In Marx's critique of political economy
, commodity fetishism
denotes the mystification of human relations said to arise out of the growth of market trade, when social relationships between people are expressed as, mediated by and transformed into, objectified relationships between things (commodities and money).
The concept of commodity fetishism plays a crucial role in Marx's theory of capitalism, because it links the subjective
aspects of economic value to its objective
aspects, through the transformation of a symbolization
of value into a reification
which attains the power of an objective social force.
It plays an integral part in Marx's explanation of why economic relationships and interactions in capitalism often appear quite differently from what they really are. The concept is introduced at the conclusion of an analysis of the value-form
of commodities in the first chapter of Marx's main work, Das Kapital
. Subsequently he clarifies in Das Kapital
that many different economic phenomena can be "fetishized" (the fetish of money, the fetish of interest-bearing capital, etc.) to the extent that they attain an independent power vis-a-vis the people.
But these further developments of commercial fetishism nevertheless have their historical origin in commodity trade.