The ghost of the machine: The relevance of material systems for psychology

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Contemporary psychology theorizes and researches social oppression in terms of culturally and linguistically mediated phenomena (e.g., stereotypes, identities, norms, attitudes). Although social constructionist and embodied cognition perspectives correct certain deficits of mainstream approaches, they still consider embodiment only in terms of linguistic or cognitive mediation. As a result, the role played by human embodiment in material systems is largely overlooked in psychological analyses of capitalist oppression. Roberto Esposito and Maurizio Lazzarato propose that similarities (rather than differences) between humans and non-human entities, especially machines, should be the starting place for a critique of capitalism. Esposito traces the longstanding history of cultural divisions between persons and things, which contributes to our current blindness to embodiment. Lazzarato details how signs and diagrams—once thought to belong to the abstract province of symbols—now play a direct, vital role in material reality under capitalism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)269-276
Number of pages8
JournalTheory and Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2018


  • capitalism
  • embodiment
  • human nature
  • language
  • machines

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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