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August de Meijer, R.J.H.J.
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Building on Naomi Klein's observation on how free-market enthusiasts have used multiple forms of shock in order to manipulate the masses and execute their economic ideals, I examine how the free-market also uses shocks in the culture industry to manipulate the masses in a comparable fashion. According to Georg Lukacs, who builds upon theories of Karl Marx, we are all in the grip of commodity fetishism: we have replaced use-values with exchange-values, not only in the economy, but in the whole of society. According to Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, capitalism uses the mass-media in order to uphold the inauthentic value of commodities. This thesis looks at how the use of shock is instrumental to numb and exhilarate people into a lifestyle that yearns for them. I continue with Walter Benjamin, who writes additional concepts on the use of shock by the culture industry, albeit proclaiming that they are for the better. Although I do not agree with Benjamin that more shocks are the answer to the mass manipulation, his theories on how we are kept in a modus of intellect in order to parry away shocks, is of interest to me. I argue that capitalism's barrage of shocks keeps the people on the defensive, focusing their cognitive attention on these attacks, and therefore not able to come up with alternatives. We are either being steered by shocks, or battling against them. But either way, we are being manipulated. To exemplify my theories, I use four fictional works; American Psycho (Bret Easton Ellis), Fight Club (Chuck Palahniuk), It Could Have Been Me and It Was (Toby Litt) and De avonturen van redrat # 11 (Johannes van de Weert). Although these stories are extreme in nature, they nevertheless reveal how difficult it is to struggle against our culture of commodities and the shocks that support them.