2022 Abstracts Stage 3

Meditations on Leisure and The Society of Labourers

The stratification of the Ancient Athenian City State was acknowledged by citizens and slaves alike. The use of slaves to enable greater action was a prominent feature of the city state, allowing for civic life and peer to peer interaction. This stratification has been perpetuated into modern society but under the guise of a working class. Capitalism itself, an adopted slave morality and degrees of power all contribute to the maintenance of an almost four hundred year old capitalist system. This system has adapted and evolved alongside the times. Today, we see yet another evolution of capitalism with the rise of the digital revolution. This paper highlights the need for a constant examination of values based on the sort of life which society can currently provide. Suggesting that the etymological definition of labour is applying to less and less people and this should provide us with optimism for a future which relearns the value of leisure.

2022 Abstracts Stage 2

The Idealogical Duality of Animal Crossing

This Essay is an examination of the ideological duality of Animal Crossing. This is a popular video game created by Nintendo, which has had several instalments over the last 20 years. The game involves the player moving to a new town, full of anthropomorphic animal characters. There are many clearly capitalist aspects at play within the game, with the necessity to get into debt, and or the pressure to consume is quite apparent if one wants to progress. However, it is clear that the game does not conform to the usual principles seen within capitalism and exhibits distinct ideological ambiguity through the processes involved within this game, like not charging interest on debt, but also through the intentions of the programmers regarding how one plays this, through measures to slow completion and general gameplay.

2021 Abstracts Stage 2

According to Italian Marxist Feminist Thought, what is the role of women within capitalism?

An evaluation on women’s position in the transition to capitalism, the function of capitalism, and 21st century capitalism through the works of key Italian Marxist Feminist thinkers. This project will analyse how Italian feminists have critiqued and developed Marx to develop a new theory on capitalism which focuses specifically on women’s exploitation. Analysis of Italian Marxist feminist theory will demonstrate how and why they understand capitalism to inherently entail women’s exploitation.

2021 Abstracts Stage 3

Thin, Young, and Beautiful: How Complicit is Capitalism in Eating Disorders in Women

The dramatic increase of cases of eating disorders over the past century means that it is now necessary to explore possible reasons for this rise in instances. In this dissertation, I will discuss how complicit capitalism is in eating disorders in women, as it seems that the increase in cases has coincided with the increasing grip capitalism has on the individual. First, using the work of Karl Marx and Jean Baudrillard I will explore the way that the individual within a capitalist society is made to see their body as an object which must be saleable in order to be useful. Due to the social prestige of a thin body, we see its owner as having more value than the owner of a fat body. Second, I will explore how the impacts of capitalist society on a woman can lead to her developing an eating disorder. Simone de Beauvoir’s theory of the socialisation of the woman shows how a woman is forced to see herself as an object belonging to the male subject. She is left feeling that her body is the only object she has any mastery over and makes it thinner in order to show this mastery. Julia Kristeva’s abjection will be used to show how the woman is forced into ‘choosing’ her status of an object within a capitalist society and that consequently she feels she must be the perfect object of desire. Lastly, I use the work of Massimo Recalcati to explore the direct connections between eating disorders and the capitalist world. Within capitalism we are encouraged to fear the Other, this makes the individual desire to cut them off – which they do through food. Recalcati also suggests that capitalist society makes us see the lack which causes our desire as a void which must be filled, and people with eating disorders do so through food – that being the presence of food or the absence of it. I will explore each of these sections separately before concluding with a synthesis of all of them.

2021 Abstracts Stage 2

An investigation into the ways in which consumer behaviour has changed as a result of the pandemic, how big tech companies are using this change for profit and the social implications of this.

The aim of this project is to look at consumerism, specifically consumer behaviour during the coronavirus pandemic and how it has evolved. The project will also explore how big tech companies such as Microsoft and Google are planning on using this for their own profit and power gain, whilst finally looking at some of the social and critical philosophy of Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer to highlight how this might be problematic and the potential implications it holds for society as a whole.

2021 Abstracts Stage 3

The Precarious Worker as Homo Sacer

• This project will place the film ‘Sorry We Missed You’ (2019) within the territory of biopolitics, in order to understand the relationship between the worker and their employer.
• ‘Sorry We Missed You’ is a film set in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, following the Turner family where parents, Abby and Ricky, work within the gig economy.
o Abby works as an outsourced, in-home care worker.
o Ricky is a delivery driver, mockingly referred to by his son as a “white van man”.
 As a contemporary film, this project shall be contextualised against the backdrop of ‘Capitalist Realism’: the pervading atmosphere that capitalism is the only possible economic system.
• Workers that are self-employed or are on zero-hour contracts are referred to as ‘precarious workers’.
o Precarity is anxiety that lacks a definite object.
• Paolo Virno empirically observes these workers to contain the qualities of opportunism, fear and cynicism.
o These qualities alienate workers from their social ties as their morals are uprooted and knowledge is fixed to capital, creating ambivalence.
• Ivor Southwood’s first-hand account of this sector echoes Virno arguing that workers suffer from inertia as they can no longer separate work from their private life.
• The relationship is biopolitical as the relation between worker and employer is constituted by the originary bond of sovereignty to bare life.
• Over the course of the film, the bare life of the worker is demonstrated by the violence and exploitation exerted towards Abby and Ricky, for the goal of maximising their bodies potentiality to gain capital for their sovereign employer.

2021 Abstracts Stage 3

Separating Art from the Artist: An Investigation into the Commodification of Art and its Effects

The issue of whether we can, and should, separate art from the artist is perennial. This project considers the question of separating art from the artist and assess the effects of commodification of art in respect to it. Looking at competing ideas of artistic interpretation and focussing on the approach of historical materialism, this project presents a Marxist view of art and places commodification at the centre of the issue. This project considers Adorno and Horkheimer’s contributions to the subject in the form of their theory of the Culture Industry.

This project found that the effect of the commodification of art was the separation and alienation of the artist from their art. It suggests that this separation and alienation is a necessary feature of production in capitalist societies. The concept of autonomous art is presented as a potential solution to this problem, being defined by its functionlessness and the idea that it cannot or is not commodified.

2021 Abstracts Stage 2

Exploring The Current Philosophical Impact Of Surveillance Capitalism And The Big Data Economy

This research paper highlights the need for more transparency, open-source initiatives and regulatory bodies surrounding the big data economy. It will help individuals understand what is at stake each time they choose to give up parts of their personal information to companies who offer ‘free’ services.

2021 Abstracts Stage 2

The Correlation Between the Mental Health Crisis and Late-Stage Capitalism: Can the Eastern Practice of Mindfulness Help?

For decades, the correlation between the continuing rise in mental health cases and late-stage capitalism has been theorised by philosophers, sociologists, and psychologists. However, the problem still remains, and we are yet to find an adequate solution.
Individuals continue to be exploited by pharmaceutical companies more and more each year, as the rates in mental illnesses increase and in turn, so does the income of pharmaceutical companies who provide anti-psychotics.
This is where the Eastern practice of mindfulness seems like a viable alternative. Can mindfulness bridge help individuals that are suffering with their mental health, by eliminating this problem of contributing the exploitation of capitalist pharmaceutical companies?

2021 Abstracts Stage 3

Marx, Benjamin, and Fisher: The Work of Art Commodified

Capitalism represses the emancipatory force of a work of art regarding both its production and how it is viewed. In transforming artists and artworks into commodities, the authority of artist and work of art are lost. The commercial function of capitalism brings art into the culture industry, in which art became a mere object for exchange.

2021 Abstracts Stage 2

The Corrosive Social Effects of Greed with Reference to There Will Be Blood.

This project will endeavour to explore the corrosive social effects of greed and capitalism. The territory is the subject of capitalism as a political and economic system as presented throughout history and also currently. The 2007 film There Will Be Blood (directed by Paul Thomas Anderson) is my object through which I shall spring the discussion of my project from, exploring the questions throughout and what they mean for us. I am using the works of John Locke (primarily his Second Treatise of Government) and Karl Marx (primarily his Philosophic and Economic Manuscripts of 1844). Locke explores the human right of private property and how one rightly comes to have ownership, and Marx explores the disproportionate and devastating relationship between capitalist and labourer and how such a relationship and work brings about alienation and estrangement from labour for the labourer. I shall compare the two philosophic ideas of Locke and Marx with reference to There Will Be Blood.

2017 Abstracts Stage 3

Neoliberal Distress: The Effect of Contemporary Capitalism on the Mental State of Young People

My project aims:
Outlining neoliberal hegemony, why it has become so universally pervasive.
To uncover the manner in which neoliberalism increases levels of distress for young people through statistical evidence.
To look at the systemic shortcomings in treating mental illness and how this leads young people into self-medication and escapism.
To look at potential solutions to countering neoliberalism, highlighting precisely why the left has failed in doing so.
Concluding by revealing neoliberalism as pseudo-universal.

2017 Abstracts Stage 3

From Selfie to Surgery: The Impact of Technology on Human Self-Worth

An investigation into the ways that technology is used as a method of creating insecurities with the self, leading to cosmetic surgery and the sustainability of capitalism.

My aim of this investigation is to explore the effects of technological apps such as Snapchat and Instagram on self-esteem and confidence. Also to investigate how far there is a link between beautifying apps and the cosmetic surgery industry, in a 21st century society where the conception of beauty is given great importance.

In this investigation, I conduct a survey to understand the effects of technology. I ask questions regarding frequency of usage, confidence levels after usage and pressure in society surrounding beauty.

Philosophical Concept 1: Adorno and the Culture Industry
Philosophical Concept 2: Freud and ‘Civilisation and its Discontents’

2017 Abstracts Stage 2

What is the role of capitalism and the ruling class in our recognition and responsibility towards the plight of refugees and genocide outside the West?

Why does Genocide outside the WEST remain unnoticed?

My aim is to uncover reasons why genocide is still a modern age problem. I will be looking in particular at the Rwanda genocide and the ongoing persecution of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. To investigate this, I will be taking a historical and political viewpoint to explore the value systems promoted within society that allow us to ignore this blatant bloodshed, which are purely based upon location and affiliation. The sources used include books, articles and scholarly certified media pieces in order to help uncover the reasons why there still remains an issue within the modern world with genocide.

I will argue that we still live in this post enlightenment era, using Kant and Hegel to describe how empty legislation and abstract laws do not meet action in the real world. I will also link the influence of Capitalism, using Adorno’s Culture Theory to help exemplify how harmful ideologies and passivity is promoted in today’s society. I will be drawing upon philosophical concepts such as moral distance, dehumanization, autonomy and recognition. Ultimately, my claim will be that this narrative of ‘the other’ is largely at play within the media. Similarly, that this passive stance occurs in the face of this, due to the powerlessness individuals feel within the system of the state.

2015 Abstracts Stage 3

As Time Goes By: An investigation into the relationship between music’s commodification, in the age of mass reproducibility, and its declining objective worth

Adorno – MUSIC is OBJECTIVE. Music was at its best in the Classical Period, due to its complexity and its projection as an art form. If you are to disagree with his opinion, it is because you cannot understand the music properly…

Capitalism commodified music, creating an environment of ‘pseudo-subjectivity’. As music began to be attached to pop stars as a commodity, the relevance of artistic talent was eradicated.

Benjamin + Vattimo – MUSIC is NOT SUBJECTIVE or OBJECTIVE.

The age of mass reproduction removed the objectivity of music by eliminating its ‘aura’. With no object, it is impossible for something to be subjective, as there is nothing to be subjective in relation to.

INSTEAD, our age’s MUSIC is INTERPRETIVE, meaning that there is no objective or subjective point of view, only our own interpretation, which is formed due to our historical origins and upbringing.

2013 Abstracts Stage 3

Set Guitars to Kill: a Musical Examination of Post-Rock

The aim of my project was to examine Post-Rock music and to answer the question ‘is post-rock a philosophically sound musical genre?

To answer this question I looked at the Aesthetic Philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer using his work The World as Will and Idea primarily. I applied his thought to the music by a number of the bands from the Genre such as Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Mogwai, 65daysofstatic, Explosions in the Sky, And So I Watch You From Afar, Thee Silver Mt. Zion and Slint among others.

I also looked at the social and cultural philosophy of Theodor Adorno found in his works Dialectic of Enlightenment and The Culture Industry. I applied this philosophy to the general attitude of the genre, a genre that tends to be antilabel, anti- capitalist and anti-corporate. I used a number of interviews with bands and also with the founders of Record labels who sign a number of post-rock bands such as Constellation Records.

‘Cause this music can put a human being in a trance like state and deprive it for the sneaking feeling of existing. ‘Cause music is bigger than words and wider than pictures. If someone said that Mogwai are the stars I would not object. If the stars had a sound it would sound like this. – Mogwai – Yes I am a Long Way From Home (Opening Monologue)

2013 Abstracts Stage 3

The Rise of Anthropocentrism and the Disorientation of Humanity

Jean-Francois Lyotard 19241998:
An observation of the Postmodern condition, specifically: fragmentation of knowledge and society. Rise of performativity as a direct result of capitalism.

Martin Heidegger 1889 – 1976:
Brings to light the dangers inherent in modern technology and the dangers it possesses for the human condition.

One of humanity’s largest calamities over the past century has undoubtedly been the handling and care shown to its home planet. I aim to highlight the causes and effects of this shift in man’s position, to establish how and why this anthropocentrism that seems so prevalent and embedded in contemporary society came about and to propose that bio-mimicry could be the alternative to disaster – that of living in a burnt out husk of the planet Earth. I propose that there is something fundamentally wrong with the nature that this anthropocentrism has taken over the last century and that the field of bio-mimicry could aid humanity. This aid would not be the returning or encouragement toward a bio centric world view but perhaps a method to return humanity’s cognisance that we live in a competent universe, surrounded by the genius of incredible interrelated systems that we now seem to take for granted.

Peter Singer 1946 – Present:
A consideration of environmental ethics in order to judge whether our world is worth saving or if we should carry on charging down the path of exploitation and destruction.

2013 Abstracts Stage 2

Wealth Distribution: the Problem of the World Economy

Currently, across the globe, wealth distribution is an enormous issue. 40% of the world’s total wealth belongs to just 1% of the population. In America, 73.1% of the nation’s wealth belongs to just 10% of the population.

In my essay I seek to explore the conditions of political economy that guided such inequality into reality. The theory of neoliberalism, to which Margaret Thatcher subscribed, preaches the right to private property as the fundamental human right. In maintaining such a right we can work towards creating equality by offering equal opportunities to everybody to make a financial success of ourselves. Obviously, however, the theory in practice does not yield such results, resulting in the restoration of class power and vast income and wealth gaps.

My aim is to offer a criticism of neoliberalism after examining the origins of capitalism, in Adam Smith; the opposing ideals of communism, in Marx; and the wealth of data that points to the flaws of our current economic system.

Ultimately, I hope to decide for myself what the best form of political economy is in terms of minimising inequality by reading Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, Marx’s Communist Manifesto and Harvey’s A Brief History of Neoliberalism.

2013 Abstracts Stage 3

The Proliferation of Contemporary Capitalism in the Art World: Between the Global Market and the Business of Art Production

Since Sotheby’s auction house opened in 1744, the art market has grown and now sells pieces for millions of dollars every day. My project explores the societal and technological changes which have occurred throughout modernity to understand why paintings like The Scream were bought for over $119 million.

Commodity fetishism and the global art market
Using Marx’s exploration of capitalism I focused on what constitutes a commodity and how art has been fetishized. I then incorporated Vattimo’s use of telematics and globalised media to demonstrate capitalisms more recent developments; this enabled me to discuss the role paintings have played in a global billion dollar market. In contrast I also looked back to 15th century artists, to understand if art has become a commodity only with the advent of capitalism and technology.

Mechanical technology and mass production
I used Benjamin’s philosophy of mechanical reproducibility to highlight the importance of technological advancement, especially that of mass reproduction, in selling the image of a work enabling fame and exposure to a wider market.

I also looked to how these factors of the current market affected the minds and work of artists themselves using the philosophy of Andy Warhol, and the artwork of Damien Hurst, Warhol himself, and Julian Opie. All of these artists demonstrated the drive of a capitalist mind-set, have benefited from global exposure, and produce pieces using technology invented in a postmodern age such as laser printing and spinning. My goal was to ultimately demonstrate that the market has changed both the nature of the art which is produced and opened the art world up to everyone on a global scale.

Internally replicable model of the art market
Mass reproduction of famous classical/modern works (such as The Scream and No.1)
Original work becomes more valuable as its image and fame is spread over a global market (both sold for millions)

2013 Abstracts Stage 2

Jean Francois Lyotard’s The Differend and the UK Publishing Industry

A critical consideration of what conditions are necessary for the UK Publishing Industry to resist homogenization whilst operating under a capitalist system.

To what extent are these conditions already being met?

With reference to John Thompson’s ‘Merchants of Culture’