An ecocritical theory of scientific abstractions: the reification of energy from Lukács to Habermas

Neville, Douglas (2020) An ecocritical theory of scientific abstractions: the reification of energy from Lukács to Habermas. MRes thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This project proposes an ecocritical theory of scientific abstractions in order to investigate connections between scientific reason, societal organisation, and ecological decimation. The theory itself acts as a possible refinement of previous approaches, specifically the critique of the scientific outlook, as developed in Critical Theory from Lukács to Habermas. This largely theoretical endeavour is utilised in considering the concept of energy from thermodynamics and its larger cultural influences, as traced back to its origins in the scientific community of nineteenth-century Europe.
I argue that the concept of energy carries implicit obligations towards unification, intertranslation and industry, that have been utilised in the prioritisation of production over ecology, also that energy as an abstraction has been materialised (reified) into a cultural object that successfully masks the destructive impact of fuels. This argument is principally supported through an engagement with the various formulations of the reification critique from three approaches in Critical Theory; Lukács, Adorno and Horkheimer, and Habermas, all of which expose the effects of commodity exchange on rationality and, I argue, scientific abstractions.
Although largely a theoretical endeavour, the three approaches in Critical Theory are expanded into an analysis of the energy concept and its role in sustaining inaction towards the current ecological crisis. These include the public representation of oil companies and the persistence of neoclassical economic orthodoxy. Consequently, energy is investigated through its connection to theories of value, its representation in scientific and visual culture, its influence on the field of economics, and its position as a commodity.

Item Type: Thesis (MRes)
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: Energy, abstraction, thermodynamics, ecocriticism, ecology, critical theory, Lukacs, Adorno, Horkheimer, Habermas.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D204 Modern History
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
Q Science > Q Science (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Supervisor's Name: Benchimol, Dr. Alex and Maley, Prof. Willy
Date of Award: 2020
Depositing User: Douglas Neville
Unique ID: glathesis:2020-80240
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 16 Mar 2020 16:36
Last Modified: 14 Sep 2022 10:40
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.80240

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