Karl Marx was an extremely well known sociologist and philosopher with many strong feelings about the Capitalist society in which he lived. Marx’s beliefs and writings may be from a drastically different time period, but many of his theories still play a major role in today’s society. One theory of his seems to play an even more major role in today’s society than ever before. Commodity Fetishism is a term he coined essentially to describe the need or desire for a commodity or product based on its social status with disregard to price or essential purpose. We live in a materialistic society where name brands mean everything. Social status, at times, is established based on the things you own, the size of your house, the make of your car, etc. One product on the market today that has people rushing to stores with every new release is Beats by Dre headphones and portable stereos. It is a product with a good purpose, but comes along with a rather large price tag.
Commodity Fetishism was a term Marx coined based on the theory of commodities with an apparent “magical” quality. Marx believed that a product could remain simplistic based on its use-value. But once a commodity was attached to a price tag, or money became involved, it became a product of commodity fetishism. It lost its sole purpose and value as soon as it transformed into a commodity. What Marx hated most about this was that the value and price tag was not based on the factors it should have been. He believed a product was worth what went into it, and the amount of labor it took to create. The products were never recognized for what went into them, but recognized for how society hyped the product up. You can start with a piece of wood and make it into a table. At this point the item is worth its use value; the amount of time it took to create, and the value of the materials used. But once it was sold on the market, and listed as a commodity, people view the value as if it comes from the product itself rather than the amount of labor that went into it.
Commodity fetishism is extremely prevalent in today’s society; even more so than Marx’s time. Owning particular products becomes a way of life and a way to establish yourself. Whether it be buying the hottest item on the market, or shopping at the expensive grocery stores, people play into the “expensive options” simply for bragging rights. Being able to say you shop in certain places or own certain products is the way people create their image. People are taking part commodity fetishism, and most without even realizing it.
In Marx’s time, people bought the popular products because it was all they knew. They heard word of mouth that one product was better than the other, so they played into societies actions. Today, we can thank the media for hyping certain products, like Beats, making everyone think they need to buy them in order to fit in. Beats are products that are sold at extremely high prices and not necessarily because of the labor that goes into them or even the products “worth”. They simply sell for high prices because they know people will buy them no matter what. Regardless if they can purchase a $5 pair of headphones at the checkout counter, people will still spend $100 for Beats just for the red cords and tiny logo. This is a perfect example for what Marx saw as commodity fetishism. The external appearance of the product camouflaged the back story of who made the product and the conditions in which the products are manufactured. Not only does the media hype the products, but companies in modern day society alter many factors of the products to make them more desirable and seem more “expensive”; through things like advertising, packaging, and the ways they promote the products. Its through things like advertising in particular that makes the product seem that much more irresistible. It is a manipulative strategy, but incredibly genius from a business perspective. Beats in particular almost receive free advertising everyday. They are one of the most commonly word headphones by celebrities. Musicians in particular. When people see celebrities in magazines walking down Michigan Ave. with the newest pair of Beats, their want for the headphones transforms from a want to a need, or even an obsession. People don’t care where they come from, who made them or what the price tag says.
Many of Marx’s theories and insights are still prevalent in today’s society. We are a consumer society with a materialistic drive. Labor and manufacturing is not a particular concern for consumers. People don’t think what goes into each item that they own. How long it took to make, where it was made, how much it costs to manufacture etc. Our society has a problem with only forming opinions based on its exterior. As consumers, we should do ourselves and our fellow workers the favor of acknowledging the true hard work behind the everyday items we use. If people were somewhat more educated about the topic of commodity feminism, they may start to second guess the things the purchase and where they chose to shop.