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Commodity Fetishism

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After establishing the validity and applicability of the labor theory of value, Karl Marx identified an interesting segment on the fetishism of commodities. He defined as follows: “A commodity, therefore, is a mysterious thing simply because in the social character of men’s labor; because the relation of the producers to the sum total of their own labor is presented to them as a social relation, existing not between the products of labor. This is why the products of labor become commodities.” In this regard, he attributes that the value attached to commodities other than the human labor that gives a product its real value and depicts the lynch-pin of capitalism society (Kaplan, 2006). As a result, producers have focused more on production as the guiding factor of the market apart from the laborers. This is due to the treatment of commodities as if they are objects with intrinsic value. Within the social process of production, workers have no relationship with the material products that they handle. Considering that there is a disjoint between laborers and what they produce, they are forced to be apathetic of the material products.

Karl Marx’s theory of fetish commodities is clearly demonstrated by Louis interaction with women workers in American sweatshops. Based on an extensive interview with dozens of Mexican, Chinese, and Korean women who worked in New York, Texas and California sweatshops, she elicits the varied form of frustrations that such women endure in the hands of abusive employers. Evidently, the oppression of women immigrants emanates from the exploitation initiated by subcontractors, multinational corporations, and indifferent trade unions. In this regard, immigrant women end up working for long hours under unfavorable working conditions in order to sustain their families. This inconsiderate virtue is promoted by the inconsiderate employers who partner with indifferent trade unions. The main concept derived from this analysis depicts how employers have attached a significant value to the products being produced at the sweatshops without recognizing the significance of the real contributors to such results.

The notion of fetish commodities is further illustrated by the fact that employers attach significant value to the outputs of sweatshops without addressing proper relations with their employees. The fact that employers value their output as expensive while ignoring the real producers depicts how employers are driven by selfishness in exploiting workers. Similarly, workers’ working conditions indicate that both the government and employers seem to appreciate the virtues depicted in fetish commodities. Additionally, as workers attempt to seek assistance from various organizations so that their grievances are addressed, they receive threats and the demand to remain silent from their employers (Louie, 2001). Therefore, most workers are forced to endure their suffering at the workplace for the fear of dismissal which will cause more suffering. This fact is propagated by the hierarchical social status exhibited by the employers and employees. All this painstaking actions have demanded the efforts of consolidation and uprising by employees against their employers.   

As a result of the oppression and frustrations, women are forced to confederate and form groups to help them address their problems. This approach fills the gap left by the trade unions. At the same time, through their solidarity, workers can challenge their employers for withheld remunerations, better working conditions, and recognition. This scenario depicts how employers value money and attach significance to produced commodities (Mulvey, 1996). Therefore, the prices of commodities become high as oppose to the benefits derived by the producers of these commodities. This form of exploitation necessitates the women to instigate appropriate measures. Concerning the groups formed by the immigrant women, Louis asserts that such women are the sweatshops warriors. Despite the challenges they encountered, their efforts have earned them respect and consideration from their employers. Additionally, their treatment has improved which has caused a simultaneous growth in the workers’ morale and production level.    

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