Skip to main content

Westworld and Marxism: When Violent Delights Meet Revolutionary Ends

  • Chapter
  • First Online:
Unlocking Social Theory with Popular Culture

Part of the book series: Critical Studies of Education ((CSOE,volume 15))

Abstract

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

Chapter
USD 29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
eBook
USD 99.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Softcover Book
USD 129.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Compact, lightweight edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info
Hardcover Book
USD 129.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Durable hardcover edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions

Similar content being viewed by others

References

  • Arvan, M. (2018). Humans and hosts in Westworld: What’s the difference. In J. B. South & K. S. Engels (Eds.), Westworld and philosophy: If you go looking for the truth, get the whole thing (pp. 26–37). John Wiley.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Asimov, I. (1957). Escape into reality. The Humanist, 17(6), 326–332.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fallis, D. (2018). On playing cowboys and Indian. In J. B. South & K. S. Engels (Eds.), Westworld and philosophy: If you go looking for the truth, get the whole thing (pp. 5–14). John Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hirvonen, O. (2018). Westworld: From androids to persons. In J. B. South & K. S. Engels (Eds.), Westworld and philosophy: If you go looking for the truth, get the whole thing (pp. 61–70). John Wiley.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Jaynes, J. (1976). The origins of consciousness in the breakdown of the bicameral mind. Houghton Mifflin.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kessous, S. (2019). A mere instrument of production: Representing domestic labour in Westworld. In A. Goody & A. Mackay (Eds.), Reading Westworld (pp. 199–220). Palgrave Macmillan.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Lyons, S. (2018). Crossing the uncanny valley: What it means to be human in Westworld. In J. B. South & K. S. Engels (Eds.), Westworld and philosophy: If you go looking for the truth, get the whole thing (pp. 41–49). John Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  • Marx, K. (2007). Capital: A critique of political economy - The process of capitalist production, Capital: A critique of political economy. Cosimo Classics.

    Google Scholar 

  • Marx, K. (2008). The poverty of philosophy. Cosimo Classics.

    Google Scholar 

  • Marx, K., & Engels, F. (2005). The communist manifesto: A road map to history’s most important political document. Haymarket Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Solnit, R. (2018). A broken idea of sex is flourishing. Blame capitalism; In this world, women are marketed as toys and trophies. Are we surprised when some men take things literally? The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/may/12/sex-capitalism-incel-movement-misogyny-feminism

  • Vincent, L. (2017). “These violent delights have violent ends”: Decrypting Westworld as dual coding and corruption of Nick Land’s accelerationism. Colloquy, 34, 3–23.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Matthew Krehl Edward Thomas .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2021 The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG

About this chapter

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this chapter

Thomas, M.K.E., McCandless, T. (2021). Westworld and Marxism: When Violent Delights Meet Revolutionary Ends. In: Barnes, N., Bedford, A. (eds) Unlocking Social Theory with Popular Culture. Critical Studies of Education, vol 15. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-77011-2_2

Download citation

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-77011-2_2

  • Published:

  • Publisher Name: Springer, Cham

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-030-77010-5

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-030-77011-2

  • eBook Packages: Social SciencesSocial Sciences (R0)

Publish with us

Policies and ethics