Commodities and their fetishism


Many pr oblems present themselves in at tempting t o discuss Marx's noti on of the fetish characteristics of commodities. It has been argued that it is one of the central points of Marx's en tir e c or pus. 1 It has also been argued that it i s merely "a brilli an t s oci olog i cal genera lization l ! and, even furth er, that it is an Hi ndependent and separate entity, internally hardly related t o Marx's economic theory" .2 How could such a theory be understo od i n such drastically diff erent ways? Perhaps the clue is to be f ound somewhere in Marx' s discussion of the fetishism of commodities itself. Because of the difficulty in un derstanding fetishism , I intend t o examine what Marx himself has t o say first befor e dealing with any points related to the notion of fetishism. Thus , the first parts of this thesis will c onsist of l ong qu otations and repetition of what Marx has t o say. If a noti on may be called ' central' and yet 'hardly related' t o Marx's wor k at the same time, surely a clear examination of this section is necess ary. Aft er an examination of the initial secti ons of Cae ital ] I intend t G examine the f ollowing : the r e lation of fetishism t o the t he ory of alienati on; how one may regard f etishism as a pr oblem f or philosophy; and how, in f act, the theory of fetishism is of prime imp ortance f or an understan ding of Marx's wr itings. What I want to stress throughout is that with o u~ an understanding of what is inherent in the pr oduction of the commodity causing i t t o be necessarily fetishistic, it is practically imp ossible t o understand much of Marx's other writin gs. A commodity appears, at fir st sight, a very trivial thing and easi ly un derst ood. Itsanalysis shows that it i s , in r eality , a very queer thing , abo unding in ~taphysical s ubtleties and theological nic eties



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