Commodity Fetishism

Thanks to Tom Matrullo I am now aware of the term commodity fetishism:

In Marxist theory, commodity fetishism is a state of social relations, said to arise in complex capitalist market systems, in which social relationships are defined by the values that are placed on commodities. The term is introduced in the opening chapter of Karl Marx’s main work of political economy, Capital, of 1867. It replaced the Young Marx’s theory of alienation.

Georg Lukács based History and Class Consciousness on Marx’s notion, developing his own notion of commodity reification as the key obstacle to class consciousness. Lukács’s work was a significant influence on later philosophers such as Guy Debord and Jean Baudrillard. Debord developed a notion of the spectacle that ran directly parallel to Marx’s notion of the commodity; for Debord, the spectacle made relations among people seem like relations among images (and vice versa). In the work of the semiotician Baudrillard, commodity fetishism is deployed to explain subjective feelings towards consumer goods in the “realm of circulation”, that is, among consumers. Baudrillard is especially interested in the cultural mystique added to objects by advertising, which encourages consumers to purchase them as aids to the construction of their personal identity.

It doesn’t get much better than that on a Wednesday afternoon.