CMN 2173: Reading #2 Jan 26 2014 01/27/2014
The fetishism of commodities: Marxism, anthropology, psychoanalysis
Information and commodities
One concept in the discussion of advertising –that of information.
Use of products
In such a contest, part of the meaning, part of the vital information that people needed about the products
was : who produced it, where it came from and what its role is in social relations
For example, in an age of increasing machine and factory production, the hand crafted product is highly
valued both symbolically and materially.
We search for authenticity, it seems in a flood of artificiality
There is a rupture in capitalism between the way things appear and their real or actual meanings.
The fetishism of commodities
Marx and the fetishism of commodities:
The fetishism of commodities, refers precisely to the relationship between people and products and to the
relation between usevalue and exchange value.
It is important to stress here that appearance does not mean illusion. Appearance does not mean illusion.
Appearance is a dimension of reality, the form in which essence shows itself.
Similarly with capital. If we think that capitalism is productive in and of itself, regardless of its relationship to
other elements in the process of production (such as labour) then we would make a fetish of the capital. For Marx commodity fetishism consists of things seeming to have value inherent in them when in fact value
is produced by humans: it is to naturalise a social process.
Thus things appear to have value inherent in them. The essence however is that humans produce value.
Structure of the capitallabour relationship
The market acts as the distributing force of the total labour of society and its only socially unifying element.
The equalizing factor in the exchange of different use values is abstract human labour
Mask this feature of exchange value
In capitalism however, only commodities are immediately social, production relations are only in their actual
circulation and exchange as in capitalism. The market is necessary to link people’s labout behind their
Remember that, according to Marx, in feudalism products are social directly in production, whereas in
capitalism they become social after production. They become social only in relation to other commodities
Broad explanatory feature of the theory of fetishism is based upon the analysis of the wage relationship.
The problem is if everything exchanges for its equivalent, how can generalized commodity production,
based on wage labour produce a surplus of a profit?
Wage relation, the equivalence is only an illusion based on the first stage of commodity fetishism the
naturalization of value in the commodity. Vital distinction labour and labour power.
Fetishism then manifests itself in both reality and illusion and is a major factor in how capitalism as a
system of economic relations produces its own shroud of mystification around social praxis. What I have presented in this section has been what Marx believed about the capitalism of his day.
Marx attacked: the naturalization of use and the fetishism of exchange:
But notice that to achieve this transparency of signification by comparison with commodity fetishism, Marx
was forced to trade away the social determination of the usevalues of the biological fact that they satisfy
the human wants
Thus there is no meaning inherent in the physical constitution of any object.
Baudrillard argues however that because Marx linked fetishism only to exchange value and consequently
within the dynamics of a sign system, use value lies outside of this determination by the code.
Use value is an abstraction it is an abstraction of the system of needs cloaked in the false evidence of