Small Streams

What is a Fetish?
December 17, 2006, 12:19 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I get all sunny and gooey when I think of the word reification, which I think as thingification, how abstract ideas translate to things. Turning bits into atoms. Making dreams into realities. What then is a fetish? Is it some dark cousin of reification? Wikipedia has three entries. I thought about two connotations, a man-made thing that had some kind of power, say those two-foot high, African wooden sculptures; and the powerful emotional, sexual hold an inanimate object or body part may have on a person. Wikipedia’s first two entries are similar to my preconceived ideas, only more thorough and not quite so fantastic as my own thoughts. The third entry is on commodity fetishism, a Marxist concept.

The social nature of society is destroyed by the abstraction of commodities, in the sense that “use-value” (the usefulness of an object or action) is totally separated from “exchange-value” (the marketplace value of an object or action). An example is that a pearl or a lump of gold is worth more than a horseshoe or a corkscrew. This abstraction is referred to as “fetishism”.

Maybe commodity fetishism presents a problem not because of its relating abstract values to things, but because the relationship isn’t robust enough. Not enough transactions between sellers of pearls and corkscrews have been made. We won’t find a true value. There is no true value, only oscillations and approximations. We have “barter,” “money,” and “credit.” Perhaps computer simulations will bring us another layer of fetishizing, and more chance to clear the market or just further perturbations in the difference between use-value and exchange-value.

1 Comment so far
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Interesting post guys..

Comment by Dommes

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