1st Edition

Illusion and Fetishism in Critical Theory A study of Nietzsche, Benjamin, Castoriadis and the Situationists

By Vasilis Grollios Copyright 2024

    Through the negative dialectics of Theodore Adorno, Illusion and Fetishism in Critical Theory offers an examination of Nietzsche, Benjamin, Castoriadis and the Situationists, who put the concept of illusion at the forefront of their philosophical thought.

    Vasilis Grollios argues that these political philosophers, except Castoriadis, have up to now been wrongly considered by many scholars to be far from the line of thinking of negative dialectics, Critical Theory and the early Frankfurt School/Open Marxist tradition. He illustrates how these thinkers focused on the illusions of capitalism and attempted to show how capitalism, by its innate rationale, creates social forms that are presented as unavoidable and universal, yet are historically specific and of dubious sustainability.

    Providing a unique overview of concepts including illusion, totality, fetishization, contradiction, identity thinking and dialectics, Grollios expertly reveals how their understanding of critique can help us open cracks in capitalism and radicalize democratic social practice today. Illusion and Fetishism in Critical Theory is a must read for scholars of political theory and political philosophy, critical theory, the Frankfurt School, sociology and democratic theory.



    1. Alienation, Illusion, Fetishism and Non-Identity Thinking in Nietzsche’s Critical Theory
    2. Negativity and Illusion in Walter Benjamin’s Dialectics
    3. Cornelius Castoriadis’s Social Imaginary, Socialism and Autonomy Reconsidered. A Critical Theory Reading
    4. Debunking the Illusions of the Spectacle Through Negative Dialectics: How the Open Marxism of the Situationists Cracks Capitalism


    Vasilis Grollios holds a Ph.D. in political philosophy from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, where he has taken all his degrees (B.A., M.A. in the history of philosophy and Ph.D.). He was a holder of a postdoctoral fellowship with the Greek Institute of Research and Technology. He has taught at various Greek universities and conducted postdoctoral research at the University of York, UK. Grollios is the author of Negativity and Democracy. Marxism and the Critical Theory Tradition (Routledge 2017) and has been published in academic journals such as Constellations, Critical Sociology and Philosophy and Social Criticism.

    "In this exciting and important book, Vasilis Grollios looks at the complex relationship between the fetishism of the social forms and material essence through the lens of a negative dialectic. Working off his previous book on this subject, Grollios explores Nietzsche, Benjamin, Castoriadis and the Situationists in order to reveal how each of these thinkers engages in fundamentally Marxist understandings of this relationship without replicating the dangers that come from what might be called a positive dialectical outlook. This work is not hagiographic. These thinkers come in for their share of criticism but overall, Grollios shows how these authors demonstrate the power of materiality to resist phantasms of capitalism and how class struggle and alienation remain at the center of contemporary politics."

    James Martel, Professor, Department of Political Science, San Francisco State University

    Vasilis Grollios’ new book is a distinctive and important contribution to contemporary Critical Theory. In a series of innovative readings of Benjamin, Castoriadis, the Situationists and above all Nietzsche, he shows how they contribute to the tradition of Open Marxism based in the work of the early Frankfurt School. This book will be of interest to political philosophers, activists and all those interested in the pursuit of new pathways beyond the social and political forms of capitalist society.

    Paul Patton, Wuhan University