[Commodity fetishism] producers and consumers perceive each other by means of the money and goods that they exchange
A commodity appears, at first sight, a very trivial thing, and easily understood. Its analysis shows that it is, in reality, a very queer thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties. So far as it is a value in use, there is nothing mysterious about it, whether we consider it from the point of view that by its properties it is capable of satisfying human wants, or from the point that those properties are the product of human labour. It is as clear as noonday, that man, by his industry, changes the forms of the materials furnished by Nature, in such a way as to make them useful to him.
The mystical character of commodities does not originate, therefore, in their use value. [The enigmatical character of the product of labour arises from] the form itself […] simply because in it the social character of men’s labour appears to them as an objective character stamped upon the product of that labour; because the relation of the producers to the sum total of their own labour is presented to them as a social relation, existing not between themselves, but between the products of their labour. This is the reason why the products of labour become commodities, social things whose qualities are at the same time perceptible and imperceptible by the senses. […] the relations connecting the labour of one individual with that of the rest appear, not as direct social relations between individuals at work, but as what they really are, material relations between persons and social relations between things. It is only by being exchanged that the products of labour acquire, as values, one uniform social status, distinct from their varied forms of existence as objects of utility.
There, the existence of the things quâ commodities, and the value relation between the products of labour which stamps them as commodities, have absolutely no connection with their physical properties and with the material relations arising therefrom. There it is a definite social relation between men, that assumes, in their eyes, the fantastic form of a relation between things. In order, therefore, to find an analogy, we must have recourse to the mist-enveloped regions of the religious world. In that world the productions of the human brain appear as independent beings endowed with life, and entering into relation both with one another and the human race. So it is in the world of commodities with the products of men’s hands. This I call the Fetishism which attaches itself to the products of labour, so soon as they are produced as commodities, and which is therefore inseparable from the production of commodities.
Full text of the related chapter can be read online : Section 4 :The fetishism of commodities - And the secret thereof, Capital (1867)
Pour gagner et conserver l'estime des hommes, il ne suffit pas de posséder la richesse ou le pouvoir. La richesse ou le pouvoir doivent être mis en évidence, car l'estime n'est accordée que sur la base de preuves. Et non seulement la preuve de la richesse sert à impressionner les autres et à maintenir leur sens de l'importance vivant et alerte, mais elle est à peine moins utile pour développer et préserver son autosatisfaction... L'abstention du travail est la preuve conventionnelle de la richesse et est donc la marque conventionnelle du statut social ; et cette insistance sur le caractère méritoire de la richesse conduit à une insistance plus forte sur les loisirs. [...] Selon les lois bien établies de la nature humaine, la prescription s'empare actuellement de cette preuve conventionnelle de la richesse et la fixe dans les habitudes de pensée des hommes comme quelque chose qui est lui-même substantiellement méritoire et ennoblissant.
Ce n'est pas de la bienveillance du boucher, du brasseur ou du boulanger que nous attendons notre dîner, mais plutôt du soin qu'ils apportent à la recherche de leur propre intérêt. Nous ne nous en remettons pas à leur humanité, mais à leur égoïsme, et nous ne leur parlons jamais de nos propres besoins, mais de leurs avantages.
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