Livin the American Dream

Karl Marx’s 1867 writing, “The Fetishism of the Commodity and it’s Secret”, is definitely….dense. I think it will take a couple of readings to really understand it, but here are some of my impressions after reading it for the first time.  To my understanding, Marx is examining how the value of a commodity is dependent on social relations within society. “It is only by being exchanged that the products of labor acquire a socially objectivity as values, which is distinct from their sensuously varied objectivity as articles of utility”, says Marx. I think Marx is trying to say that the social implications of owning a commodity add more to it’s value than the worth of the raw materials used to make it, or the usefulness or practicality of the commodity.  This made me think of one of the latest fashion fads that seem to hang from the arm of every southern sororiety girl I know: The Longchamps bag.…

This bag, popular for its clean simplicity, is made of mostly two materials, nylon and a leather strap.  It’s cute, I’m not gonna lie.  But for an essentially nylon bag?  Incredibly expensive! The cheapest I could find one for was $125 at Bloomingdale’s. FOR A NYLON BAG?! I have a backpack made of nylon that I got for free from BB&T when they came to campus. What makes the Longchamps bag different from my free backpack (classy, I know), is the way the same raw material was used in order to produce two very different products. The social implications of owning this chic Longchamps bag are much greater than toting around a nylon backpack.  Owning one says “Look! I can pay over $100 for nylon!” In this case, this commodity serves a social need.

“…the commodity reflects the social characteristics of men’s own labor as objective characteristics of the products of labor themselves, as the socio-natural properties of these things.”


One Response to “Not that type of fetish…”

  1. Reverend on August 31st, 2008 11:16 pm

    With a post title like that, how cn one not read this post?!

    And, Marx is dense. I often wonder how the two concepts exchange and ownership are similar yet different. Te exchange really captures the idea of social relations of things happening amongst and between people, a kind of fluidity of the commodity. Whereas ownership suggests a more static, definitive state. it belongs to x or to y. Yet, the very idea of ownership in the digital moment seems a bit more complicated, take for example the music you buy on iTunes, do you own it? Can you freely share it with your friends like a CD you bought in a store or an LP? The idea of making ownership less specific and more akin to a subscription model of the commodity in many ways changes the commodity yet again, for the specific social relations of our moment are impacting the very definition of a commodity to some great degree.

    Wow, thanks for sening me off on this tangent.