Reification, Or, The Anxiety of Late Capitalism

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Verso, 2002 - Philosophy - 334 pages
Of all the concepts which have emerged to describe the effects of capitalism on the human world, none is more graphic or easily grasped than "reification"--the process by which men and women are turned into objects, things. Arising out of Marx's account of commodity fetishism, the concept of reification offers an unrivalled tool with which to explain the real consequences of the power of capital on consciousness itself.

Symptoms of reification are proliferating around us--from the branding of goods and services to racial and sexual stereotypes, all forms of religious faith, the growth of nationalism, and recent concepts like "spin" and "globalization." At such a time, the term ought to enjoy greater critical currency than ever. Recent thinkers, however, have expressed deep reservations about the concept, and the term has become marginalized in the humanities and social societies.

Eschewing this trend, Timothy Bewes opens up a new formulation of the concept, claiming that, in the highly reflective age of "late capitalism," reification is best understood as a form of social and cultural anxiety further, that such an understanding returns the concept to its origins in the work of Georg Lukács. Drawing upon writers including Kierkegaard, Herman Melville, Proust and Flannery O'Connor, he outlines a theory of reification which promises to unite politics with truth, art with experience, and philosophy with real life.

 

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Contents

PART ONE Fall
1
Obsolescence of a Concept
3
Marxist Anxieties
10
Reification and Colonialism
14
From Adorno to Jameson
20
Messianism Historical Materialism Poststructuralism
24
The Translation of God into
41
Marxism and the Hidden
48
Anxiety Reified as Risk
118
The Aesthetics of Incomprehensibility
124
Ambiguity and Utopia
130
Analogy of Religious and Commodity Fetishism
134
The Desire for Transcendence
143
Comment on Proust
148
Hierarchy of Mediation and Immediacy
153
The Virtue of Obsolescence
166

Poststructuralism and the Absent
57
What is Imputed Class Consciousness?
62
Reification and Decolonization
69
Reading Fanon
81
Reading Lukács
85
PART
90
Inversion
91
The Reflexive Character of Reification
93
The Triumph of Capital
99
The Aesthetic Structure of Reification
107
Anxiety Reified as Différance
111
PART THREE Redemption
179
The Pleasure Tendency
181
Reification as Cultural Anxiety
191
On Reversibility
201
Flannery OConnor
215
The Coincidence of Contraries
230
Kierkegaard as a Theorist of Reification
242
Reading Hardt and Negri
248
Towards Intimacy
255
Notes
271
Index
319

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About the author (2002)

Timothy Bewes is Associate Professor of English at Brown University. He is an editor of New Formations and a contributor to New Left Review, New Literary History and Parallax.

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