Commodity fetishism as discussed by Marx has been one of the topics which I have found most interesting. These two words alone, not in conjuction with one another can mean two different things which may not appear relate-able at all. We may see commodities as objects which appeal to us because of the properties they hold. The material properties make commodities useful and capitalism involves the production of commodities for exchange in the market.
The use value of a commodity pertains to consumption. It is determined by the physical properties in relation to our human needs. Marx describes capitalism as a system of commodity production. Goods are produced based on our needs/desires and we consume them accordingly. Commodities are products of labor which are bought and sold on the market. They are characterized by a use and exchange value. Commodities may take on the form of a variety of things not just something tangible as an object. Human labor is a commodity as well. Our labor is sold to companies. Behind commodities is the exchange of human labor; individuals at work which make up the process behind making the product is a commodity itself. Commodity fetishism refers to the distorted relationship exsisting between individuals and the production and consumption of goods. When buying commodities we forget about the human labor it took to make them. The progress in productive abilities leads to greater fetishism. Objects have social power. The power of commodities comes from our own creative labor.
Commodities hold properties which satisfy our human wants just as a fetish. Webster’s dictionary defines a fetish as a strong or unusual need or desire for something. It does not only pertain to a body part or an activity for sexual excitement as I believed it to be. Marx describes a fetish as an object believed to have supernatural powers, or in particular, a man-made object that has power over others. Our society is characterized by innovative technology. It does in a great sense have power over us. We look for ways to obtain the latest high-tech advancements and attentively wait for their release. In commercials and billboards we see intriguing advertisements that push us to desire these objects before they are released onto the market for us to consume. Technology hype is a craze throughout society and it becomes addictive for example iphones, ipads, laptops, electronic devices, etc. These objects appear “magical’ to us because of their features. Innatimate objects come to life with their value and things take on the characteristics of people (reification).
I for one am not high tech and do not care too much for these things but I see how our society is crazed for the latest technological products which are believed to facilitate our daily lives and are available right at our fingertips. We treat the goods we buy as if they have “magical powers”, losing sight of the fact that we create commodities and we part take in commodity fetishism a characteristic of capitalism. Its interesting because I never thought of it this way before until I saw it presented by Marx in class. The article given to us “From the iphone 5S to corporate globalization, modern life is full of evidence of Marx’s Forsight” explains how we enjoy incredible luxury and yet are driven by a constant need for more and more stuff to buy such as the iphone 5S which many of you may own. Is it really better than the iphone 5 or 4S????? As presented by the article “is it a real need or an invented one”? Marx was absolutely wright. Marx argued that capitalism’s tendency to focus high value on arbitrary products would lead to what he called “a contriving and ever-calculating subservience to inhuman, sophisticated, unnatural and imaginary appetites”. Marx’s idea of over-production led him to predict globalization. The U.S. has a need of constantly expanding market for its products across the globe. We establish connections and settle everywhere. The iphone for example on the back says “Designed by apple in California, assembled in China”.
The video below is the one that was presented in class which describes the law of value and fetishism of commodity. It really explains how our society is invaded with commodity fetishism. It represents how commodities have value, money has social power and how we are powerless. Relations between people are indirect and only coordinated with commodities. The video demonstrates how society facilitates commodity fetishism. It also demonstrates the unequal relation between capital and labor in the work place. It presents food as a commodity which I never thought it to be until now.