Exchange Value and Commodity Fetishism

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The world as it is today and even as it was in the past has always been constructed and influenced by society. As one looks back throughout history, human beings have always been part of society as a whole, which therefore means that the idea of the individual has strongly depended upon it. This controversial issue is put forward by Marx, who says that human beings think that they exist as free individuals, that they are “free” from the so called social world, but it is in actual fact society in itself that generates that belief (Gundrisse: pp.84). What one would take for granted as concrete fact is really just a concentration of social forces, which inadvertently means that one cannot take any observation as the truth. All in all, Marx indicates that that everything- even ones values- are influenced by society and the entity that frames our values entirely is capital. In this essay I will focus on this assumption put forward by Marx, how objects have moved from having not only a use value but an exchange value as well, as well as its relationship to “commodity fetishism”.

When Marx talks about exchange value, he is referring about the value one places on a commodity. The concept of exchange value is very different to the concept of use value, the use value is “the object of the satisfaction of any system whatever of human needs” (Gundrisse: pp.881). Exchange value goes a lot further than that: in this case, something with a use value becomes transformed into a commodity, which is ultimately a social product. Therefore exchange value manifests itself as something totally independent from use value. The ‘value’ of an object changes in terms of how much it costs, and what intrinsic value it bestows upon a person eg status. A person thus no longer purchases an object that is only useful to them, but it has a value attached to it that goes further than the mere gratification of mans so called basic needs. An example of this is clothing. People no longer buy...
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