From Thesis to Book II

For the two or three of you who may have read my thesis and are interested in how I am planning on turning it into a book, what follows is the part of the plan that I will submit to the publisher after receiving feedback from some folks. As you will note, this part focuses on what I hope is a fruitful way of restructuring the overall argument whilst also foregrounding my contribution. Please let me know what you think:

I think the major obstacles in turning my thesis into a book are twofold; in the first place it possesses the structure of a thesis and spends too much time differentiating itself from other work in the field; in the second place the relationship between the comparative-historical account I give in the main body of the thesis and my argument for how and why this account is relevant to a vital and contemporary Marxian theory of fetishism and social domination has to be remedied. The same is true of the uneasy relation between whether I am simply arguing for distinguishing between Marx, Lukacs, Adorno and Lefebvre’s notion of fetishism and social domination, or if and how I am using these distinctions towards a greater end.  I propose that both of these problems can be remedied by: (1) Foregrounding the underlying purpose of the book which aims to disentangle these different theorisations of fetishism and social domination as part of a project concerned with developing how a Marxian theory of fetishism can be used to articulate the historically specific genesis of an inverted and peculiar autonomous dynamic of social domination in which society reproduces itself through the actions that individuals are compelled to take. (2) Revising the introduction to provide a discussion of what this theory might look like in relation to a more thorough account of the failings of contemporary Marxian theories of fetishism and social domination in order to frame the importance of the historical reconstruction and criticism that occurs in the main chapters. (3) Reframing the main chapters of the work so that my account and criticism of each respective thinker builds to the contemporary relevance of fetishism and social domination that I propose in the conclusion (4) Refocusing the study of each particular thinker’s interpretation of fetishism, not just so that it establishes an account of how they utilized fetishism in their theory of social domination, but to also further my consideration of how it articulates a theory that not only accounts for the social genesis and dynamic of this notion of social domination, but in doing so does not fall into a worldview in which the theory of fetishism provides a one-dimensional explication of society in toto, or withdraws into scholasticism, but provides an account of how such theory is embodied or interacts with socially complex capitalist societies. (5) Adding a section after my chapters on the figures in Hegelian-Marxism discussing Marxian theorists who draw on the value-form interpretation of fetishism – principally Postone — to formulate an account of social domination, allowing me to differentiate my interpretation from other contemporary theories.

These changes should allow me to write a book that builds on my thesis that is centred on examining how these figures utilized the theory of fetishism in their accounts of the constitution and constituent properties of social domination, to consider the respective merits and weaknesses of these theories, and to draw on the former in a conclusion that does a much better job of proposing the outline of a contemporary theory of fetishism and social domination.

It will also provide a better overarching structure to the argument that can be broken down into the following:

  • The introduction will lay out the topic of the book, define what I mean by fetishism and social domination, and articulate how the distinct accounts I provide relate to the underlying purpose of the book. A shorter literature review will establish that it is the case that other authors treat different theories of fetishism as similar or symptomatic of a larger concept such as false consciousness, alienation etc. This neglects their differences and thus different ways in which the conceptualisation of fetishism was used to articulate social constitution and constituent properties of theory of social domination, further foreclosing what insights might be taken in developing a contemporary theory of fetishism and social domination.
  • The chapter on Marx will provide an interpretation of fetishism from this perspective that focuses on how he conceives of fetishism in the context of the overall theory of social constitution and reproduction in Capital as finally articulated in the Trinity Formula. It will also addresses the shortcomings and the ambiguity in his work.
  • The chapters on Lukacs, Adorno and Lefebvre will show how each drew on their interpretation of the fetish to extend Marx’s theory in order to articulate a broader theory of social domination encompassing elements such as the state, bureaucracy etc. and the strengths and shortcomings of this approach.
  • The new chapter I propose to add will interpret theories of social domination that are based on value-theoretic account of fetishism as intended to address the shortcomings of the Hegelian-Marxist accounts of social domination, and Marx’s own inconsistencies, but I will argue that they are either unsatisfactory for the subject of my study because they consist in purely philological accounts, or as in the case of Postone simply substitute their new, and unsatisfactory, reading of how the commodity form mediates social activity for the older Hegelian-Marxist one.
  • The conclusion will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of these theories and attempt to formulate a contemporary theory by synthesizing Marx’s account of fetishism in the Trinity formula – in the context of a theory of social constitution and reproduction via the dynamic of valorisation and compulsion — with the strengths of Hegelian-Marxist and Value-Theoretic accounts.


About HR

Deep in the adjunct crackhole.
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