bourgeois society through the reiﬁcation of consciousness. In particular, as a capital exchangecircuit begins to dominate the social relations and processes of exchange in society (M-C-M),the expression of value becomes increasingly quantitative as a calculus of efﬁciency,measurement, and productivity thereby allows workers to be measured in comparative value(quantitatively in product, efﬁciency etc.) based on a standardized calculation of one hourswork
. This necessitates the development of natural laws, multiple calculuses from which to planand measure economic activity, standardize labour and mechanize production. In the immediatesense, this reiﬁes the existing social relations within the production process as it allows thesehuman relations to be measured, understood and approached as mere units of labour (things);however, simultaneously the development of these natural laws, and ideological implements tounderstand the ‘market’ serve to entrench these reiﬁed structures into the broaderphilosophical consciousness of bourgeois society (i.e. within the disciplines
of Economics,Science). In particular, bourgeois science approaches the world as the only possible world; andthus it is rendered into a discrete empirical reality formalized with universal laws andimperatives that are supported by, but also used to deduce a priori, a set of isolated objects thatmake up the whole continuum of bourgeois knowledge:‘facts’
However, as Lukacs notes, the more sophisticated and specialized bourgeois societybecomes in its categorization, measurement and comprehension of its area of expertise themore it must “turn its back on the ontological problems” that belie its own epistemology
. Inthis sense, the critical impulses of bourgeois society are neutralized and bourgeois scienceremains incapable of moving beyond the original natural laws it ﬁrst postulated and used toestablish its intellectual and moral predominance over the feudal order. In other words, throughthe fusion of its natural laws to the structure of commodity exchange, the iconoclastic power of bourgeois philosophy is inverted, reiﬁed and ultimately reconstituted into a force of pureconservatism: “we live in the best of all possible worlds
Consequently, through the development of these reiﬁed relationships throughoutbourgeois society (e.g. within art, science, production, exchange, reproduction) a series of tendencies are put in motion that not only naturalize capitalist society but simultaneously createan ideological carapace to further shield and strengthen these reiﬁed relations/structures. Forinstance, in terms of the former, the bourgeois reduction of the world to an object completewith discoverable natural laws transforms the practical activity of the individual into a ‘thing’ thatis subject to the overarching objective metabolic forces of the ‘economy’ (i.e. supply anddemand, equilibrium, the invisible hand etc). Consequently, what are in reality a series of relations between living human beings are recast as mere vectors in a closed system that exists
Therefore we should not say that one man during an hour is worth another man’s hour but rather that one manduring an hour is worth just as much as another man during an hour” Karl Marx,
Capital Volume 1
Ironically, this word itself is a form of reiﬁcation. “ What does the word discipline suggest other than a set of boundaries beyond which specialized knowledge dare not go? Any Epistemology that deﬁnes its inquiry in relationto its boundaries cannot produce anything but partial truths; and, therefore, is destined for intractable impassesbetween its own ‘laws’ and the social totality it remains fettered, by its own reasoning, from fully acknowledging.
In this sense, bourgeois science reduces the processes of social life, of its own social existence, to a series of atomized facts strung together in the patina of an eternal natural law. As a result relations and processes onceunder the microscope of bourgeois science are fragmented and reduced to singular categorizable ‘things’ that canbe separated from the context of politics, culture or history. Arguable, in a world where human relationshipsbetween individuals are buried within objects a social and psychological need to situate oneself within factsbecomes paramount for the stability of the individuals psyche; thus the need for these facts to be reproduced andconsumed regularly becomes paramount, ushering in new scales of educative institutions whose primary mandate,in varying degrees, is to teach the individual ‘how’ to digest facts.. “Now what I want is facts. Teach these boys andgirls nothing but facts. Facts alone are wanted in life.” Thomas GradGrind, Chapter 1 “ The One Thing Needful” in
by Charles Dickens, pg. 47.
Georg Lukacs, 1971, “Reiﬁcation and the Consciousness of the Proletariat” in
History of Class Consciousness
The catchphrase of Professor Pangloss from Voltaire's novel
typiﬁes the key principle of Bourgeoisscience.