Neo-Marxist Theory

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  • Created by: Mollie
  • Created on: 25-04-13 16:56

The Frankfurt School:

  • Associated with three major neo-Marxists: Marcuse, Adorno and Horkheimer
  • They criticised Marx for being an economic determinist and believed that the individual's ideas were more important than Marx ever acknowledged
  • Their critique consisted of three important elements:
  • Instrumental reason- According to Adorno, Marx failed to explore people's motivations for accepting capitalism and was wrong to dismiss this as 'false cosciousness'
  • Mass culture- Marcuse argues Marx ignored the importance of media in his theory. He believed the media played a key part in controlling the population by encouraging them to accept their lot and concentrate on trivial entertainment
  • The oppression of personality- This third component focussed on how individual's desires and personality are controlled and directed to the benefit of capitalism.
  • Before capitalism, there was no concept of 'work ethic'; people simply did the work that was required and then stopped. Capitalism needed people who accepted going to work for most of their lives and having little leisure time. Therefore, in the early stages of capitalism, pleasure and desire were heavily disapproved of- hence puritan values of Victorian England.
  • However, in later capitalism, when it was possible to make money out of desires such as sex, they were emphasized. Sex is now used to sell a vast array of products, therefore, even our wants and desires are manipulated by capitalism in it's own interests

Althusser and the concept of relative autonomy:

  • Althusser argued that Marx overemphasized the role of the economic base in shaping society
  • He suggested that capitalist society was made up of 3 interlocking elements:
  • The economic system-producing all material goods


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