Jan 12, 2018 in Analysis

Commodity Fetishism and Commodity Enchantment

In “Commodity Fetishism and Commodity Enchantment”, T. Richards tells the reader to imagine a world where wonder and fascination coexist with realism and fear. The author states that, in such a world, enchantment becomes a real possibility. The author defines enchantment as a mood of lively and intense engagement with the world. Enchantment consists of mixed bodily state of joy and disturbance and a transitory sensuous condition (Richards).

The author states that the 1998 GAP ad “Khakis Swing” induces and expresses the state of enchantment, for him. The author suggests that there is certainty that the advertisement has the goal of causing a certain enchantment that makes people in wealthy societies consume. The author states that critics agree that consumption in everyday life includes imaginations, aspirations and identities. He suggests that one influential interpretation of this condemns it as the idolatry of consumption of goods, also known as Commodity Fetishism (Richards).

The author states that commodity fetishism is a form of perceptual disorder where individuals become blind to the pains and suffering embedded in the commodity because of the unjust and exploitative system of production. However, the author argues that commodity fetishism alone does not account for the fascination with commercial products. He states that normalization results from commercial advertisement that creates the desire of possessing different products. Therefore, the author argues that the phenomenon of consumption is on the vitality that is generated by the promise or presence of commodity consumption. Likewise, there are similarities between the moral sentiments and the affective state that have been associated with the sublimity of nature (Richards).

The author states that there are dangers of commodity culture. He agrees with Marx’s critique of commodification and the environmentalists position that the consumption level of the typical middle-class Americans is ecologically disastrous while being integral to the economy. The author supports the structures that have been put politically to reconstruct an economic infrastructure that increases consumption levels and wastage. The author states that such consumption issues are part of a system that tolerates a deplorable level of economic inequality. He states that these consumption practices promote greed, suffering and military adventurism that is characteristic of certain administrations (Richards).

The author suggests that the ethical resources might be derived from commercial culture make sense because they pursue ecology that draws positive sustenance from energies engendered by certain modes of advertisement. The author agrees with Marx that when commodities animate mere artifacts, they also debilitate the producers and consumers.

In consideration of the commodity as fetish, the author brings up the issue of use-value and exchange value. The author brings in the dictionary definition of fetish in order to understand the aspect of commodities as fetish. He states that commodity fetishism bequeaths a phantom objectivity. It animates artifact and makes the source of that animation obscure. He considers that in theism things are empowered while people are made dead such that mere things exercise power over human beings as if they possess life (Richards).

As the author states, Horkheier and Adorno, just like Marx, find nothing positive about animation of objects and find it a dangerous illusion. The author, in agreement with the three, states that objects that are commodified are out in unnatural transference of energy from persons to things, where the commodification functions in a zero-sum place. Responding to things as if objects were alive equals to stealing the animus from human beings who have a complete monopoly to it. Unlike the technologized art, the precapitalist art had a sense of challenging injustice. Citing Horkheimer and Adorno’s reasoning, the author states that technologized art behaves that way because it does not operate from the drive to create, but from the desire to dominate. Therefore, the author agrees with the two that technically sophisticated forms of entertainment function within an economic system that is unjust. Thus, the culture industry uses creative energy, promotes a dehumanizing work structure and discourages the will to social justice. From the author’s analysis, he comes up with an important question alongside others. How do people accept the torturous admixture of art and commodity? Is it possible for people to get out of the commodification problem? How does fetish work in an enlightened society?

The author uses Horkheimer and Adornos’ reasons to provide a reasonable explanation to the relationship that exists between external manipulative sources and personal authentic feeling experiences. He states that a person’s mental acuity, his personal sensory perception, bodily affects, and calculated design of an industry devoted to exchange value foster that relationship. The affective energetics of consumption plays a significant role here. Other causes that the author brings forth are Marx’s disenchanted materialism and Kantian model of the organization of faculties, specifically the faculty of aesthetic judgment. The power of repetition or duplication works in the process enacted within exchange-value (Richards).

The author states that enchantment is not the only effect that comes from interaction with commercial artifacts but also amusement that shares certain pleasurable affection with enchantment, however, lacks the disturbing dimension found in enchantment. Therefore, in consideration of Horkheimer and Adorno’s project, the author gives a remedy through an enlightenment faith in the efficacy of debunking that clear insight into injustice carries an impetus that can help undo wrong and enact right (Richards).

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