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Marx’s Theory of Fetishism

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Part of the Marx, Engels, and Marxisms book series (MAENMA)


Marx’s theory of commodity fetishism has generally been addressed and examined from two main points of view: that of its Relation to the notion of alienation and that of its connection to the theory of value. In both cases, however, the central problem—or, if one wishes, an obstacle to be overcome—has been and continues to be that of the social process which leads to the phenomenon of commodity fetishism and, consequently, to the theoretical practice used by Marx for describing the phenomenon. In one of the sections of Marx’s Capital entitled “The Fetishism of the Commodity and Its Secret” (Chapter I, section 4) the notion of fetishism assumes an analogical function and, as is known, once again puts forward the problem of appearances, that is to say, of the gap existing between a social being and the “nebulous and fantastic” images it assumes when seen and conceived of by men. This topic recurs throughout the evolution of Marx’s thought and takes on a specific value dimension within the theory of commodity fetishism, since in this case Marx’s analysis is not carried out in general terms, as in The German Ideology. It does not involve, in other words, a general discourse about the application of historical materialism within the framework of the Relation between “real life” and “conscience,” but rather entails an analysis within a specific context such as the one embodied by the capitalist mode of production.


  • Inversion Process
  • Historical Materialism
  • Capitalist Mode
  • Cultural Universe
  • German Ideology

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© 2016 Alfonso Maurizio Iacono

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Iacono, A.M. (2016). Marx’s Theory of Fetishism. In: The History and Theory of Fetishism. Marx, Engels, and Marxisms. Palgrave Macmillan, New York.

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