In volume 1 of Capital Marx speaks about the fetish character of the commodity …

Interviewee: Roger Behrens

Adorno himself is a little unclear as to how he derives this connection between culture, commodity and production. I explain it along these lines: in the first volume of Capital, specifically in the section on the fetish character of commodities, Marx speaks of how the relations of production appear to the worker to be a set of natural relations, likewise how the products of labour appear to be natural products – although the worker has produced them in relations which are social through and through, and by no means “natural”. Ditto the relations of production – they are social relations. What does fetish character mean? I assign power to an object that it in actual fact does not possess. A commodity has a fetish character because a power is attributed to it which it, as a simple thing or object, by no means has or can have. This power appears to be a natural quality inherent to the commodity, although it has a “social” meaning (and thus the commodity-producing society itself appears to be based on “natural” relations): we “believe” in the commodity because we have to believe in it. That’s ideology, necessarily false consciousness. And, by the way, this kind of fetishism was mirrored in the classical labour movement itself, where work was glorified.

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