chapter  3
28 Pages

The Frankfurt School

Marxism, of all the classical sociological traditions, arguably provides the most scintillating storyline regarding the ongoing, frantic expansion of capitalism. ‘The bourgeoisie,’ wrote Marx, ‘has through its exploitation

t h e f r a n k f u r t s c h o o l 41

of the world market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country.’ From San Francisco to Sydney, New York to New Delhi: anyone shopping in a downtown mall, surveying fl ashy designer goods and hi-tech products fl own in from China, Taiwan or India, would most likely agree with Marx’s assessment. What happens to people under capitalism for Marx is an extravagant infl ation of sensory life and human desire, creating a sort of permanent revolution across society in which pleasure depends upon the continual accumulation of more and more things. People, simply, want newer and newer experiences. One can argue about whether designer jeans, mobile phones or iPods really constitute an advance in societal well-being, but the essential point from a Marxist perspective is that such con - sumption has today become perversely self-constituting, self-breeding, self-referential.