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Commodity Fetishism In Karl Marxs Critique Of Capitalism Essay

Commodity Fetishism is basically socialization that’s blurred by thing-hood. For Karl Marx, commodity fetishism is the discernment of social relationships that go along with production, thus creating an economic type relationship. It’s the connection between money and commodities that are being traded in the capitalist market. In Marx’s Critique of Capitalism, Volume One, he states “It is clear as noon-day, that man, by his industry, changes the forms of the materials furnished by Nature, in such a way as to make them useful to him (p. 320).

Marx then goes to talk about the form of wood. It is the natural material given to us that we then alter, and make into a table. Then, the table takes steps to being a commodity, “it is changed into something transcendent” (320). Commodities are created not based off of their use value, but by the human ability to have useful kinds of labour, and productive activity, which then produces qualitative and quantitative labour. Then we have to look at labour-time. People aren’t going to put in the work if there is no interest in producing the object.

The quantitative value of the product of labour, is measured by the outflow of human labour ability, by the duration of that outflow. It’s like a persons ability multiplied by the times it takes to make something is the quantative value of the product of labour. “And lastly, from the moment that men in any way work for one another, their labour assumes a social form (320). Mutual relationships between producers, takes the form of a social relation between the products. Again we look at Marx, wooden table analogy.

It was wood that a person’s labour, turned into a table. It is then taken to be part of the worlds market. While in the market, there are other things that are also of use value, like a chair or side table. All are made of the same wood, and are equally wanted by customers, yet they all are marked differently in price. This is where we see likenesses of the central values of the products. Marx establishes values are based off results from the socially necessary labour-time represented in commodities.

If one is easier to make, like the stool versus the side table, it requires less material, and time to assemble that commodity, therefore causing a difference in price. Marx states that “A commodity, therefore, is a mysterious thing simply because in it the social character of men’s labour appears to them as an objective character stamped upon the product of that labour; because the relation of the producers to the sum total of their own labour is presented to them as a social relation, existing not between themselves, but between the products of their labour.

This is the reason why the products of labour become commodities… ” (320). The objects created signify the social relations and necessary labour of human beings. One object may be more valuable than the other, but the reason is unseen and unknown to the acuity of people. People all over the Earth are making things to be bought, traded, etc. , but their use value isn’t determined until it is being sold, and becomes part of the market. Marx makes this clear on pages 324-327, when he refers to Robinson Crusoe’s life, the European Middle Ages and a free people community.

Robinson had to do everything for himself, get food, find shelter and find safety, which were most important for him to live. He spent the most of his labour time on obtaining these things, thus they are the most valuable to him. Instead of independent people we have completely dependent people. Here peasants grown agriculture and produce textiles for home use, but they too have to share it in the community, where their extra is put into the market. In the free people community everything Robinson was doing is now being done in conjunction with others in the community, instead of individually.

A social product is being created. Free individuals are “carrying on their work with the means of production in common, which the labour power of all the different individuals is consciously applied as the combined labour-power of the community” (326). Similarly in the Middle ages peasants knew the labour-time involved in making things. If something took twice as long like making a quilt, versus a pound of butter, people wouldn’t trade their quilt for anything less than double the amount of butter.

It seems now people make it hard to differentiate the value of things, because now that labour is “standardized” the company will choose the worth at a lower price for the labour-power and time. Commodity Fetishism represents a form of alienation for Marx because people believe that these commodities have value, that oversees the activity of humans. For as long as we actively want and need things we will constantly be stuck alienated. In a capitalist society a worker is exploited for his labour-power and time. He doesn’t get to create and sell his product to another, but instead he works and creates this product in order to live.

He must acquire his means for life, such as food, water and shelter, by selling his labour to a capitalist, so that he then can make a wage. The individual’s labour then becomes a commodity, because it is something that can be bought and sold. Labour power becomes the private property of a capitalist society. Where there is private property there will be alienated labour. People’s independent commodities become the commodity fetish of everyone because its useful; it’s being traded, bought, sold, etc. , on the market.

“First, the fact that labour is external to the worker i. e. it does not belong to his essential being; that in his work, therefore, he does not affirm himself but denies himself, does not feel content but unhappy, does not develop freely his physical and mental energy but mortifies his body and ruins his mind” (Tucker 74). The labour is external because he sells his threat. Instead of working together, we alienate ourselves to where we have to do better or more than the other guy, so long as that means we continue to be able to survive. In Hegel’s Lordship and Bondage, the lord looks at the bondsman as an object, as if he is not as valuable as the Lord.

As humans we have the capability of deciding to use the fact that we can make choices and fix things to where there is equality and survival, or we can reduce ourselves to animals and just focus on survival thou competition. To me commodity fetishism is something don’t see drastically slowing down anytime soon, but I do recognize a shift in the mindset in people. After everything, people are being forced to alter their perspectives and perceptions of the way things work and don’t work. We are becoming knowledgeable and more advanced.

We have to look into history to understand, they have to peel back those layers of wants and needs, discerning what is actually important for the greater good, rather than them as individuals. At the end of the day we are all human beings with the ability to make things progress, to think, remember, understand, and discuss. We are so stuck on this animalistic side of survival of the fittest that we haven’t quite gotten to understand that we are so much small than we know, why cut off a select few when you can find ways to making it work for all?

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