Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Karl Marx-The Fetishism of Commodities...

Karl Marx was speaking to society as a whole, in particular the oppressed when he wrote ‘The Fetishism of Commodities and the Secret Thereof.’ He was attempting to wake humanity up from the ridiculousness of loving the things “man” built, worshiping them like deities. Karl Marx was attempting to open the eyes of the people, so they could see how the industrial revolution of the world was destroying humanity at its core. The world is being consumed by commodities and people love the product over the person who produced it.

 Marx argued that the moment humanity placed a value on commodities (products) begin our society of consumerism. Man is no longer worth the person he is, but what he can produce. Society has lost all relations, "intercourse" with one another, only having contact with humanity through materials. "The product must be not only useful, but useful for others.” Marx was saying that the product produced by the producer requires a social need, yet one becomes a social outcast because he is of no use to the community. No matter how many hours are spent producing the product, its value is only determined by social need, and not commodity quality. "The determination of the magnitude of value by labour time is therefore a secret." Karl Marx insists that one does not need you to know that they make a product twice as fast, and want twice as much of your product for their merchandise. Value becomes the product, not the person, and society is being ruled by products instead of man having absolute power of commodities. In the course of commodities humanity has lost sight of what true value is, the Nature behind the object. Society only sees the need in the product, but does not value the materials used to produce, or the mode in which the maker gathered material; most importantly the maker themselves. Material is only as valuable as man/woman makes them; gold has no more use than iron if one so deems. Marx argued that there is no formula to determine how valuable an object is, only ones need, and if production is not socially needed, then the person becomes invaluable to society. Consumerist does not value the man behind the mask and would let machine run society in order to have zero contact with humanity. Karl Marx believes that commodity fetishism is consuming the public; people are obsessed with the latest production, yet hold no value to the hours slaved in production.

16 comments:

Shayda Azamian said...

This is a very thorough overview of the Marxist ideology of commodities. I am curious as to what instances you see this concept at work in modern-day society.

Yiming Huang said...

Well done on summarizing the Marxist ideology of commodities. I wonder how you personally think of the idea that "Value becomes the product, not the person, and society is being ruled by products instead of man having absolute power of commodities."

Kerri Chen said...

This is a very interesting and slightly depressing angle... what I wonder after reading your well-elaborated piece is: how can we diverge from this effect of commodities? Or is it even possible to resist the way consumers "let machine run society"?

Cheyenne Overall said...

I think that you do a great job at pulling out the main points from this pieces. However, I did find your writing style to be a little difficult to follow even though this is supposed to be an informal pieces. Transitional phrases I think would really help your work flow more. It also unclear at times whether you are paraphrasing Marx or providing an interpretation of Marx that is consistent with or distinctly different from Marx work. It would help to have phrases like "Marx argues" or "I would argue that" for clarity purposes.

Concerning substance, I took Marx to be saying that commodity value doesn't just come from need but also from the relation of the commodity values to other commodity values. I could have misread him but, I think that it could be worth exploring.

Joshua Park said...

Excellent summary of Marx's work. I think you hit the main points of his arguments in a concise manner, but maybe a little too concise? I felt it was a bit abrupt reading from one sentence to another.

Actually, Cheyenne, I agree with you in that I also interpreted the passage to assert that commodity value is also based upon the exchange of the commodities in other words as you pointed out "the relation of the commodity values to other commodity values."

I, personally, question the definition of "need" in his arguments. Like you said, "there is no formula to determine how valuable an object is, only ones need, and if production is not socially needed, then the person becomes invaluable to society." Well, what constitutes what is socially needed? Food is obviously needed so farmers and ground laborers are obviously valuable. But what about other objects that are not necessarily "needed" by society, and yet people buy them just for the sake of it? Are those producers then as "invaluable" to society as it is. Modern artistic works, for example, are not "needed" in society and yet people buy them for the unique conglomeration of individual objects that make up the art work and how the artist rendered his thoughts and image into a canvas. I might be way off but I personally was a bit doubtful while reading the passage especially on the "need" part.

- D.Z. - said...

The Fetishm of Commodities was a pretty interesting read, bringing up concepts of labour and value i hadn't yet considered too deeply, as well as evaluating characteristics of commodities and how they have altered the relationship between objects and man. Thanks for choosing this piece to elaborate further upon.

Neil Griffey said...

I seem to be more or less in agreement with our peers offering previous comments here. You've made a very nice concise synopsis of The Fetishism of Commodities. However, a lot the value I've gathered from your precis came largely through questions I found myself asking after reading a number of claims that aren't obviously explained or supported. So by trying to reach the same conclusions you did, I did a closer reading of the text to better understand the context of your conclusions.

Essentially, I feel you're making the reader do the work. I realize that a precis is sort of a limited format as far as the amount of explaining you can make per point. So if I were to offer you any advice for the future on a peer to peer level, it'd be to pick only a couple conclusions you feel integral to the significance of the piece and do a closer reading and analysis of those so your conclusions will be better supported.

Eric Gentry said...

My apologies to everyone, I am having a difficult time navigated this blog, and keeping tabs on who is commenting. I will comment one at a time.
Shayda Azamian I see this concept in today's society everyday. Your value is in the product, thus becoming the product. Why is not the value of one hour of one persons life equal to another? McDonald's employees life is only worth minimum wage, while the CEO's life is worth millions? Also, more and more companies are going digital, from toll booths, to registers to cut back on human contact. Keeping us all individualized and outcast, divide and conquer. Homeless people, no longer producing in society, so they linger in the fringes not wanted and not helped. There are millions of examples of this ideology working in our everyday society.

Eric Gentry said...

Yiming Huang- my personal belief is that statement is entirely true. We are being rules by consumerism. From sports teams, to name brands: Apple, Play Station, Jordan, Nike, etc. Michael Jordan has gone from a great basket player (that many probably know not of his legacy) to a shoe brand. John Madden from Oakland Raiders coach to a video game. People are becoming the product, society values that product over the person. People will kill another human being for the product, over the product; no one protects the person from the product.

Eric Gentry said...

Kerri Chen- is it possible to resist? Where do you see society in 50-100 years? Most companies value the customer over the worker, value profit over all. In the name of profit, all human value vanishes. Like Min Wage outcry, like it is going to put a hurt on business. No, any business will see a small decrease from the hundreds of thousands to millions of dollar profits. Society must break from consumerism to save itself; I actually do believe that one day all of this will come crashing down on itself.

Eric Gentry said...

Cheyenne Overall- Writing this was more of a rant than a precis, I do plan on making it flow :-) On commodity based on other commodity value, wasn't it in this essay he relates a ton of iron to an ounce of gold and both having equal value. Hasn't it always been based on the phantom need of society for product? What makes gold worth more than silver or copper? Commodity value has always been based on greed, how much more for your product can one get. Commodity Value is just a made up concept to maximize profits of an individual.

Eric Gentry said...

Joshua Park-I am also doubtful on societies needs as a base concept. Companies, producers of commodities create a societal need to drive up marketability of a product, thus maximizing profit. We do need food, yet is a farmer paid what a Wall Street exec is? I highly doubt it. Commodities, and peoples fetishes of, rule society; someone would buy a hot commodity before feeding their children. For 95% of products being sold, the product came before the need; in order to make money, commodities had to market themselves to become demand. Celebrities market products no one has ever heard of to create demand, then society demands supply. Commodities drive consumerism, which is all just a big scam. No corporation values us, only our money.

Eric Gentry said...

Neil Griffey-Thanks for the advise, as previously mentioned I am in process of cleaning it up. I wrote it as a means of ranting and to get something up (it was the second piece posted). I was more stating how this relates (generally) to today's society.

Eric Gentry said...

Thank you all for the wonderful feed back, and questions, I really do appreciate it. I in no way intend this to be counted as one of my comments (Dale) but am just thanking my peers for their time. I look forward to hearing back from you all, and hopefully keeping this analysis going.

Kerri Chen said...

@Eric Gentry: That is a valid point. However, I think that the basis of the business industry what businessmen sees as valuable. In the endless pursuit of monetary profit, can't there come a time when the people who work the machine come to consider the spirit and labor of man as more valuable than pieces of paper that allow us to buy more material possessions? It seems like an obscure and hard-to-reach situation, but there are always possibilities that we do not currently fathom.

King said...

Overall, good job on your Précis, very thorough and interesting. A bit depressing but it’s hard not be depressing when talking about Marx’s perspective. I found the overall Précis to be a bit confusing and I think it could be better with a few stylistic improvements. But overall great job, especially considering that you were the first one to post one. :)