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October 2021

Commodity fetishism and repression - Reflections on Marx, Freud and the psychology of consumer capitalism

Journal/Book: Theor Psychol. 1999; 9: 2455 Teller Rd, Thousand Oaks, CA 91320, USA. Sage Publications Inc. 313-329.

Abstract: This paper re-examines Marx's notion of 'commodity fetishism' and argues that this concept offers much for an understanding of the psychology of consumer capitalism. Marx's analysis of commodities contains an implicit psychology of collective amnesia, for he argued that in capitalist life the productive origins of commodities are routinely forgotten. Marx formulated these ideas to explain the ideology of 19th-century capitalism. However, the notion of commodity fetishism, it is suggested, is even more apposite for the conditions of so-called 'consumer capitalism', where the pleasures of consumerism would be routinely diminished by an awareness of the productive origins of consumer goods. Therefore, the routines of consumerism contain a collective forgetfulness, which can be understood psychologically as a form of social repression. This sort of repression, which differs from the classic Freudian account, should be understood dialogically for it is constituted in dialogue and, as such, tied to the routines of everyday life. In this respect, the routines of life in consumer capitalism create a routine repression, or forgetfulness, which parallels what Marx meant by commodity fetishism.

Note: Article Billig M, Loughborough Univ Technol, Dept Social Sci, Loughborough LE11 3TU, Leics, ENGLAND

Keyword(s): commodity fetishism; consumer capitalism; critical psychology; Freud; Marx; repression; CONSUMPTION


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