Michel Houellebecq and the International Sexual Economy
This paper explores the notion of an ‘international sexual economy’ in the work of the French writer Michel Houellebecq, and particularly his latest novel, Plateforme (2001). Houellebecq suggests that, since westerners no longer have the time or the inclination to sleep with each other, and since those in the third world have nothing to sell but their bodies, the exchange of cash for sex on a truly international scale is likely to represent the most lucrative sector of the global economy in the coming century. Whilst acknowledging the objections to this idea, the paper shows how it is based in a serious analysis of global capitalism which has something in common with the theoretical work of Jean-François Lyotard, in terms of both the postmodern and the libidinal economies. The paper further suggests that the virulent anti-psychologism of Houellebecq’s often brutal worldview implies a (largely undeclared) kinship with Friedrich Nietzsche. Finally, it offers an analysis of the ironic narrative strategies in Plateforme that are interpreted as the consequence of trying to criticize the cultural economy without being able to position oneself outside it.