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The False Coin of Our Own Dreams, or the Problem of the Fetish, IIIb

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Abstract

In this final chapter I want to move from an emphasis on value and exchange to the other side of the equation proposed in chapter 4 and to talk a little bit about the phenomenon of social power. Odd though it may seem, I think the easiest way to do this will be to look at the notion of fetishism—one that has cropped up periodically over the course of the book but that I have not so far fully developed.

Keywords

  • Social Contract
  • Social Power
  • Marxist Theory
  • Ritual Performance
  • Silver Coin

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One man is a king only because other men stand in the relation of subjects to him. They, on the contrary, imagine that they are subjects because he is the king.

—Karl Marx, Capital, 63

Of the many wonderful tales Moor told me, the most wonderful, the most delightful one, was “Hans Röckle.” It went on for months; it was a whole series of stories … Hans Röckle himself was a Hoffman-like magician, who kept a toyshop, and who was always “hard up.” His shop was full of the most wonderful things—of wooden men and women, giants and dwarfs, kings and queens, workmen and masters, animals and birds as numerous as Noah got into the Ark, tables and chairs, carriages, boxes of all sorts and sizes. And though he was a magician, Hans could never meet his obligations either to the devil or to the butcher, and was therefore—much against the grain—constantly obliged to sell his toys to the devil. These then went through wonderful adventures—always ending in a return to Hans Röckle’s shop.

—Eleanor Marx, on her father Karl’s bedtime stories (in Stallybrass 1998:198)

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  • DOI: 10.1057/9780312299064_7
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Notes

  1. See William Pietz’ famous essays on the “problem of the fetish” (1985, 1987, 1988; MacGaffey 1994).

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© 2001 David Graeber

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Graeber, D. (2001). The False Coin of Our Own Dreams, or the Problem of the Fetish, IIIb. In: Toward An Anthropological Theory of Value. Palgrave Macmillan, New York. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780312299064_7

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