On Voluntary Servitude

On Voluntary Servitude : False Consciousness and The Theory of Ideology

3.62 (8 ratings by Goodreads)
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This book addresses a central theme in social and political theory: what is the motivation behind the theory of ideology, and can such a theory be defended?
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Product details

  • Paperback | 304 pages
  • 156 x 230 x 16mm | 460g
  • Polity Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0745615961
  • 9780745615967
  • 543,961

Review quote

"Ever since Etienne de la Boitie posed the vexing question, a why do some men accept their servitude voluntarily?a , theorists of all persuasions have struggled to provide a plausible answer. Perhaps the most powerful they have contrived posits the notion of ideological false consciousness, which found special favour among Marxists. In this sober, detailed, and rigorous reconstruction of the historical discourses of ideology critique, Michael Rosen examines all of the arguments on its behalf and finds them wanting. No one who hopes to rescue that answer, or indeed is concerned with the initial question itself, can fail to confront and rebut, if they can, his cogent objections." Professor Martin Jay, University of California, Berkeley "On Voluntary Servitude offers a clear analysis and an exploration of some writings off the beaten track." Political Studies "Fascinating ... ambitious and informative ... incisive conceptual analysis with scholarship which is accurate and invigorating." Times Literary Supplement "He brings ... both tremendous historical erudition and great philosophical rigour. Rosena s discussions of Hume, Rousseau, Smith and Hegel are outstanding, as is his sensitive and illuminating treatment of Benjamin towards the end of the book ... Undoubted strengths and incidental pleasures." Radical Philosophy "Intellectually scrupulous." Inquiry
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About Michael Rosen

Michael Rosen is a Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy at Lincoln College, Oxford.
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Back cover copy

This book addresses a central theme in social and political theory: what is the motivation behind the theory of ideology, and can such a theory be defended? The theory of ideology, Rosen argues, is a distinctively modern answer to one of the oldest questions of political thought: why do the many allow themselves to be ruled by the few?
Rosen clarifies the assumptions behind the theory of ideology through new interpretations of Rousseau, Smith, Herder, Hegel, Marx, Adorno and Benjamin, amongst others, and shows how those assumptions came to be taken for granted. The author's argument is critical but constructive. The assumptions behind the theory of ideology may make it untenable, he argues, but the task of developing an account of political false consciousness remains a central one for social and political thought.

This is a book that is challenging and rigorous, but one that is written with exemplary clarity and accessibility. It is bound to stimulate wide-ranging debate and will become required reading for students in philosophy, social and political theory, and the history of political thought.
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Table of contents

1. Introduction.
2. The Forms of False Consciousness.
3. Rationalism and False Consciousness.
4. Unintended Consequences and the Idea of a Social System.
5. Hegel.
6. Marx.
7. Critical Theory.
8. The Theory of Ideology and Beyond.
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Rating details

8 ratings
3.62 out of 5 stars
5 38% (3)
4 12% (1)
3 38% (3)
2 0% (0)
1 12% (1)
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