Literary Theory Essay Question: Summarize Karl Marx's critical analysis of the capitalist mode of production and the forms of exploitation it entails. How do Antonio Gramsci's concept of hegemony, Louis Althusser's theory of ideological interpellation, Michel Foucault's understanding of the disciplinary society (in Discipline and Punish), and Jean Baudrillard's emphasis on the semiotics of consumption (in "The System of Objects") revise and extend this analysis? Critics of the World, REWRITE!!
In his critical analysis of capitalist society, Karl Marx emphasized that the division of labour and class is the foundation for the reciprocal interrelationship between history, society and political economy. Conflicts arising from this relationship are often transhistorical class struggles. There have always been and will always be those who do all the work and those who profit from their labour. When the capitalist ruling class separated agricultural labour from industrial and commercial (subsequently industrial from commercial followed by the separation of mental and manual labour) it also created a division between town and country.
The urban population quickly surpassed that of the rural and the country became dependent on the enormous towns. Through an exploitation of the world market (as well as world literature) the bourgeoisie have also made less-developed countries dependent upon them as they recreate foreign lands in their own image. The increased division of labour forces workers to sell their labour to whichever screaming supervisor will buy it. Economic inequality deters and is deterred by social inequality; to alleviate one is to alleviate the other.
Marx opposed using population to begin a politico-economic analysis of a nation, stating that population was an abstraction. He revised G. W. F. Hegel's dialectic (a mode of philosophical analysis that allows for a premise and its negation and any intermediaries to simultaneously exist and be correct) rejecting the spiritual aspect and beginning with a concrete subject since social labour relations are concrete in the real world. The correct method for politico-economic analysis centers on the concrete as a combination of many determinants.
In order to start referring to the worker, from whom labour is extracted, the starting premise must be that of the concrete subject (can be society itself). Modes of production determine modes of society. Reciprocally the individual depends on the mode of production for means of subsistence. One cannot think of a mode of production without also having thoughts of social relations which are often abused for profit and through the manipulation and exploitation of the worker. Wages become unproportionate to labour causing disparity between the classes. The history of the creation of a mode of production (i.
e. NAFTA) and the events surrounding it, are expressed internally. Dialectically speaking, concrete phenomena, social institutions and family historically reflect modes of production synchronically and diachronically. In "Hegemony" Antonio Gramsci describes the role of intellectuals as functionaries of the dominant group. Social class and economic power gives the dominant group social prestige and implicitly political power. In a capitalist society, those who make money are respected. The role of the intellectual is as a functionary of the dominant group.
The intellectuals become deputies to subvert any proletariat class consciousness that may arise. Not articulated, it is as if it does not exist thus theory is needed to be the voice. Despite the exploitation and labour alienation, as posited by Marx, Louis Althusser's theory of ideological interpellation ensures the reproduction of labour for capitalist owners. Ideology prepares workers to submit and become diligent; Conscientious, and punctual they adhere to deadlines functioning productively and unsupervised. Ideology's material existence is the performing of prescribed behaviour.
Individuals become subjects and are always-already a subject due to the totality of ideology; one can move to different ideologies but there are always already within ideology. The structure of ideology ensures the interpellation of individuals as subjects, the subjection of subjects, the mutual recognition of subjects and understanding that proper behaviour requires reason. Moving away from the notion of controlling subjects through ideology, Michel Foucault examines modern power relations. Rejecting Marx's idea of power as a commodity of the state and possessed by the bourgeoisie, Foucault claims that power occurs between subjects.
Bentham's Panopticon illustrates this relationship with an image for the perfect prison. The guard easily views anything the silhouetted individuals do, but it is not possible to verify if the guard is watching or even present. Assuming the armed guard is in the tower, the subjects are obedient; the surveillance has been internalized and unsupervised subjects will remain submissive. The Panopticon, a metaphor for modern power relations, creates a paradox where power individualizes subjects and yet is disindividuating. A hierarchy of subjects is which perpetuates disindividuation.
Individuals allow themselves to be constituted as subjects either through examination, as in a university, or confession, be it first person poetry, a medical history questionnaire or a loan application. A poet may believe to be proclaiming individuality or barring the soul[m1] but these notions are merely compensation for being subjectified, poor compensation when one realizes that the soul is the prison the body's [m2]disciplinary. Foucault's revises Marx's notion of power and state by decentralizing power, instead power relations occur between subjects.
The Panopticon resemble[m3] the structure of modern power [m4]and explains the obedience of the subjects as correctly internalized surveillance not ideology as posited [m5]by Marx. In The System of Objects, Jean Baudrillard states that through advertising and consumerism objects become personalized. We relate to others using these objects while believing we can reach personal fulfillment. Advertising reproduces the code [m6]that regulates everyone, no escaping the totality of the code. A metonymical society ensues with a common goal to obtain the product and obtain its associated attributes.
This will ensure happiness and normalcy[m7] as these are everyone's goals because it is abnormal not to want to be happy and fulfilled. A psychological transformation [m8]of the consumer results[m9] in the pursuit of to fulfill new needs, or fetishes. The code consists of a lexical grid that is full of signification, or signifiers, but empty of meaning like a brand name when objects are personalized. The consumer exercising the freedom of choice reaches for the brand that is the embodiment of all things sacred which thereby is transferred onto him/her[m10].
To choose that commodity is to possess the perfect ratio of conformity and uniqueness. Consumption is an active mode of relations, the material object is not what is truly desired, rather it is the series (series of objects that manifests it), [m11] the idea of the relation and its manifestations is consumed. This bares a resemblance to Marx's ideas on exchange value which is not concerned with the actual object or its[m12] use-value of objects. The ideas of reification and animism of desired objects through personalization is an evolution of Marx's commodity fetishism.