? Or deliberate communities that sort of try to gloss over the significant differences of people’s material backgrounds or class backgrounds. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, where there’s a long history of hippies forming deliberate communities in the 1970s. When there’d be a crisis, or there’d be a challenge, some people would have a material safety net to fall back on, often from their extended family. But other people wouldn’t, and might end up in prison or lost to drug addiction. There’s a fragmenting, stratifying effect to the dynamics of racial capitalism that make it very difficult to build and sustain alternative family forms. 

I support chosen families, I support alternative family arrangements, I think we should pursue them, but they run into real limits. And ultimately, family abolition will require a profound remaking of the state and the market. It requires an overcoming of racial capitalism. And I argue that family abolition is a necessary dimension of trying to theorize a revolutionary overcoming of class society, and of the commitment to communist emancipation…and that that necessarily would require a radical transformation in how we live together and how we care for each other in our private domestic lives. I am particularly interested in the many historical examples when large numbers of working-class people have been in rebellion together and that begins to transform the intimate relations between people. 

In terms of what family abolition isn’t, I’m very adamant that family abolition is not promoting, supporting, or enabling racist states intervening in and destroying care relations between people of colour. Of course child abuse is a reality in a lot of different spaces and communities, and we have to find ways of combatting it and challenging it. But Child Protective Services is a terrible way of going about that, and has done a tremendous amount of harm to Black families. Certainly the history of child separation in Indigenous residential schools is one of genocide and tremendous racism and settler colonialism. Separating migrant adults from their children at the US-Mexico border, for example, is a nightmarish policy. My work is very adamant that family abolition is not the state intervening in care relations. 

I’m also adamant that it’s not a sort of promotion or proliferation of people living alone, living in isolation, rejecting their families of origin. Of course, some people need to reject their families of origin as really oppressive and violent spaces, and we need to support that. But to survive in this world, we need lots of care and we need lots of different ways of caring for each other. Some of those forms of care we call family and some of them we don’t, but when those forms of care are helpful to people, are positive for people, that’s something we need to encourage, to facilitate, to support. And when they’re not, of course, people need support to be able to get outside of [them]. 

So family abolition is ultimately not about increasing isolation. Also, there have been efforts at creating communes, creating alternative ways of parenting, creating alternative forms of life – but because those haven’t happened in the context of communist insurrection and class struggle, they often rely on dynamics of settler colonialism and land occupation to be able to be implemented. Because they’re not about seizing land and property from capitalists, they need to seize it from someone else. Here I consider the kibbutzim in Israel as part of the history of racist Zionist settler colonialism in Palestine. Within the Kibbutz movement, there are examples of experiments in parenting that I have multiple disagreements with, but my most important objection is that they’ve depended on the displacement of Palestinians and the settler-colonial state of Israel. There are many examples of utopian socialist communities in Canada and the United States in the 19th century that similarly relied on the genocidal displacement of Indigenous people. 

Those are some forms of family abolition or rejecting family that I critique. And then as an alternative to [those forms], I’m very interested in the ways that people care about each other in our world now, and how class struggle, how mass rebellion, how Black and Indigenous struggle, how queer struggle can envision, promote, and pursue alternative forms of care – forms of care that are more universal, more accessible to people, that are less constraining in how people form intimate relations. Within mass rebellions, we can find forms of care that can sustain and reproduce struggle.



You write about experiences that hint at the possibility of family abolition, experiences that you call insurgent social reproduction. Could you talk a bit about those?



I identify insurgent social reproduction as emerging in moments when large numbers of working-class people are in rebellion together. When these rebellions take on a sustained form, trying to reproduce themselves from one week to the next, from one month to the next – often these are quite temporary and tied up with a much broader struggle that pulls together thousands or millions of people…and during these times, these moments of large-scale working-class rebellion, what happens in how people care for each other, and what happens to the tasks that used to be relegated to the private household? So thinking about cooking and childcare and the arrangements of people sleeping, questions of safety…

There are many examples of this, and one that I focus on in the book is protest camps. I rattle off a bunch of examples of protest camps that I’ve had the chance to visit, and then others that I’ve been inspired by but didn’t have a chance to visit. These are often temporary: people living on barricades, living on unoccupied roads, in protracted struggle against the state and capital. To some extent, we can see this in the movement of the squares, in ancient forest defence struggles, in struggles against pipelines and the destruction of Indigenous lands. In these protracted occupations, people might join them with their families or bring their children. People might participate in a way that draws in their pre-existing care relations. But the old forms of private social reproduction isolated within the family begin to break down and become collectivized. They become communized. They become shared. We can see insurgent social reproduction in protest kitchens, collective childcare arranged at protest sites, how people arrange sleeping, to be able to defend themselves against rapists within the camp or violent state agents from outside.

The example that I open the book with is the Oaxaca commune: a teacher protest in Oaxaca that led to an extended period of barricades, as people defended themselves against the Mexican military and far-right militias. Indigenous women played a central role in the rebellion: in the occupied radio stations, and reproducing life on the barricades. And one of the multiple forms of counter-revolution that stopped the Oaxaca commune was their husbands insisting that they come back and serve them in the private household.

I think this is a really striking example of a moment when women step beyond the private household, as a necessary dimension of rebellion, of reproducing the struggle; they collectivize social life, and they expand the care relations within the family into a broader world of struggle. Here insurgent social reproduction sustains the very possibility of rebellion. The rebellion was undermined by the reassertion of the private family, in this case of Indigenous working-class poor families. The reassertion of patriarchy and the private household was a counter-revolution and a derailment of insurgent social reproduction.

These examples of insurgent social reproduction to a limited extent prefigure the kinds of collective communes that I imagine could replace the private household. So living arrangements of a couple hundred people, maybe a large apartment building, a city block, where food is collective and cooked communally, where there is available collective childcare, where questions of material consumption and the organizing of material life are able to be made collectively by people. Within those material conditions, people might form romantic partnerships, they might choose to raise children. But if you separate from your spouse, or a child has a violent falling out with their parents or whatever it is and needs some distance, because the economic unit is not the private household, [because] there’s this broader organization of the commune, it becomes possible to make other needed decisions based on people’s specific circumstances – where everyone can get the care that they need, everyone can get the material support they need. And so it doesn’t affect people’s material conditions when they make alternative choices about who they want to love, and who they want to live with.

That’s the kind of speculative future I gesture at. I see forms of that emerging spontaneously in the context of mass rebellion.



I think it’s really important to be thinking about this because we’re in a historical moment where the horrors of capitalism are more widely understood by people, and there’s a growing yearning for something other than capitalism, and yet it’s so difficult for people to think about a world beyond capitalism. And this extends to people taking the market for granted as something that must inevitably exist, taking state power to be something that must always exist, and then the family as well – so I think any renewal of a genuinely socialist or communist politics needs to be actually thinking about the transcendence of each of those three. And your book really contributes to that, by understanding the integration of those [spheres] and focusing on the family within that [framework].

And so I do think one of [the book’s] best features is what it has to say about the kind of society that’s ultimately possible, necessary, and worth fighting for, which should be our political horizon. The book says this should be a society with “a commitment to making non-alienated care available to all… Family abolition is the dimension of care specific to a classless society… A free society is one built on mutual care.” Certainly this spoke to me. I’ve always felt that this kind of transformative understanding of care is central to socialist politics. And even though it’s not something that was written about at any length when I became a socialist, it did seem to me to be part of the vision. I remember – this would be in the late 1980s – a political button that I acquired in the [socialist] group that I had joined said “Reds Care,” which was a pun on Red Scare (this was before the collapse of Stalinism), but I think it was also just trying to challenge the idea that, you know, revolutionaries are a bunch of uncaring people, and that somehow our vision is about bread but not roses, only one rather than both.

And yet, once we understand capitalism as a [form of] society that’s founded on alienated labour, social atomization, competition, and so on; once we recognize how oppression distorts our relations with each other in so many ways, then I think [we’re] understanding that the society we’re fighting for is about not just giving people access to water, food, and shelter, and control in their workplaces and so on, but also fundamentally about allowing us to care for each other in ways that we’re unable to under capitalism, because of the tyranny of the market and the state and oppression. That is not a vision that’s often really articulated as much as it needs to be, despite the necessity to think about how we’re going to actually, you know, adapt to climate change, how we’re going to fight for a transition from fossil fuels. There’s a lot of stuff about human survival that has to be part of our politics today, and that has to be inseparable from a politics of care.

Close to the end of your book, there’s a really interesting discussion about Martin Luther King Jr.’s idea of the Beloved Community and Marx’s idea of Gemeinwesen [community or “common being”]. Could you talk about how those ideas are different from the overwhelming talk about community that we hear today? We hear so much about community, it’s one of the most overused words, and yet it represents people grasping for something, trying to think about something. Can you talk about those themes of community that you close your book with and why they matter for those of us who yearn for liberation?



Both care and community, I think, are deeply alienated under capitalism and take really quite destructive and often very harmful forms, and are also concepts that are really overly laden with romantic [sentiment]. They take the place, on some level, of people being able to talk about communism, or being able to think about a free society. We imagine community when what we wish for is to think beyond the dynamics of racial capitalism.

I’m very skeptical [about] the extent to which community exists at all. People form communities, they form underground music scenes or networks of mutual care or networks of friends, sort of doing their best, cobbling together relationships, but those are transitory. I think they often require the considerable labour and enthusiasm and free time of young people. They often don’t survive various kinds of shocks and difficulties.

I was involved in writing a book that [recently came out] from Pinko called After Accountability: A Critical Genealogy of a Concept, and in our closing essay we talk about the extent to which wanting to hold people accountable for interpersonal harm within the left often relies on an idea of community – the community as the alternative to using the court system, or something like that. And people try to hold people accountable through community, but the community doesn’t quite exist! It sort of unravels the moment people are trying to rely on it in a crisis.

Ultimately the kinds of communities that we yearn for are not going to be possible under capitalism. Working-class communities precisely do not have the property and means of production to be able to assure their material survival. Communities may be organized as authoritarian property-based cults that are focused on their own reproduction at the exclusion of the outside world. Or if a community is actually an inclusive place that working-class people can participate in, then they usually lack the material means of being able to persist in the [face of the] tremendous violence of racial capitalism. When we speak of community, we are yearning for something else, we are yearning for something that we have not yet figured out how to create, and ultimately something that will require the overcoming of class society. What we mean by community is our yearning for communism.

I’m interested in two concepts that I explore at the end of the book. One is Martin Luther King Jr. on Beloved Community, and he was very explicit: the Beloved Community is a vision of a horizon of human transformation, a possibility that emerges over the course of struggle, and the radical transformation of society. He was particularly interested in the overcoming of white supremacy, anti-Blackness, racial segregation as a phenomenon – and people being able to encounter each other with love, with care, in a way that’s not possible in our world right now.

I trace some of the history of King using the idea of Beloved Community, and the role that it played in his thinking, and the role that it’s played in Black Studies since then. I think King is a very, very important thinker who’s under-appreciated in sections of the left, but he is not explicit about the extent to which the obstacles to Beloved Community are not just the divisions between people, but also the impersonal system of domination that characterizes capitalism, that rules over human life. Marx, he uses this word community [Gemeinwesen] that later becomes important for Camatte and Bordiga and others, Marx uses this idea of community not as something that already exists, that is already readily available to people, but something that emerges over the course of struggle, that is a generalized and shared space of human realization, of fulfilling our possibilities as humanity: something that emerges as the horizon of communism.

It’s a vision of community that recognizes that it’s only possible in the rebellion, in the overcoming of class society and capital as an impersonal force that rules over social life. It’s a concept that appears in [Marx’s] early work, that reappears a handful of times, and that has been, I think, underappreciated by currents of the Marxist tradition. Both Marx and King see  community as a revolutionary horizon, rather than as sort of a normative thing that’s readily available for us to all fall back on.

And so this is how I close the book: [with a vision of] a community of red care, of red love; thinking about care not in the highly alienated, very limited, very distorted ways that we’re able to live it right now, but [with a] family abolitionist commitment to creating the material conditions for a society built on universal human care.

M.E. O’Brien writes and speaks on gender freedom and capitalism. She has written two books: Family Abolition: Capitalism and the Communizing of Care (Pluto Press, 2023) and a co-authored speculative novel, Everything for Everyone: An Oral History of the New York Commune, 2052–2072 (Common Notions, 2022). She co-edits two magazines, Pinko, on gay communism, and Parapraxis, on psychoanalytic theory and politics. Her work on family abolition has been translated into Chinese, German, Greek, French, Spanish, Catalan, and Turkish.

Previously, she coordinated the New York City Trans Oral History Project, and worked in HIV and AIDS activism and services. She completed a PhD at NYU, where she wrote on how capitalism shaped New York City LGBTQ social movements. Find her on twitter @genderhorizon.