Reading Reflection: The Fetishism of Commodities

In “The Fetishism of Commodities and the Secret Thereof,” from the Capital, Karl Marx explains about how humans are excluded from the capitalistic society driven by the product exchange. In section 1, the author defines the use value and the exchange value to describe the relationship between the labor and the products. Then, in section 4, he argues how the values among the products replace the human labors and relations in the society based on the exchange value. Also, through the process, the fetishism towards the commodities makes them considered unique and special. Even though it has been over 150 years since this text was written, it still provides a meaningful perspective to analyze the current society.

The statement that claims how the fetishism towards the commodities switches the center of social value from the men’s labor to the products of the labor is very interesting. According to this idea, one could imagine the scene where the objects created to help people actually take the control, similar to some dystopian movies with robots. Commodities are created by the producers mainly to be exchanged, not used. With that said, their values are only meaningful in relation to the other product in exchange, not to the person who made them. As a result, the social action of the producers is replaced by the action of the objects. Marx’s claim on how the producers are dominated by the commodities is quite reasonable; unfortunately, each individual does not possess much influence in the current society.

Before reading the text, I have not given a thought on the meaning and the structural issues regarding the word “commodities.” As a result, it is difficult to fully agree with the idea of the fetishism towards the commodities being the main reason behind their dominating power. However, Marx’s claim on the mysterious influence of the commodities and the exclusion of the humans allows a discerning view on the society we live in. As a designer, who is potentially responsible for almost all production of the commodities, it provides a challenge on how to restore the role of humans through the works of arts.

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