Thesis Summary.

Putting the finishing touches on the very final draft of my thesis. I’ll post it when I’m in done. In the meantime, the copy-editor was sharp enough to recommend re-writing my summary. Here it is:


            This thesis presents a comparative account of the theory of fetishism and its role in the social constitution and constituent properties of Marx, Lukács, Adorno and Lefebvre’s supra-individual theories of social domination. It aims to bring this unduly neglected aspect of fetishism to the fore and to stress its relevance for contemporary critical theory.

The thesis begins with an introductory chapter that highlights the lack of a satisfactory theory of fetishism and social domination in contemporary critical theory. It also demonstrates how this notion of fetishism has been neglected in contemporary critical theory and in studies of Marxian theory.

This frames the ensuing comparative, historical and theoretical study in the substantive chapters of my thesis, which differentiates, reconstructs and critically evaluates how Marx, Lukács, Adorno and Lefebvre utilize the theory of fetishism to articulate their theories of the composition and characteristics of social domination. Chapter 1 examines Marx’s theory of fetish-characteristic forms of value as a theory of social domination embedded in the Trinity Formula. It also examines the theoretical and sociological shortcomings of Capital. Chapter 2 focuses on how Lukács’s double-faceted account of fetishism as reification articulates his Hegelian, Marxian, Simmelian and Weberian account of dominating social mystification. Chapter 3 turns to Adorno’s theory of the fetish form of the exchange abstraction and unpacks how it serves as a basis for his dialectical social theory of domination. Chapter 4 provides an account of how Lefebvre’s theory of fetishism as concrete abstraction is the basis of a number of theories that attempt to socially embody an account of domination that is not overly deterministic. My critical evaluations in chapters 2-4 interrogate each thinker’s conception of fetishism and its role in their accounts of the genesis and pervasiveness of social domination.

The conclusion of the thesis consists of three parts. In the first part, I bring together and compare my analysis of Marx, Lukács, Adorno and Lefebvre. In part two, I consider whether their respective theories provide a coherent and cohesive critical social theory of fetishism and of the mode of constitution and the constituents of social domination. In part three, I move toward a contemporary variant of a critical theory of fetishism and social domination by synthesisizng elements of Lukács, Adorno and Lefebvre’ theories with a model of social constitution, reproduction and domination modelled on Marx’s account of the Trinity Formula.


About HR

Deep in the adjunct crackhole.
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6 Responses to Thesis Summary.

  1. Anjie Zheng says:

    Congratulations. I look forward to reading it after you put it up. I’m working through Capital volume 2 at the moment and I don’t know when I’ll take another look at the secondary literature that I have access to or possess (i.e. Patrick Murray, Michael Heinrich, Felton Shortall, Chris Arthur, I.I. Rubin, Evgeny Pashukanis, etc.) but I’m sure I’ll find your thesis/dissertation illuminating.

    • HR says:

      Thanks! I’d like to hear your comments as I think they would be helpful in the process of turning it into a book.

    • HR says:

      I should also add that I completely neglect volume 2 in my thesis.

      • Anjie Zheng says:

        No worries at all about not covering volume 2 (Cv2) — I thought I’d jump into it since I more or less understood the contents of volume 1 (although I’ll try to leaf through it as soon as possible). Hopefully I’ll be finished with Cv2 in a couple of months and start volume 3 (and hopefully I’ll finish Cv3 over the spring and summer into the fall).

        Since I’m going to have to turn back to Cv1 to “re-ground” my understanding of commodity fetishism, the value-form, reification, etc. from the beginning, I’m sure your thesis will be of help (along with Murray, Heinrich, Rubin, etc.). I also know Heinrich writes aptly about how in Cv3, Marx argues that, for lack of better wording on my part, fetishized parts of the capital relation (i.e. the “trinity formula,” fictitious capital, etc.) interact with one another on a daily basis…….

        Anyway, I’ll find time to read your work, of course.

  2. CB says:

    What books and essays did you read by Adorno? I just read The Dialectic of Enlightenment and was bored to death. But before I discount Adorno whole sale, I’d like to know what he wrote that interest you? (Since our interest seem to overlap greatly).

    • HR says:

      Yeah, I’m not a fan of Dialectic of Enlightenment. I’m specifically interested in Adorno’s later social theory, which I argue is based on his reapproachment with Marx, and serves as an important basis for the New German Reading of Marx. So I would recommend The chapter on Natural History in Negative Dialectics, his first two contributions to ‘the positivist dispute’ and the essays ‘on subject and object’ ‘late capitalism or industrial society?’ and ‘society.’

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