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

O'Kane, Chris (2013) Fetishism and social domination in Marx, Lukács, Adorno and Lefebvre. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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This thesis presents a comparative account of the theory of fetishism and its
role in the social constitution and constituent properties of Marx’s, Lukács’, Adorno’s
and Lefebvre’s 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

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
domination socially embedded in his account of the Trinity Formula. It also evaluates
the theoretical and sociological shortcomings of Capital. Chapter 2 focuses on how
Lukács’ 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 critical social theory of domination. Chapter
4 provides an account of how Lefebvre’s theory of fetishism as concrete abstraction
serves as the basis for a number of theories that attempt to socially embody an
account of domination that is not overly deterministic. The 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 critical theory of
fetishism and social domination by synthesising elements of Lukács’, Adorno’s and
Lefebvre’s theories with a model of social constitution, reproduction and domination
modelled on Marx’s account of the Trinity Formula.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of History, Art History and Philosophy > Philosophy
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology > HM0435 History of sociology. History of sociological theory > HM461 Schools of sociology. Schools of social thought
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 04 Jun 2015 14:13
Last Modified: 17 Sep 2015 14:43
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/47217

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