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Corporatism and Gay Marriage: Natural Bedfellows

One of the truer sayings that comes down to us is that “politics makes strange bedfellows.” Coalitions form and dissolve according to changing political winds and tides, and at times temporary partnerships are forged that are at best amusing, at worst, incoherent. The home-schooling movement has brought together anarchist hippies and conservative Christians; libertarians and social conservatives have spent some time shacked up together in their common animus against the activist liberal State; today, Catholics and evangelicals often find themselves manning the barricades against the HHS mandate. The list is long and sometimes amusing if not jarring.

One of the more remarkable partnerships that is least remarked upon today is the coalition that has formed around the effort to advance gay marriage—namely, left-leaning gay activists and corporations. If any political antipathy seemed to be permanent and unchangeable, one would have believed that it would be the Left’s hatred of the Corporation. Corporations, by the Left’s telling, represent almost everything that is wrong in contemporary America—crony capitalism, structural inequality, environmental degradation, worker indignity—in short, legalized immorality. Occupy Wall Street designated the corporation as Enemy #1, and the Left generally begins foaming at the mouth at the mere mention of Citizens United as, effectively, a coup by corporate America against democracy.

Yet, generally unremarked upon has been the deep friendliness between the Left and corporations in the most burning issue of the day (according to the Grammy Awards at least)—gay marriage. It has been particularly noticeable to me as a recently transplanted Hoosier, given recent efforts to defeat the proposed amendment banning gay-marriage in Indiana by a combination of Left gay-activists and corporations. To the extent that the amendment has run into trouble, it has been arguably because of the concerted resistance not by the activist Left—who were always going to have limited traction with an overwhelmingly Republican state legislature—but corporations.

Here is what those corporations are saying [1]: “A ban would tell talented workers to stay out of Indiana.” According to Marya Rose, chief administrative officer for Indiana-based company Cummins, “If we have a climate in our state that makes people feel unwelcome in any way, we think that’s bad for Cummins, and we think that’s bad for business.” Similar arguments have been made by Nike in Oregon and General Mills in Minnesota. In New York, the push for legal recognition of gay marriage received major financial backing [2] from some of the oft-denounced “wolves” of Wall Street—many of them prominent in conservative circles, especially Paul E. Singer, chairman of the conservative think-tank the Manhattan Institute. In Indiana, a coalition combining gay activists and corporations has been formed under the banner, “Freedom Indiana [3].”

In a period when the Left takes up the banner decrying “income inequality,” it should at least give pause to see them cozy up to corporate elites in support of their most darling issue of the day. Indeed, what is most striking is the not-so-subtle threat that is made by opponents of the Indiana gay-marriage amendment: if you pass this ban, talented people will leave, and even corporations will find it difficult to remain. The same threat that is often used by corporations to compel localities into watering down collective-bargaining powers, diluting environmental restrictions, crafting significant tax breaks and “sweetheart deals” is now being used by proponents of gay marriage to threaten the legislators of Indiana. A state struggling with high unemployment and a rust-belt economy can ill-afford to upset the Masters of the Universe.

Perhaps this is merely a marriage (no pun intended) of convenience, an instance of “strange bedfellows.” However, a deeper connection is discernible. Long before the current debate over gay marriage, modern capitalism required the redefinition of the family and marriage. Gay marriage is only the logical conclusion of a long process of the redefinition of marriage into a largely private, interpersonal bond whose main purpose is the self-actualization and personal fulfillment of the contracting individuals, to be made and remade at the convenience of both or even one of the contracting parties.

Marriage had to be redefined by the demands of the modern economy, no longer a bond between man and woman, each a part of intertwined extended families, embedded in a community rooted in multiple generations of memory, joined together as contributors to the future of that community by the generation of new life, bound by the self-sacrificial acceptance of debt to the past and obligation to the future. Marriage was not merely, and perhaps even not primarily, about the “love” of the two (or, increasingly, more [4]) individuals—important as that certainly was and is. Rather—as the publishing of the “banns” indicates—it was the entry of a new family into the life of a community—and the community was thought to have a say in whether the marriage should proceed (“If anyone should have any cause….”).

To liberate individuals from such deep commitments to people, place, and generations, marriage had to be redefined in accordance with our self-conception as utility-maximizing consumers, free agents who are not permanently locked into any arrangements that might not prove to be continuously pleasing or rewarding (or, which forestall other, better arrangements). Defined today as one of our “rights” (rather than as part of our duty), marriage should be like a consumer good—something that satisfies us, in accordance with our desires. It does not partake of a moral and natural and communal and sacramental ecology. Rather, it is part of our dominant marketplace of choice, a marketplace extensively constructed by the modern economic realm, and in which the modern corporation flourishes. The Grammy’s showed modern marriage [5] in its purest redefined form: the focus was on countless couples, unfamiliar with each other, before an assembly of total strangers and televised on commercial television which exists to sell things.


The modern corporation and modern marriage are born of the same philosophical roots: rootless individuals seeking self-gratification in whatever way they see fit, short of “harming” another. Marriage is just another consumer choice, with the added advantage of tax benefits (it’s especially interesting to witness the Left’s insistence on gay marriage as a means for wealthy, oft-childless homosexuals to avoid inheritance taxes. After all, U.S v. Windsor [6] wasn’t about “love,” it was about money). Corporations thus defend gay marriage for the same reason (and using the same tactics) they seek to undermine unions, environmental regulations, and tax policy—most obviously short-term gain, but more deeply, a society that needs to be remade in such a way that short-term gain seems the only game left in town: a thoroughly mobile society devoted to personal satisfaction, composed of individuals whose relationships are fungible and who have no strong relationship to place, history, or the generations stretching between the past and the future.

When Dan Cathy, CEO of Chik-fil-A declared that he believed marriage was properly understood between a man and a woman, opinion makers decried that he was unnecessarily mixing moral judgments and business. One business journal advised [7] that when dealing with a controversial topic like gay marriage, the preferred answer should have been “business and politics don’t mix.” However, in contrast to the circus-level attention that Cathy’s brief comments elicited—dealing with his private views—the political lobbying by Indiana corporations has hardly merited commentary.

This silence may be partly due to a double-standard on the part of media and today’s opinion elites, who favor gay marriage. But more likely, it reflects the deeper and far less discernible fact that the modern corporation and gay marriage arise from the same basic ethos: you are an individual, a consumer, and there should be no limitation on your pursuit of personal satisfaction, including obstacles in nature (biological or environmental) or morality (norms regarding sex or discouragements to greed). The ecology for both modern economics and modern marriage is one of untethered consumptive individualism. If a corporation speaks out against gay marriage, it is inappropriately mixing morality and business; if a corporation lobbies in favor of gay marriage, it is practicing good business. What we are seeing today in Indiana—as we’ve seen in many other States—is not an instance of “strange bedfellows,” but natural allies.

The Left likes to point to young people, who heavily favor gay marriage, as the embodiment of progressive worldview. But might it be that they are the first generation in human history almost completely shaped by a culture that is a creation of our incorporated world, which has almost wholly eviscerated nearly every existing local culture? Raised in a world in which they are not to judge, in which toleration easily shades into indifference, can we be really surprised that we are increasingly a society that officially sanctions the rule of the strong over the weak? The Left would once have blanched to be in bed with the corporate elite. But, with increasing clarity, it’s a marriage made not in heaven, but in America.

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#1 Comment By EliteCommInc. On January 29, 2014 @ 1:28 pm

Good grief, the homosexual communities issues have been driving by financial interests from its first popular advance

compensation rights, hospital visitation rights, inheritance issues all were the initial motivators in what has culminated into some strange bid for something wholly unnatural and regressive as to the advance of humanity and if you contend we come out a primordial soup of : ameoba, snails, walking fish, birds, to chimpanzees or some other spesling creature — counter-intuitive as well as contradictory to the same — is some equal to heterosexual relationships as to marriage.

Well, that kind of entertainment is bound to pay off for player and provider alike.

Hooray for Hollywood — nothing strange about being in bed with make believe money generators —

#2 Comment By Derek Leaberry On January 29, 2014 @ 1:56 pm

Corporations are only concerned with profit. Controversy of any kind can damage profit. Not only do homosexuals have money disproportionate to their population, homosexuals are the newest cause for lefties. Lefties will turn against any corporation not seen as friendly to homosexuals. So corporate America is respectful to homosexuals and some are indulgent.

There has been a change of business culture since the days of Eisenhower. Business is softer than it used to be. Managers at a 1955 steel mill or auto plant had to be nearly as rough as the men who actually forged the steel. But think of today. The far more vital computer industry is filled with flabby fingered geeks. The hours can be long but you’re not beating your body about to make a product. And let’s not forget that homosexuals are strongly integrated into the computer industry- think Tim Gill- but not so in the 50s business structure. In the 50s they wanted the Man in the Grey Flanneled Suit, not a homosexual with two earrings with soft hands who preferred vegan cuisine to steak and potatoes.

#3 Comment By SteveM On January 29, 2014 @ 2:20 pm

I think Professor Deneen is assigning corporations too much blame (or credit).

Any philosophical marriage between the Left and corporate America is strictly coincidental. Corporations are in business to make money. The business rationale for endorsing gay marriage may be opaque, but it’s there.

Conversely (perhaps), corporate American is fully invested in advocating the civic religion of Military Exceptionalism. Corporate sponsored sporting events often include carefully choreographed rites, (coordinated with the huge Pentagon Propaganda Directorate), that celebrate “Deus ex War Machina”.

Again why? Because the corporate suits think that’s what America wants to see and hear. In that context, there is no incongruence demonstrated by fronting both gay marriage and the War Machine. Anything that can be exploited, will be exploited – if there’s money in it.

#4 Comment By Hooly On January 29, 2014 @ 2:25 pm

Patrick Deneen,

Where to begin with this nonsensical article?

First, the gay rights movement has never been of ‘the Left’. Many gays are fiscal conservatives who view much of the Leftist economic agenda with horror.

Second, there is no ‘alliance’ between corporations and gays. Corporations exist to make money, and try to not to lose money for their shareholders. Gays have money (probably due to their fiscal conservatism?), and spend money, therefore corporations will go out of their way to accommodate well heeled customers like the gay community.

Your views are the result of a conspiratorial mindset I’m afraid. You don’t like ‘the Left’, corporations and gays, therefore in your mind, they have formed an ‘alliance’. This is delusional thinking, these groups are not ‘out to get you’ Patrick, relax.

You want an alliance of strange bedfellows? You’re pro-life right?, well, many gays I know are pro-life too. In fact, they would like nothing more than to get married and adopt babies who would otherwise be aborted. Perhaps you’d consider forming an alliance with pro-life gays??

#5 Comment By philadelphialawyer On January 29, 2014 @ 3:50 pm

Most national corporations probably favored the Civil Right Act of 1964, African American equality generally, as well as women’s rights.

Only the latter, women’s rights, can even be shoe horned into some sort of quasi conspiracy theory in which corporations undermine allegedly static, unchanging and traditional views of marriage and gender roles simply to get twice as many potential workers in the job market, and thus depress wages and, possibly, unionization.

But gay marriage? Some sort of dark notion of rampant individualism uber alles at work here on the part of some corporations? No, I don’t think so.

Sometimes the simplest explanation is the best one. Gay marriage doesn’t effect enough people to really matter to corporations the way women in the work force in greater numbers did. Really, as a direct issue, gays in general don’t matter to corporations. What does matter is, as has been stated, not associating themselves with something that will turn off potential customers, and, less critically, potential investors and employees.

Think of an analogy to Native Americans. There really aren’t that many of them. They are not very wealthy, as a group. But going out of your way to put them down will not only piss them off, but the whole liberal side of the Establishment as well. A corporation that was on record as endorsing, say, second class citizenship for Native Americans, would be shooting itself in the foot, and would gain nothing.

With African Americans, there really are enough of them and they control enough wealth that they actually mattered to corporate America. It didn’t see Black or White, all it saw was Green: more potential customers. With the law protecting them against any potential backlash from White customers who objected. Indeed, many observers were surprised at how easily, quickly and non controversially national chain restaurants and hotel/motels integrated in the South in the wake of the 1964 law and the “Heart of Atlanta” SCOTUS case which upheld its application to public accommodations. It was only local businesses, spurred on more by the personal, political views of their sole proprietor owners (think Lester Maddox with his ax handle) than actual business considerations, which brought the court cases, refused to comply, and so forth.

Big business does want a consumerist society, and doesn’t want “tradition” or “bigotry” (take your pick) to stand in the way. But that hardly means there is some sort of deep, dark complicity, never mind conspiracy, between the anti discriminatory “Left” and big business.

#6 Comment By Tab2 On January 29, 2014 @ 4:17 pm

Marriage had to be redefined by the demands of the modern economy, no longer a bond between man and woman, each a part of intertwined extended families, embedded in a community rooted in multiple generations of memory, joined together as contributors to the future of that community by the generation of new life, bound by the self-sacrificial acceptance of debt to the past and obligation to the future.

All you needed to do, some five decades ago, was acknowledge that gay people were part and parcel of that extended family web. You refused to see us as human.

I doubt you regret it one bit, no matter the consequences.

#7 Comment By Michael N Moore On January 29, 2014 @ 4:21 pm

Gay men who are coupled make a family unit that has 2 male (higher) salaries and, usually no children to eat all their money. This is what marketing executives call a good target market. The gays know it and have mounted some effective boycotts.

From a corporate point of view the US is a legal madhouse of 50-plus jurisdictions. They have put a lot of effort into circumventing this problem with the Uniform Commercial Code and other uniform acts that get states to adopt national standards. SSM fits in as a way of “uniforming” family definitions.

#8 Comment By EliteCommInc. On January 29, 2014 @ 5:18 pm

Nothing like missing the point but making it at the same time.

Those engaged in this behavior are generally left, liberal, democrats. But when it comes to making a dollar – this community protects and advances policies that protect their wealth.

The article is very simple, the opportunity for many corporations to make money by marketing to this community has pay off – if nothing else — a dependable niche market.

Those engaged in this behavior occupy higher than average income levels than the general middle class citizen. Oddly enough they also occupy some of the most influential places of power — in every field. The advance has largely been driven by economic interests — it started with worker’s in direct response to HIV and AIDS, etc.

The removal of any sense that the behavior is acceptable by hollywood, ny and every other major or minor media mechanism which benefits from marketing to what is becoming increasingly open — has moved the market from underground to a much wider field.

To your suggestion of influential nature of marketing — homosexual behavior has no genetic link. It is sociological – something as to how one interacts with their environment from youth. if that is indeed the case as i believe it is — then openess and promotion of the same will certainly have an impact in the formative years as to the practice.

if one understands the very purpose of media communication — which is to be redundant, to communicate thereby influencing behavior.

It was not until, images were broadcast of children and people being attacked by dogs that the country — were influenced to decry southern behavior. Business thrives and survives on it ability to influence behavior —

This morning I watched as Holly Hunter worked her magic in a film, Living Out Loud. Despite being celibate, i was no less moved by a scene of women in what was a women’s club — gulp upon gulp — and no less embarrassed despite the film not being overtly explicit —

I don’t think the corporations will churning out people who engage in this behavior by the bushel, but to suggest that the corporate mechanism will not feed an audience they once held at bay via marketing further legitimizing the behavior as normal, opening psychological avenues of awareness such that the practice will foster more of this behavior — primarily indirectly over time is just naive and I think I have gone further than even the author intended. They was a time when almost any nudity warranted an “R” rating. Never doubt the influence of the media and the wealth generation that either follows or advances the same.

Those engaged in this behavior will be all too happy to see Bob and Bob selling Charmin.

I cringe at the thought. But for those so inclined the astute performances of a beauty, brains and openess such as Miss Hunter and others —

You had better believe – the left already having demonstrated no constraint will hop into bed with anyone and anything that advances their cause — so to the new corporate field.

#9 Comment By Fran Macadam On January 29, 2014 @ 6:34 pm

The great character trait of our day is that of unrestricted self-indulgence. And there are many kinds. The corporate vehicle is all about making merchandise out of people in order to generate profits, a kind of CEO income stream self-indulgence fulfilled by offering for sale the supposed means to fulfill unlimited consumer self-indulgence. It should be no surprise when the aim of the corporation is creating and maintaining unfulfilled wants, and using every means without self-restraint, that recognizing no limits at all in this is entirely consistent with the overweening spirit of the age. Everything in America, perhaps in the West, is driven by nothing other than what can be done, will be done. And just so even in the matter of unlimited surveillance, correctly assessed by German leader Merkel as being no limit to what is done except that it can be. Even Obama, the man who cannot restrain corporate malfeasance or militarism a whit, made passing reference in his speech that not everything ought to be limited only by capabilities.
That certain orifices can be filled by members they were not originally designed for, not recognizing any limits suggested by nature, is a very minor instance of this much larger self-indulgence that violates ecology, poisons the air, suffocates the earth and threatens to irradiate the earth to death in a burst of self-indulgent ideological fervor. Ultimately, liberalism seems to have degenerated to have become a common cause defined mostly by gay marriage advocacy and bombing the hell out foreigners on the other side of the world. For everyone with a lick of sense left, categories like left and right no longer have much purchase in defining responses to our human predicament.

#10 Comment By WorkingClass On January 29, 2014 @ 6:41 pm

If this gets a few social conservatives to take a more skeptical view of corporations you will have done some useful consciousness raising. More likely, corps who (I say who because they are people now) finance SSM just want to be on the side that’s winning.

#11 Comment By Johann On January 29, 2014 @ 7:55 pm

Any organization, once it becomes large enough, will attract and be taken over by political types, which by definition, are politically correct.

#12 Comment By Johann On January 29, 2014 @ 7:56 pm

“who”, not “which” – didn’t mean to dehumanize them.

#13 Comment By William Burns On January 29, 2014 @ 9:27 pm

Michael N. Moore,

It’s interesting that there doesn’t seem to be the slightest interest, corporate or anyone else’s, in “uniforming” America’s crazy quilt of laws on first cousin marriage.

#14 Comment By Jack On January 29, 2014 @ 10:14 pm


You refused to see us as human.

And the refusal continues. So far (here at least) we’ve seen “the gays” portrayed as little more than a hobby horse for “liberals” to ride (apparently extending rights to disenfranchised people is something conservatives don’t care for), or as a substitute for some other put-upon group (Native Americans and Blacks), or – as this article indicates – co-conspirators in a scheme to tear marriage away from it’s traditional roots and perhaps even destroy society in the process.

If folks start seeing gays as humans (and equals, and citizens, and members of society) then that makes them less effective as bogeymen or combatants in the trumped-up “culture war.”

#15 Comment By Viking On January 29, 2014 @ 10:50 pm

This is a very spirited, if quite cynical exchange. My take is this: it’s just a bit late in the day for Americans to lament the lack of community involvement in the marriage contract, whether hetero, gay, or lesbian. If our European ancestors had not wanted to leave their home communities, we whites wouldn’t be here. A lack of commitment to place is built into our national DNA, so to speak. And don’t forget how much easier it is to keep in touch with the “old folks at home” now than it was in the 18th century across the Atlantic.

#16 Comment By Viking On January 30, 2014 @ 12:39 am

Working Class, your breezy commentary that corporations “are people now” shows an ignorance of history. Corporations have been classified legally as “artificial persons” at least since the Dartmouth College case in the early 19th century, and probably much earlier, as I understand it was an accepted principle in Roman times. And it’s that sinister, as it doesn’t even have to apply to the sort of joint stock companies to which it now usually refers. As the case cited above indicates, it can refer to colleges and universities, and cities are municipal corporations. Artificial personhood simply means that a company, college, city, etc, can act as a single body even when there’s not unanimity.

#17 Comment By Viking On January 30, 2014 @ 12:41 am

Oops, should have a “not” before “that sinister” above. Apologies.

#18 Comment By M. Orban On January 30, 2014 @ 12:58 am

“If this gets a few social conservatives to take a more skeptical view of corporations you will have done some useful consciousness raising.”
I wish it was so, but it is not like that at all, WorkingClass.
Twenty or so years ago the political right decided that tweaking the gays is a winning wedge issue. It motivates their voters to go to the polls even in bad weather in an off year election. Back in the early nineties it could have been settled a different way, with legal partnership, legal right just short of marriage.
Instead they choose “totale krieg”. But they were blinded by their arrogance and forgot to account for demography. Now they are sitting in their bier halls and trying to figure out who to blame.

#19 Comment By M_Young On January 30, 2014 @ 1:23 am

I think in the Singer case, the matter is simply personal. His son is ‘gay’, so you had better recognize his pairing as equal or else.

#20 Comment By Rasselas On January 30, 2014 @ 9:38 am

Gay marriage is still illegal in Indiana, and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future, which is consistent with the Windsor decision. Corporations like Eli Lilly are opposed to the ammendment instantiating the gay marriage ban in the Indiana Constitution because it simply makes the state look hostile to gays in general (it is not enough to make gay marriage illegal, the illegality needs to be underlined and given an exclamation point), which creates a cultural climate that makes it even harder to recruit scientists and tech folks to Indiana than it already is. If this corporatism, perhaps we need more of it – it semes pretty clear headed, rational and decent to me. If it is distressing that the state of Indiana is insufficiently hostile to gay marriage, cheer up, the governor of the state is quite openly opposed to it and apparently not in the thrall of Eli Lilly and the Chamber of Commerce. Besides, the vote on the ammendment has merely been delayed until 2016, although I hope it never happens.

#21 Comment By balconesfault On January 30, 2014 @ 9:47 am

I’ve long argued that issues like gay marriage and women’s reproductive rights are really the only reason the corporate media can be viewed as “liberal” … but at the same time the corporate media is solidly to the right on economic issues.

#22 Comment By Joe On January 30, 2014 @ 10:07 am

As a gay man and “Lefty” I found your piece to be thoughtful and interesting, but fundamentally flawed by two things.

First, you seem to equate the desire of gay people for equal marriage rights and, indeed, gayness itself, with self-indulgent consumerism — a kind of dissolution of community. This is not simply an illogical leap, but an unfair one. Our wish for marriage equality is precisely the opposite of this. It reflects the desire to participate in the community on an equal basis unmarked by stigma. If it was a simple matter of self-indulgence why would we actively seek out the legally binding obligations that recognized marriage entails?

Second, your argument implies that gay people occupy a point on a spectrum between tolerance and indulgence. This begs the question of our simple humanity. The implication of difference — along with conservatism’s seemingly endless effort to mark us as alien, dangerous, aberrant and abhorrent — is the problem. Far from being a purely intellectual conceit, the implication has real consequences faced by gay men and women around the world, and here in the US. Violence directed toward LGBT people is usually cloaked in legal or extra-legal moral terms as a “defense” of something essential which is under threat (e.g., the”DOMA”). Gay activism grew out of actual things — employment discrimination, legal discrimination, countless acts of physical violence. The desire to erase stigma and distinction is really a desire for inclusion and certainly not for the dissolution community.

#23 Comment By Kurt Gayle On January 30, 2014 @ 10:10 am

Thanks, Patrick Deneen, for pointing out the huge contradiction implicit in the “remarkable partnerships” of left and left-liberal activists with corporations in pushing the gay marriage agenda.

What-the-heck are leftists and left-liberals doing in alliance with corporations when this (as you point out) is the underlying ethos:

“…The modern corporation and gay marriage arise from the same basic ethos: you are an individual, a consumer, and there should be no limitation on your pursuit of personal satisfaction, including obstacles in nature (biological or environmental) or morality (norms regarding sex or discouragements to greed).”

An equally remarkable partnership is that of religious fundamentalists with libertarians inside the Republican Party.

#24 Comment By AM-B On January 30, 2014 @ 10:46 am

I thought this was very apt : “The Grammy’s showed modern marriage in its purest redefined form: the focus was on countless couples, unfamiliar with each other, before an assembly of total strangers and televised on commercial television which exists to sell things”. Many of our opinions about marriage generally are coming from television, and the media always wants to sell us something. Just think about the impact of the reality TV shows about weddings and wedding dresses (I know all about them, because I was recently a bride). This may seem tangential, but its not, because the meaning of marriage is consistently trivialized in popular media for the sake of making a buck. Getting married is in many ways depicted only as a “little girl’s dream” with beautiful dresses, gorgeous hair, flowers, make-up, and the constant attention of everyone around you ALL DAY LONG. In a certain sense, it doesn’t even matter who you marry, or what you do after you get married. In these media texts, there is no conception that you are entering a sacred vow, or that your union is meant to create and nurture future children, there is only the thrill of being watched on a day that’s just about you.

#25 Comment By cka2nd On January 30, 2014 @ 10:47 am

Okay, first the background.

Neither Prof. Deneen nor Hooly seem to have a real grasp on the relationship between the gay rights movement and the Left, or a coherent definition of the Left, for that matter.

The Left-Wing of the broad political spectrum – as opposed to the left-wings of the Democratic or Republican Parties, or the left-wings of various movements – includes socialists, anarchists and communists and is, broadly speaking, anti-capitalist in theory if not in practice.

The Right-Wing of the broad political spectrum includes royalists, fascists (everyone who thinks the Nazis were “of the Left” can only come to that conclusion by plucking them out of history, so please spare us any responses), theocrats and most ultra-nationalists. It may share some of the skepticism of the broad Left towards capitalism, especially as it breaks down traditional structures and relationships.

Liberals, moderates, centrists, libertarians and conservatives make up the broad political Center. It is generally committed to capitalism, but it’s wings take different positions on government regulation and corporate citizenship. CostCo and socially responsible investment companies represent the liberal side of the spectrum, and I suppose that Chick-Fil-A represents social conservatives and Apple libertarians and free marketeers (honestly, I didn’t want to tar anyone with a Wal-Mart connection). Some liberals shade toward the Left as liberal-lefts or progressives, and some conservatives shade over to the Right.

Classes, social movements and political parties may have left- and right-wings, but the left-wings of the Big Bourgeoisie and the Proletariat are most likely in the broad Center and broad Left, respectively, and a right-wing Republican is probably closer to the broad Right than a right-wing Democrat. Libertarians have their own left- and right-wings, but while one would hardly call the Cato Foundation a Left think tank, you could, perhaps, call the von Mises Institute a think tank of the Right. Social democrats constitute the right-wing of the broad Left, while left-wing communists, some anarchists, some Trotskyists and, maybe, libertarian communists jostle on the Left’s left-wing.

#26 Comment By TexasTea On January 30, 2014 @ 11:07 am

People like to demonize the left as being collectivist, but when push comes to shove, the most collectivist segment of American politics are the conservatives. What is wrong with individual freedom? What is wrong with individuals being liberated from the miserable traditions of religion and obligations to family and community of the past? If those things want my devotion, they have to earn it.

#27 Comment By cka2nd On January 30, 2014 @ 11:14 am

Now that I got all of the background out of the way…

Hooly, many participants in the post-Stonewall gay liberation movement saw themselves as part of the broad Left, which then included portions of the civil rights and women’s liberation movements. On the other hand, you also had The Advocate as the mouthpiece for the movement’s right-wing which was very much part of the broad Center, and folks like Harvey Milk in the center of the movement who straddled the broad Center and Left.

The movement that arose in response to the AIDS crisis also had its divisions, from ACT-UP on the left through Gay Men’s Health Crisis in the center and, perhaps, God’s Love, We Deliver on the right (I place it there perhaps out of a bit of pique since it helped break the remarkably successful gay/labor/black boycott of Coors Beers in New York City).

Prof. Deneen, the LGBT movement of the 90’s, aughts and teens has moved to the right, i.e., the broad Center, leaving many long-standing left-wing stalwarts in a bit of a quandry. Same-Sex Marriage and opening up the Boy Scouts are not issues for either the broad Left or the left-wing of the gay movement. Gay marriage has been the calling card of the gay right-wing, e.g., Andrew Sullivan, for 20 years. The queer left, on the other hand, supported domestic partnership laws, policies and contractual provisions and, rightly, saw SSM as a threat to the alliance with seniors, unions and straight people around domestic partnership.

However, as I have noted on this site before, SSM and the Boy Scouts have also been driven to the fore by grassroots queer folk. We’ve seen it before in other movements, where the possibility of inclusion in the American Dream captures the imagination and passion of the ranks of the oppressed, the disenfranchised and the excluded. We’ve made some real progress in our long march to freedom (I couldn’t resist), and now we want the full panoply of legal rights and protections.

SSM is an issue that has moved from the left side of the broad political Center to portions of the right-wing of the broad Center. Within the GLBT movement, it has moved from its right-wing into its center and, grudgingly, left. The broad Left can support SSM as a basic demand for democratic, bourgeois civil rights, but it has other priorities and fish to fry.

#28 Comment By Ken Colston On January 30, 2014 @ 12:22 pm

Excellent article. Corporations have more, entirely selfish, reasons to want single employees: they don’t have to yield them time off suddenly for family obligations, they are more free to work weekends and nights, and they can be paid less.

#29 Comment By Robert Riggs On January 30, 2014 @ 12:47 pm

Could you have written a less substantive article about marriage? No concrete examples, no historical look-backs, no multiple cultural perspectives. You speak of “modern marriage” when you clearly don’t much about what marriage actually is and has been in the U.S. or anywhere else. Fortunately, the “tradition of marriage” is far more varied and fascinating in the real world than it is on your monochrome planet.
(P.S. I love the whole “the Left” thing. How anyone writes that way without fatal embarrassment is amazing to me.)

#30 Comment By Guber On January 30, 2014 @ 1:07 pm

The concept is interesting and much to be agreed. However, unfortunately the revelation of incriminating evidence is weak. It would be better if the author had found more of an indication how the break up of society in class warfare and the systematic break up of families through the welfare state are working into the pockets of abusive corporations. I didn’t see this hard punch line with evidence.

Instead the argument that Indiana must be inviting and appear oven minded is not a bad argument. If you look like a “backwater state” then the technologically bright young people will continue to avoid you. These people usually lean left, so if you want them, you need to invite them. It is a testament to free market libertarian values. So I don’t see this a good argument to incriminate these bedfellows of wrongdoings.

What is much more important is to understand that the LGBT movement with the feminist movement is part of the cultural Marxist “progressivism” which purports to “emancipate” the downtrodden, but in reality sells them to big corporations. In many ways. One of the most important way is how feminism has helped big corporations to expand their pool of slave labor by pushing women into the labor force. Simple math can tell you that if 90% of men are in the labor force and you up the female share from 30% to 75% as it is now, your have created a massive oversupply of labor, which depresses wages. You have sold the family to corporations as now 2 parents need to work for hire rather than one man sustaining a family of 4 in a suburbian house with 2 cars comfortably from one industrial manufacturing wage! That is the real bretrayal of the little people. And that is killing families.

Also mention how the welfare state creates a permanent underclass of broken families by “empowering women”. Women empowerment in the large economical average has been a “relief” of all of women’s responsibility for healthy families, children, and culture, and thereby “empowered” them to wreck families, rob children of their father, and enslave fathers under extortion schemes called “alimony” and “child support”. If they fail with that, the welfare state will ensure women who breed without responsibility are fed and kept (barely) afloat so women never need to consider the consequences of their choices.

Gay marriage is a forgettable issue of less than <5% of population. What matters is only to see this as a window onto a reality which is much more perverse than gay marriage!

#31 Comment By Jeff C-C On January 30, 2014 @ 3:23 pm

Prof. Deneen,

Thanks for sharing these insights. That’s quite a connection you’ve made. And as I sit here, alone, at work, at my computer eating my microwaved ConAgra lunch (not to single them out — just the multinational corporation at hand), I feel more than a little sick to my stomach. Just who is having whom for lunch?

#32 Comment By Aaron Dukes On January 30, 2014 @ 3:26 pm

The issue of marriage should not even be a political discussion. The solution to this whole mess is by getting the government out of the business of regulating marriage.

#33 Comment By Tony D. On January 30, 2014 @ 3:34 pm

“Gay marriage is still illegal in Indiana, and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future…”

I don’t think so – I will be shocked if the SSM “Roe v. Wade” isn’t handed down by the end of 2015. Everyone knows how the 5-4 vote will break down; everyone knows who will write the opinion; everyone knows who will write the dissent; everyone knows more-or-less what each will say. The only mystery is whether Scalia’s dissent will be called “blistering,” “scathing,” or “withering” by the NYT.

#34 Comment By c matt On January 30, 2014 @ 4:04 pm

While I agree with the assessment that the great cultural marker of our society is unhindered individual consumption, the marriage of convenience is much easier explained by Derek above. Bad publicity hirts profits, the LGBT community and their supporters know how to push that button, hence the cooperation. The piece gives corporations far too much credit for philosophical principles underlying their actions. The truth is far more pragmatic.

#35 Comment By Frank Stain On January 30, 2014 @ 4:46 pm

‘Simple math can tell you that if 90% of men are in the labor force and you up the female share from 30% to 75% as it is now, your have created a massive oversupply of labor, which depresses wages.’

Are you suggesting that we should encourage all women to self-deport, alongside immigrants?

#36 Comment By Michael N Moore On January 30, 2014 @ 5:09 pm

William Burns says: “It’s interesting that there doesn’t seem to be the slightest interest, corporate or anyone else’s, in “uniforming” America’s crazy quilt of laws on first cousin marriage.”

You gotta love TAC. Nowhere else would anyone bring up first cousin marriage. I think age of consent laws also differ widely.

Would a first cousin marriage not be recognized in another state? I think it would be, but I will bow to anyone can find someone whose marital benefits and rights have been violated for having a first cousin out-of-state marriage.

The plaintiff in the DOMA Supreme Court action had to pay $350,000 in taxes that she would not have to pay had her Canadian marriage been recognized.

Come to think of it, I do have a couple of hot first cousins.

#37 Comment By philadelphialawyer On January 30, 2014 @ 8:00 pm


“So far (here at least) we’ve seen ‘the gays’ portrayed as…a substitute for some other put-upon group (Native Americans and Blacks)…”

If you are referring to me, I did not “portray” gay people as merely a “substitute” for anyone. Rather, I was exploring the reaction of big corporations to similar situations, real and hypothetical, as a way of testing the thesis of the author.

My point is that corporations take positions that overlap with the “left” or “liberal” position of anti discrimination, but do so on the basis of hard headed business considerations, not because of any complicity, much less conspiracy, with liberal groups pushing to end discriminatory practices.

Gay folks are not “substitutes” for anyone. Nevertheless, their treatment by big corporations is comparable to the treatment of other minority or otherwise disfavored groups by those corporations. Basically, most national corporations only care about the bottom line. Offending any group that is either large and powerful enough to matter on its own, or because its cause has garnered more general support, is bad for business.

That is the alpha and omega for Corporate America, when it comes to Blacks, GLBT folks, women, Native Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, etc. More business by selling to those folks, and more business by not pissing off their supporters among the more general public.

I fail to see how that argument calls into question the humanity of GLBT folks.

#38 Comment By ErikofMpls On January 30, 2014 @ 11:06 pm

Yes, some corporations and business groups support equality for gay people, as some supported equality for African-Americans in the 60s, but they want more consumers and to attract a high-quality work force. Since when did business advocating its best interests become an ominous “corporatism” bent on destroying American culture, especially in a conservative magazine?

Oh, wait, I know: since anti-gay bigots have begun to run out of other excuses for their bigotry. It’s simply socially unacceptable to call gays perverts, say they are satanic or link them to child molestation anymore. Even saying that they are somehow destroying straight-people marriage isn’t working like it used to. Now they’re down to waving their hands about a threat to religious liberty and the machinations of the suddenly no-longer-to-be-trusted corporations. That and how much it really, really hurts their feelings to be called bigots because they have so much love in their hearts for their gays friends whose rights they insist on restricting.

If I had noticed any significant critique of wasteful, self-indulgent consumerism by the political right before this moment, maybe I could take articles like this seriously. Instead, the least wasteful, self-indulgent people I know are mostly lefties, including a bunch of gays, who somehow manage to live the pro-family, pro-community life the author advocates while “self-indulgently” loving who they love, regardless of Patrick Deneen’s feelings on the matter.

#39 Comment By david helveticka On January 31, 2014 @ 12:31 pm

The CEO classes and Wall Street bankers will as thoughtlessly loot the wealth of the working folk by outsourcing jobs and importing worker, as they undermine the morality of same folks…

We are no longer to be defined by our connections to extended family, our community, our religion, our ethnicity, but by what we consume, what property we own, and our ability for immediate self gratification.

God and Country and Family replaced by greed, selfishness, materialism and consumerism…

#40 Comment By paul gottfried On January 31, 2014 @ 2:32 pm

Patrick Deneen is to be congratulated for writing a gutsy, compelling commentary on the alliance between corporations and the gay movement. The decision of Coca Cola and a slew of other corporate behemoths to punish the Boy Scouts for not welcoming gays as Scout Masters was not a fluke. Neither is the efforts of large corporations to bring into this country either legally or illegally unskilled Third World labor for low-paying jobs. The idea that “big business” is a friend of the social Right would be a laughable fiction if it weren’t so widely believed.

#41 Comment By jimbojones On January 31, 2014 @ 8:41 pm

The author is right on the money. The whole picture is rather more complex, but the general idea is exactly the one Deneen states: There is a strong connection between what we might call predatory capitalism (as opposed to, say, localized entrepreneurship) and the (so-called) homosexual agenda.

Yesterday, this site posted a curios article about the British historian Maurice Cowling. One of Cowling’s books was a critique on J.S. Mill. The core of Cowling’s argument is that Mill’s goal was to formulate a pervasive utilitarian morality to function as the binding glue of society in the wake of Christianity. The implementation of Mill’s formula is exactly what we see today.

Utilitarianism is an old doctrine if we allow ourselves to compare it to the notions of Epicurus. The general idea of utilitarianism is the following: There is NO heaven and hell, this life is ALL there is, and therefore, broadly speaking, the goal in life is to have a good time. It is typically held by utilitarians that it is bad to deprive others of their good time, and that everyone has a better time if we try not to give each other bad time.

In the absence or decline of at least a deistic doctrine – and even the 18th century Philosophes were loath to deny the existence of heaven&hell – utilitarianism is a very inviting way of looking of things. The modern form of utilitarianism was put forward by Bentham in the late 18th century, and was later improved on by (Bentham’s pupil) Mill.

It is crucial to realize that the main philosophers of the currently prevalent utilitarian doctrine were the British Liberal Economists (including Bentham and the Mills) – exactly the same people who also invented what essentially constitutes modern economic doctrine. The “Austrians” were an even more radical version of the British Liberal Economists. Keynes was, himself, a BLE – as he admitted in his writings.

In fact, Bentham wrote tracts in defense of both usury and pederasty. Doesn’t get any clearer and more obvious than that.

Of course, there is one issue that modern utilitarians either refuse to look at, or cover under vast swamps of casuistry, sophistry, and doublethink. Namely that, under utilitarianism, most people may want to believe that “Thou shan’t harm others,” but really, the only valid moral law is “Might Makes Right.” Because, at the end of the day, if you have any brains, it will occur to you that: 1) You have one life and your only obligation is to maximize your own well-being; that may involve trying to increase the well-being of people you love, but certainly does not imply you should try to do anything good for people you hate or don’t know. You might be altruistic, but that would be only because altruism makes you feel good about yourself (or because you are irrational, but let’s not get there). And 2) there is nothing anyone can do to prevent powerful people from doing whatever they want. They can rape, kill, murder, and steal, and in the end they’ll die just like everyone else; but they will have lived like kings, while most others will have lived like cockroaches. And the others will be able to say nothing, except, well, good for him – he maximized his utility. That, or be hypocrites.

By the way, the fact that utilitarianism necessarily implies that “Might Makes Right” is one of the reasons why people in power promote it so heavily. It gives them carte blanche. And don’t have any illusions. Homosexuality is a disease of the affluent. Search through the literature on the demographics of homosexuals and you’ll see :/.

#42 Comment By Guest On February 1, 2014 @ 2:05 am

In response to Hooly’s comment:
…You want an alliance of strange bedfellows? You’re pro-life right?, well, many gays I know are pro-life too. In fact, they would like nothing more than to get married and adopt babies who would otherwise be aborted. Perhaps you’d consider forming an alliance with pro-life gays??

Hooly, here you display, and further support mr. Deneen’s hypothesis — at least if you are strictly speaking of gays that are only pro-life if it benefits them–at the expense of another (and often the exploitation of poor domestic, and increasingly very poor third-world women). No different than the corporation exploiting a market.

There are gays that are truly pro-life, in that they support doing everything possible to allow women to continue to carry their child, give birth, keep their child, and to support them–usually through volunteering and fund raising for group single mom homes, and gasp–yes, supporting banning 3rd trimester abortions except in the most extreme cases. Now those are the true pro-life gays I know. But even those with those hearts are quickly slipping into the “only if we can adopt them” category–which again is exploitative and elitist–not to mention incredibly self-serving.

#43 Comment By John Willson On February 1, 2014 @ 6:59 am

Every single comment that opposes Patrick Deneen’s point, proves it. Well done, Dr. Deneen. An extension of a similar idea is Ford, one of the great creators of the modern corporation. One the one hand Henry Ford engaged in an almost frantic effort to “save” the old craft-based, small town and rural America in his Greenfield Village project. On the other, the Ford Foundation has done as much to destroy the little platoons as any other organization.

#44 Comment By Andrew On February 7, 2014 @ 9:55 pm

Yes indeed, marriage was “redefined by the demands of the modern economy” – to no longer be an economic exchange of women as mere property for child-bearing or socio-political alliances. My, how rose-colored our glasses have gotten…

#45 Comment By Bobby On February 8, 2014 @ 12:39 am

As an openly gay corporate lawyer, I feel like this article makes some assumptions that are unwarranted.

Gay activist groups represent the interests of only a small fraction of the gay population. Many of us are educated white-collar professionals who are generally pro-business on fiscal issues. Because we don’t have kids, we’ve been able to devote far more time and energy to career advancement. Corporate America recognizes that many of its most talented and productive lawyers, marketing executives, and financial analysts are gay. So, it’s in a company’s best interests to make sure that they are not at a disadvantage in recruiting gay workers. Lilly isn’t pushing for gay rights because the company has such affection for left-leaning activist groups; to the contrary, Lilly’s pushing for gay rights because it’s in its interests to do so.

Social conservatives mistakenly suppose that the “gay movement” is somehow represented by what one sees at Pride Parades and the like. That’s a mistake. The overwhelming majority of us bear little resemblance to the stereotypes that animate social conservatives. And many of us are educated professionals who are very good at what we do. So, it only makes sense that major corporations would want to ensure that they can effectively compete for gay professionals.

#46 Comment By Kill Bill On February 8, 2014 @ 3:43 pm

It used to be that marriages were about property,dowrys,goats, cows and ox.

We dont do this anymore in America. Thats when we got our right to marry whom we wanted.

‘The sanctity of marriage’ sounds like something from a think tank that litters. DC

Anyone here been divorced?

First the love sputters and flames out, then come state government judges and lawyers[$$$] come onto the scene.

The come the division of property and child support and visitation days.

So two girls want to marry.

Not. My. Business.

#47 Comment By howard On February 28, 2014 @ 9:58 pm

I’ve always said that the biggest oxymoron in America was “corporate business leader.”

#48 Comment By spudnik On March 26, 2014 @ 11:54 am

Some of the comments are missing the article’s point. It is not about gays being pro-corporation. It is about corporations being pro-gay, and why.

Corporations are promoting a view of life that is materialistic, in both the economic and philosophical sense. The ringing affirmation that “gay is good” carries an implicit yet inescapable rejection of the idea of a transcendent Creator who has anything to say about sexuality (or anything else.) Sure, feel free to navel-gaze and impute to “God” whatever notions float your boat. But just be aware that in the “real world” there is no god and no purpose, just the material. So consume! That is the point.

As an added bonus, if there is no God who is really there then the highest authority, by default, is the State. Corporations don’t want socialism of course. But government controlled by corporations… well, that’s different.