Marx (1867) “On the Fetishism of the Commodity”

Link to Video  |  Summary  | Karl Marx’s Fetishisms  |   On Cultural Marxism

Marx proposes a theory of value – How do goods get their value/how do objects become commodities? It is NOT based on how useful they are (ex. A diamond has no real use, a pencil is very useful).  Today, it is NOT based on the value of its material components and the labour hours that went into making it.

Commodity value comes from the “congealed” labour of workers.  Not individual workers (as in the olden days when you know who made your goods for you) but all of the labour that went into producing it.  We are completely removed from the labourers and the only relationships we have with them is through the commodity.

Since we don’t value the workers or their labour, we attribute mystical status to the commodities instead

Definition commodity fetishism – Goods emptied of meaning of their production, then filled with new meanings that mystify the object and turn it into a fetish.




Fetishism – originally a religious term attributing mystical powers to an object


  • Used to be a result of the relationships between producers
  • Now value is the relationship between products on the shelves (this acts back upon production)
  • This is the process of reification (things appear to take on the characteristics of people)

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