Table of Contents

Label Index

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Commodity Fetishism

Commodity Fetishism :

Every product we buy has three types of value: instrumental, economic, and human/environmental.

In the capitalist system that we have created, we only see two of the three types of value. When buying any product we see the economic value (how much it costs) and the instrumental value (what it can be used for and how it can be used). This grossly ignores the third, and perhaps most important, type of value: human/environmental.

This type of value takes into account the amount and form of labor that goes into making the product and the environmental practices and costs, among other things. This is painfully evident in nearly every purchase of ours as we have no idea where the product came from and who made it (what they were paid etc.).

The term Commodity Fetishism can be employed to describe this system of alienation where the human value is ignored and unseen. It allows us to create fetishes of the commodities we use.Fair Trade is designed to reincorporate the human/environmental value back into the products we buy. Important to this is creating direct relationships between the people making the product and the people purchasing it.

Before capitalism, this is how things worked. There were guilds of various people making various commodities and a personal relationship would be formed whenever a commodity was needed (this can still be done by purchasing directly from farmers markets and homemade products). Now, we do not have any personal connection to the things we buy, which is one reason why we are in such a consumerist society… the commodities have no human/environmental value. This allows us to ignore the atrocities that make the products we buy.

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