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Consciousness and the Limits of Social Conformity: A Theory of Ideology through the Works of Marcuse, Jameson and Žižek

Bailes, JR; (2017) Consciousness and the Limits of Social Conformity: A Theory of Ideology through the Works of Marcuse, Jameson and Žižek. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis constructs a theory of ideology that outlines various ways individuals internalise conditions in advanced consumer capitalist societies. It defines a concept of ideology and an approach to analysing ideological rationalisation, and identifies currently prevalent ideologies in terms of beliefs, levels of social awareness, and contradictions. These aims are achieved via critical examination of existing ideology theories, in particular those of Herbert Marcuse, Fredric Jameson, and Slavoj Žižek. Specifically, we analyse their dialectical and psychoanalytic conceptions of subjectivity, or approaches to ideology that emphasise both its necessity and partiality, and thus imply a certain inherent potential for transformation. We also affirm their notions of society as an incomplete totality, whose consumerist pluralism is based around some repressed or excluded element, and the idea that ideology theory should identify with that element to gain a wider social perspective. However, our ideology theory does not focus as fully as theirs on the unconscious, or ideology as a libidinal attachment to existing social relations that is identifiable through behaviour, rather than consciously articulated ideas. While we accept a concept of libidinal attachment, we equally emphasise the role that consciously rationalised beliefs and values play in sustaining it by justifying behaviour. We understand that conscious rationalisation is not merely a secondary effect of attachment, because it becomes a necessary support in all ideologies that can affect attachment itself if sufficiently challenged. This notion enables us to consider the limits of specific ideologies, and their conditional relations to dominant power structures, that many ideology theories understate. It also has repercussions for the radical political possibilities that Marcuse, Jameson and Žižek analyse, in that, while we accept many of the obstacles that face notions of political change in today’s consumer capitalist societies, our theory implies more direct ways in which alternative ideas can challenge dominant social relations by confronting contradictions in affirmative ideologies.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Consciousness and the Limits of Social Conformity: A Theory of Ideology through the Works of Marcuse, Jameson and Žižek
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: Ideology, rationalisation, subjectivity, consciousness, consumerism, radical politics, totality, domination, reification, fragmentation, Marcuse, Jameson, Žižek
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > CMII
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > SELCS
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1546585
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