Warenfetischismus

In the first volume of The Capital, Marx describes the commodity fetish (“warenfetischismus”). It’s kind of like Adam Smith meets Freud, and it’s not unlike the dialogue we see today, assessing the probable outcome of voting for Secretary Clinton or Senator Sanders.

The probable outcome is technical. It is political-economic.

If you’re looking for a real intellectual challenge, just go right to political-economic analyses. Between the technical aspects and divining probable hidden motives that result in probable action (“yielding to” both “when and why” in a feedback loop, which makes it even more complicated), you will have a headache before you know it!

It takes a polyhistor to credibly argue political-economy. It takes an eclectic approach because everybody has a different angle, depending on (like Marx said about the “warenfetischismus”) your “appetite.”

An eclectic approach allows for associative properties to converge. Often, different arguments are simply different ways of describing the same thing. Like Positivists argue, it is foolish to fight over whose fetish is the best. There is a tendency, then, to reduce the subjective aspects of economic performance to objective measures, which Marx described as “the commodity fetish.”

“Financial WMDs”

One of the big problems with political-economic analyses is the tendency to associate observable properties with a correlational interpretation. For example, when the cock crows at sunrise we don’t associate it with a causal correlation, although the argument can be made. To give it an empirical value, you would have to be sure all cocks cannot crow, which is entirely impractical. The next best thing, beyond speculation, is to describe what causes the sun to “rise” (which is a phenomenology) in another way.

(Keep in mind. Even if I go out in space and show the skeptic that the earth is “actually” revolving around the sun, creating then the phenomenon of the “sunrise,” the argument can still be made that the cock’s crow really makes the sun rise. Even if I eliminate all the cocks that can crow, the skeptic can still make the argument that somebody has hidden a cock away somewhere, probably because if they didn’t, the sun would not rise the next day!)

An association can be made to appear as a correlation (what “the makers” do), like with tax policy, inversion, and the Celtic Tiger. The argument can be made that austerity measures work if we resist what Objectivists call “the takers” (the “looters and slackers”–as Ayn Rand describes them–that pillage and plunder the capital to satisfy their appetites).

Now, it must be considered, even with huge amounts of welfare spending, we still have rising income inequality and plenty of impoverished people. According to capitalists, associating the number of rich people (the 1%) with rising economic desperation is just that–an association. It is not a causal identity. Saying it is, is delusional. (It is the “taker’s” mentality, driven by appetite). It is really the other way around, capitalists say. Welfare causes inflation AND unemployment, that’s why the Fed can’t really do both–it is not a “natural identity.”

Instead, capitalists argue, austerity measures reduce unemployment. Reaganomics is the natural identity we are looking for. If we just let the deflationary trend play out, without soup-kitchen progressives, we will ALL be better off because lower wages and salaries
“cause” businesses to hire people. (Unemployment, then, is a “causal incentive,” which means that employees are always threatened with unemployment. Capitalists, however, by means of consolidation–which causes unemployment–do not experience the “on demand” incentive, by design, because it has been surplussed. Since it has not really been destroyed, keep in mind, the risk is still there and it will eventually come to “call at the margin.”) Economists call this argument “rent seeking.”

The rent-seeking incentive is the fetish Marx was talking about. Mass unemployment, by financial means, turns into weapons of mass destruction. It is then described as economic growth (the commodity fetish), and the European “theatre” is no stranger to this kind of measurable “growth”–born of austerity.

(Keep in mind that growth is relative to economic performance. If the decline is 10% and the rise is 2%, the growth rate is measured at the point of inflexion–SAR. What property associates with the other 8 points?… You’re not just waiting for Godot to show up. Godot–the difference–is already there. It is categorically imperative. Now!)

We now use monetarism to reduce the probable risk of mass destruction emerging from rent-seeking austerity measures. This is what “quantitative easing” means–it is actually referring to the commodity fetish.

Mass numbers of people losing their homes and being forced into debt with the use of financial derivatives (credit-risk management tools, or what Warren Buffet describes as “financial weapons of mass destruction”) is a cruel fetish that Objectivist, TBTF bankers describe as “it just happens.”

No matter what, the sun will rise tomorrow, and capitalists will seek the rents, Mrs. Clinton admonishes Mr. Sanders.

So, she says, “Let’s be practical!”

Haven’t we progressed beyond that, or are we still obsessed with the commodity fetish?

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About griffithlighton

musician-composer, artist, writer, philosopher and political economist (M.A.)
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