Fetishism and social domination in Marx, Lukács, Adorno and Lefebvre

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
O'Kane, Chris (2013)
  • Subject: HM461

This thesis presents a comparative account of the theory of fetishism and its\ud role in the social constitution and constituent properties of Marx’s, Lukács’, Adorno’s\ud and Lefebvre’s theories of social domination. It aims to bring this unduly neglected\ud aspect of fetishism to the fore and to stress its relevance for contemporary critical\ud theory.\ud \ud The thesis begins with an introductory chapter that highlights the lack of a\ud satisfactory theory of fetishism and social domination in contemporary critical theory.\ud It also demonstrates how this notion of fetishism has been neglected in contemporary\ud critical theory and in studies of Marxian theory.\ud \ud This frames the ensuing comparative, historical and theoretical study in the\ud substantive chapters of my thesis, which differentiates, reconstructs and critically\ud evaluates how Marx, Lukács, Adorno and Lefebvre utilize the theory of fetishism to\ud articulate their theories of the composition and characteristics of social domination.\ud Chapter 1 examines Marx’s theory of fetish-characteristic forms of value as a theory of\ud domination socially embedded in his account of the Trinity Formula. It also evaluates\ud the theoretical and sociological shortcomings of Capital. Chapter 2 focuses on how\ud Lukács’ double-faceted account of fetishism as reification articulates his Hegelian,\ud Marxian, Simmelian and Weberian account of dominating social mystification. Chapter\ud 3 turns to Adorno’s theory of the fetish form of the exchange abstraction and unpacks\ud how it serves as a basis for his dialectical critical social theory of domination. Chapter\ud 4 provides an account of how Lefebvre’s theory of fetishism as concrete abstraction\ud serves as the basis for a number of theories that attempt to socially embody an\ud account of domination that is not overly deterministic. The critical evaluations in\ud chapters 2-4 interrogate each thinker’s conception of fetishism and its role in their\ud accounts of the genesis and pervasiveness of social domination.\ud \ud The conclusion of the thesis consists of three parts. In the first part, I\ud bring together and compare my analysis of Marx, Lukács, Adorno and Lefebvre. In part\ud two, I consider whether their respective theories provide a coherent and cohesive\ud critical social theory of fetishism and of the mode of constitution and the constituents\ud of social domination. In part three, I move toward a contemporary critical theory of\ud fetishism and social domination by synthesising elements of Lukács’, Adorno’s and\ud Lefebvre’s theories with a model of social constitution, reproduction and domination\ud modelled on Marx’s account of the Trinity Formula.
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