Commodity fetishism and domination : the contributions of Marx, Lukács, Horkheimer, Adorno and Bourdieu

Lloyd, G. (2008) Commodity fetishism and domination : the contributions of Marx, Lukács, Horkheimer, Adorno and Bourdieu. Masters thesis, Rhodes University.

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Abstract

This thesis seeks to trace domination theory back to the influential work done by Marx on commodity fetishism. Marx's work proves to be an original account of domination that explains how the dominated many accept the rule of the privileged few. The theory of commodity fetishism develops the idea that individuals come to adopt beliefs that bolster and reproduce the status quo of capitalism. For Marx, the way that individuals experience capitalism is different from the way that it actually works because, in fact, lived experience is actually false. Oppression, inequality and exploitation are thus hidden and the main source of conflict between the oppressed many and the privileged few is obscured. I seek to develop this insight of Marx's into a more comprehensive account of how dominating capitalism self maintains. Lukács' theory of reification explains how capitalism has become all-embracing because capitalism has developed its own type of rationality. This specific rationality shapes thought, which in turn, generates false beliefs that favour the continuation of the status quo. Horkheimer and Adorno argue that capitalism extends its influence by means of its deep involvement in modern culture. Today, culture has become an massive industry which inculcates the logic and principles of capitalism into individuals. For these theorists, capitalism has penetrated all areas of life; experience, knowledge and thought have become extensions of capitalism itself. Marx, Lukács, Horkheimer and Adorno give accounts of how false beliefs are put into practice. Hence the importance of the work of Bourdieu. Bourdieu's theory of distinction describes how the status quo in capitalism is maintained by the behaviour of individuals through their daily acts of consumption. I argue that the consumption of commodities reproduces the status quo in two ways: firstly, establishing an upper-class which takes the lead in patterns of consumption, and, secondly, by creating a middle class that follows its example. Finally, I relate Bourdieu's insights to the theories of Marx, Lukács, Horkheimer and Adorno and Bourdieu in order to arrive at a more inclusive account of how (and why) domination persists.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Additional Information:M.A. (Political & International Studies)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Political philosophy, domination, Karl Marx, Pierre Bourdieu, Theodor W. Adorno, György Lukács, Max Horkheimer, commodity fetishism, capitalism, consumption (Economics)
Subjects:Y Unknown > Subjects to be assigned
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Humanities > Political Studies and International Studies
Supervisors:Fluxman, T. (Dr.)
ID Code:1270
Deposited By: Nicolene Mvinjelwa
Deposited On:11 Feb 2009
Last Modified:06 Jan 2012 16:20
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