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Westworld and Marxism: When Violent Delights Meet Revolutionary Ends
chapterposted on 2021-01-01, 00:00 authored by Matthew ThomasMatthew Thomas, Trevor McCandless
This chapter explores four key tropes of Marxism that are often misinterpreted, to arrive at an understanding of Westworld as an example of commodity fetishism. We demonstrate that while Westworld serves as an apt metaphor for understanding Marxism, it nevertheless confuses the form of social revolution Marx identified with the fantasy of a robot rebellion. The pop cultural Westworld is shown to be a site of struggle and is explored to help understand alienated labour, false consciousness and how the fetishisation of commodities is realised. The breathtaking cruelty the host robots are subjected to seem to make them obvious candidates for revolution. However, while Marx might have seen Westworld as a metaphor for being schooled in forms of capitalist exploitation he was repulsed by– he believed that for social revolution to be viable it would need to create an economic system more productive than capitalism. While the hosts are clearly exploited, they do not inhabit a real society. Rather they are commodities within a larger society—something produced to be purchased. As such, they are incapable of providing an economically viable future society, regardless of the extremity of their exploitation. The fact these robots are all-too-human in appearance increases our fetish towards them, misdirecting our attention away from what Marx would see as the real revolutionary force capable of ending exploitation. This chapter looks deeper at what Marx saw as the driving forces compelling social revolution and why the revolts of the host robots would remain for him something of a side-show.