For those holding their breath, you can exhale. My meeting with my supervisor went well. He suggested I focus on two things: (1) fleshing out the speculative bit at the end where I try to weave together aspects of Marx, Lukacs, Adorno and Lefebvre’s theories of fetishism into a contemporary and relevant theory of social domination. (2) Foregrounding why I think focusing on fetishism and differentiating it from reification is important. Since these are the two areas I think need attention I was pleased with the outcome. I have also taken it to mean that what I have is good enough to pass. So it looks like i’ll be spending the next two months thinking over these issues and writing about them, which also means I should be posting my own content again.
Right off the bat the main worry I have about these two issues is fitting them into my thesis. Technically I have less than 1,000 words before i hit the 80,000 word limit. I know this can be exceeded by a few thousand words. More importantly I need to fit them in without rewriting or restructuring the rest of my thesis. It is too late in the game and I lack the will power to refocus or reorient anything. That leaves me with the task of focusing on drawing out these issues in the introduction and the conclusion and surgically inserting some bits in the chapters.
The other issue I need to think over is how I address the issue of reification. This is because it seems to me that reification and fetishism are conflated in several problematic ways and that these ways differ in terms of theories of reification and the reception of reification in secondary literature.
Regarding theories of reification it seems to me that reification is used to describe several different theories. I have a problem with some of them, but I have no problems with others. An instance of the latter would be describing the reification of social relationships, which I take to be an accurate description of how social relations occur between things i.e. money and commodities. Examples of the former would include reification being used to evoke social theory wherein it is asserted that domination and mystified consciousness are somehow caused by things or by social relations turning into things. I find this problematic because its never quite clear how or why domination and mystified consciousness are engendered by things. In contrast I hold that the manner I examine fetishism–as a theory that attempts to describe both the the social constitution and the autonomous, inverted and dominating properties of things–comes closer to the type of explanation theories of reification elide.
The reception of reification has some overlap with these theories because in many instances the influential commentators on reification were also theorists of reification. The most notable, of course, is Lukacs who I argue is responsible for much of the secondary literature viewing fetishism and reification as interchangable. Another grouping would be the weird post analytic philosophical commentary, which much like people who interpret Marx simply in terms of alienation, use labels like reification to group the characteristics of theories without differentiating between of how or why fetishism might. Thus, in both cases, I think this leads to treating fetishism as equivalent to reification and treating reification in terms of how it is theorized in the way that I find it to be problematic: rather than an account of how capitalism is a form of social domination constituted and reproduced by the reification of social relationships and the personfication of things, we are back to an account of things somehow dominating and mystifying consciousness and doing a whole lot of other heinous things.
These two points both tie into a point I definitely won’t have the time to work out or the space to articulate. It relates to a point that Jura said he was making in his thesis in the comments some time ago and has to do with how critique is interpreted. For it seems to me that critique can be seen as something that is entirely negative or something that combines negativity with what I guess can be called a positive account. By this I mean it seems like the type of accounts of reification I have a problem with are purely negative in the sense that they concieve critique as solely concerned with uncovering the social relations concealed by things. Whereas it seems to me that a critique that combines both negative and positive accounts uncovers these social relations by showing how they constitute and reproduce capital. In my interpretation the aspects of fetishism that I focus on are important because they are part of this positive account of why things are personified bearers of value and how they function to reproduce capital.
So yeah, lots more of me brainstorming on this sorta shit.