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Symbolic technologies: Machines and the Marxian notion of fetishism

Hornborg, Alf LU (2001) In Anthropological Theory 1(4). p.473-496
Abstract
By extending the Marxian theory of fetishism from money and commodities to machines, we may achieve an epistemological shift in our understanding of the foundations of 'technological development'. The first part of the article discusses previous definitions of fetishism in order to distil some central themes that appear to be particularly significant to the argument on machine fetishism. It is argued that semiotic theory can be useful in distinguishing different varieties of fetishism. The core of the Marxian definition is understood to be the mystification of unequal relations of social exchange through the attribution of autonomous agency or productivity to certain kinds of material objects. The attribution of productivity to modern... (More)
By extending the Marxian theory of fetishism from money and commodities to machines, we may achieve an epistemological shift in our understanding of the foundations of 'technological development'. The first part of the article discusses previous definitions of fetishism in order to distil some central themes that appear to be particularly significant to the argument on machine fetishism. It is argued that semiotic theory can be useful in distinguishing different varieties of fetishism. The core of the Marxian definition is understood to be the mystification of unequal relations of social exchange through the attribution of autonomous agency or productivity to certain kinds of material objects. The attribution of productivity to modern technology is here interpreted as a mystification of the unequal, global exchange of (labour) time and (natural) space. (Less)
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author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
semiotics, technology, material culture, fetishism, economic anthropology, unequal exchange
in
Anthropological Theory
volume
1
issue
4
pages
473 - 496
publisher
SAGE Publications Inc.
external identifiers
  • scopus:33644814039
ISSN
1741-2641
DOI
10.1177/14634990122228854
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
5d814d47-8da1-4856-88a3-ed16203a8d07 (old id 165330)
date added to LUP
2007-07-26 11:02:06
date last changed
2018-06-24 03:51:09
@article{5d814d47-8da1-4856-88a3-ed16203a8d07,
  abstract     = {By extending the Marxian theory of fetishism from money and commodities to machines, we may achieve an epistemological shift in our understanding of the foundations of 'technological development'. The first part of the article discusses previous definitions of fetishism in order to distil some central themes that appear to be particularly significant to the argument on machine fetishism. It is argued that semiotic theory can be useful in distinguishing different varieties of fetishism. The core of the Marxian definition is understood to be the mystification of unequal relations of social exchange through the attribution of autonomous agency or productivity to certain kinds of material objects. The attribution of productivity to modern technology is here interpreted as a mystification of the unequal, global exchange of (labour) time and (natural) space.},
  author       = {Hornborg, Alf},
  issn         = {1741-2641},
  keyword      = {semiotics,technology,material culture,fetishism,economic anthropology,unequal exchange},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {4},
  pages        = {473--496},
  publisher    = {SAGE Publications Inc.},
  series       = {Anthropological Theory},
  title        = {Symbolic technologies: Machines and the Marxian notion of fetishism},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/14634990122228854},
  volume       = {1},
  year         = {2001},
}