The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Commodity Fetishism

  • Andrew Levine
Reference work entry


An analysis of Marx’s notion of ‘commodity fetishism’ – as a theory of the necessary (systemically induced) misperception of underlying production relations by participants in market exchanges. The appeal of the notion to the two main opposing tendencies of mid- and late 20th-century Marxism – Marxist humanism and structuralist Marxism – is discussed. Reasons are proposed to account for a recent decline of interest in the phenomenon among both economists and philosophers. It is suggested, however, that the concept remains viable.


Althusser, L. Capitalism Capitalist social relations Commodity fetishism Exploitation Feuerbach, L. Invisible hand Labour power Labour theory of value Laws of motion of capitalism Lukacs, G. Market relations Marx, K. Marxist humanism Structural marxism Surplus value Value controversy 

JEL Classifications

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Althusser, L. 1965. For Marx, 1969. New York: Pantheon Press.Google Scholar
  2. Althusser, L. 2002. Ideology and ideological state apparatus. In Lenin and philosophy and other essays. New York: Monthly Review Press.Google Scholar
  3. Althusser, L., and E. Baliber. 1968. Reading capital. London: New Left Books, 1970.Google Scholar
  4. Cohen, G. 1988. The labour theory of value and the concept of exploitation. In History, labour and freedom: Themes from Marx. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  5. Feuerbach, L. 1841. The essence of christianity. Amherst: Prometheus, 1989.Google Scholar
  6. Fromm, E. 1975. Marx’s concept of man. New York: Continuum.Google Scholar
  7. Lukacs, G. 1923. History and class consciousness. London: Merlin Press, 1967.Google Scholar
  8. Marx, K. 1844. Paris manuscripts (also called economic and philosophical manuscripts). In Collected works, ed. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, vol. 3. New York: International Publishers, 1975.Google Scholar
  9. Marx, K. 1845. The German ideology. In Collected works, ed. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, vol. 5. New York: International Publishers, 1976.Google Scholar
  10. Marx, K. 1867. Capital, vol. 1. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1965.Google Scholar
  11. Roemer, J. 1981. Analytical foundations of marxist economic theory. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Steedman, I. 1981. Marx after sraffa, rev. edn. New York: Shocken.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew Levine
    • 1
  1. 1.