I’ve written before about my impatience with the category ‘fetishism’ in Marx, I’m like quadruply impatient with it in many marxist writings. Fetishizing fetishism, that’s what much of marxistspeak is on this category, the sort of thing best left to the dustbin. I say this because I just started this article at Khukuri. I generally like what’s up there but so far this article… not so much.

To be just slightly less unfair, I quit reading before the section on alienation because I have other stuff I have to get to. I’ll come back later before making a final determination as to what the judgment of history ought to be on the piece (since I am, of course, the arbiter). Thus far in the article it strikes me as part of a whole approach to Marx that ought to be abandoned and which we should look back upon as one of the embarassing habits of our otherwise respected forbears (like poodle skirts, say, and treating illnesses with mercury. I don’t know that Badiou has ever written this sort of thing tied to Marx, I’d be keen to hear his remarks on these categories; Ranciere is quite scathing on this sort of thing, rightly so.) One of the basic intellectual intuitions behind all of this is to find a master category that decodes all of v1 of Capital. The amount of ink spilled on those first three chapters… it’s tied I’m sure to the fact that an embarassing number of cadre of many so-called communist groups and all too-many self-described Marxists never read much further beyond those three chapters, and the overemphasis of those early sections helps continue this condition. There’s also an aesthetic component tied to it, part of the affect of philosophy: “look! fetishism! ooooooohhh! deep! let us ponder and meditate upon its profundity!”

Another way to characterize this basic mistake is that it treats the beginning as laying out the important parts of the book. I don’t think that’s what it does at all. I think the beginning is sort of like the opening to films like The Usual Suspects: it’s an entry point and one which is deliberately crafted to mislead the audience. That means its meaning and its textual function differ. Its real meaning only becomes apparent at the end of the book and should be read via the ending. This fetishizing fetishism approach doesn’t do that, it basically hypostatizes (not 100% sure I’m using that word correctly but I wanted to try it out! woot! vocab points!) the experience of those sections on the reader’s first time through the book.

Below are my minimal notes on what I’ve read of the piece so far. I’ll update this with the rest of my notes as I finish reading.

I don’t see the point of any of what is under “The theoretical foundation of Capital” prior to “We proceed to Marx’s second answer .

“the doctrine of fetishism (…) analyses the mechanisms by which capitalist society necessarily appears to its agents as something other than it really is.”

Nope. Capitalism doesn’t *necessarily* appear this way.

“there exists, at the interior of capitalist society, a kind of internal rupture between the social relations which obtain and the manner in which they are experienced”

Evidence? (beyond “Marx wrote it, on my reading Marx”)

“a definite social relation between men . . . assumes, in their eyes, the fantastic form of a relation between things’ (I, 72).

This is clumsy. People don’t experience their lives as relationships between things. People often experience their lives as determined by thing-like stuff I suppose, in the sense that people experience social practices as necessary and thus unrevisable and sometimes people don’t notice those determining social practices (which is different from experiencing them as thing-like: “y thinks of x as a thing” is different from “y doesn’t think about x”). But let’s say people DO experience their lives as relationships between things. In that case, this is simply descriptive as phrased here: when people experience their lives as relationships between things the name for that condition is fetishism. That’s not a claim to necessity (and the claim to necessity is itself a form of fetishism IMHO).

“‘. . . their own social action takes the form of the action of objects, which rule the producers instead of being ruled by them’ (I, 75).”

I want to double check the Marx to see what precedes the ellipse, but as quoted here the epistemological claim — people see social relations some way — becomes an existential or ontological claim: social action really is this way and is not just perceived this way.

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