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Works of Karl Marx and Georg Simmel - Essay Example

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Works of Karl Marx and Georg Simmel

The so-called "commodity fetishism," as Marx (1976) tell us, is the fact that a "definite social relation between men themselves' assumes here, for the, the fantastic form of a relation between things, [or] to the producers' the social relations between their private labours appear' as material relations between persons and social relations between things." (p. 165) This concept was conceived wherein humans are the real actors whose social relationality was obscured in the reified commodity form. (Brah & Coombes 2000, p. 116)
The concept of "autonomy of objective culture", on the other hand, is Simmel's characterization of the prevalence of monetary relations in modern society. Here, he is suggesting that, paradoxically, it is the fact that money empowers us that accounts for the fragmentation of subjective life and that monetary freedom is abstract and devoid of substance because it becomes alive and valuable only through being incorporated into the substance of real social relations. (Dodd 1999, p. 38) This principle by Simmel is, in a way, an extension of Marx's commodity fetishism to cultural production in line with the idea that objective culture exists in an autonomous realm that follows an immanent developmental logic. Here, the commodity, money and capital - with money as the "consummate fetish" of money making more money - appear in such a way that they are immediately present on the surface of the bourgeois society but their immediate being is pure semblance. (Simmel 200p, p. xxvi)
The comparison of the commodity fetishism and autonomy of objective culture is best illustrated in Marx and Simmel's discourse on money, the aesthetic sphere and freedom.

On Money
A common ground between Marx and Simmel is their extensive discourse on money and its effects on culture. Marx utilized the Shakespearian theme of money in Timon of Athens wherein it was said that money is an unnatural power which converts the morally bad into the morally good, the antisocial becomes social and that the ugly becomes beautiful. In Shakespeare's Timon of Athens, Timon talked about his gold:

Thus much of this will make black, white; foul, fair;
Wrong, right; base, noble; old, young; coward, valiant'
Thou common whore of mankind, that putt'st odds
Among the rout of nations. (Timon of Athens: Act 4, scene 3)

Marx adopted this and elaborated more in his effort to illustrate that money is an alien medium - one that conceals the true value of labor and that it takes upon itself and its possessor qualities that are external to man. To quote:

That which money can create for me, that for which I can pay (i.e., what money can buy)- that I, the possessor of the money, am. The extent of the power of money is the extent of my power. The properties of money are the properties and essential powers of me - its possessor. Thus what I am and what I am capable of is in no way determined by my individuality. Therefore I am not ugly, for the effect of ugliness, its power of repulsion, is destroyed by money. I - according to my individual nature - am lame, but money gives me twenty legs, therefore I am not lame. I am wicked, dishonest, unscrupulous, stupid man; but people honour money, and therefore also its possessor. (cited in ...Show more

Summary

The works of Karl Marx and Georg Simmel shows an ambiguous and complicated relationship when it comes to their discourse on the consumption world. It was Marx who has introduced several concepts in regard to issues such as capitalism, modernity, culture and other socio-economic and socio-political arguments…
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Works of Karl Marx and Georg Simmel essay example
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