There are many essentials that are fetishized by Americans; one of those things is coffee. It is no secret that there is a big demand for coffee with many specialty coffee shops springing up, such as Starbucks, Peet’s and Coffee Bean. Oftentimes, the consumer loses sight of where things come from and how they are produced. A key component of production is the producer. The consumer does not pay enough attention to the ethical treatment and wages of the producer. This paper discusses Karl Marx’s premise on Fetishism of Commodities and its direct relation to the production of coffee, focusing on the value of the coffee bean as well as how that directly impacts the farmer and his family.
As industrialization evolved people worked long days to produce everyday essentials. Marx labels everyday essentials “things,” which have ordinary use but also turn out to be commodities. Marx in turn defined a commodity as a thing that, although not a necessity, brings gratification to a person (Marx in Desfor Edles and Appelrouth 2012:69).
As a consequence of the commoditization of material things, the owners of the means of production demand more labor from the worker. In “Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844,” Marx introduces the idea that the worker became distanced, or alienated, from the work being produced because the products being manufactured meant nothing to them; it is not a craft that holds any meaning. A person is alienated because there is no input in the outcome of the product (Marx in Desfor Edles and Appelrouth 2012:41). In addition, with alienating work, the worker does not create one entire product from beginning to end and rarely has any contact with another worker while on the production line (Marx in Desfor Edles and Appelrouth 2012:43).
In Marx’s 1867 work “Capital,” he introduces the concept of use-value in commodities and reintroduces alienation as a modified theory, in what he coined, fetishism of commodities. He states that material essentials have use-value. A thing will have use-value because it becomes a commodity and is produced for others. The price of a use-value item is not determined by how useful but what the thing does and how frequently it is used (Marx in Desfor Edles and Appelrouth 2012:65, 69).
As a material essential’s use-value grows it becomes more desired – Marx believes that it becomes a fetishized commodity. Marx restructured his earlier theory of alienation as fetishism of commodities. Fetishism is similar to alienation; however the premise of consumerism is developed in the way that the consumer loses sight of the labor it takes to create commodities. To the consumer, commodities are magnificent and allow the material item to take control of their lives. This is allowed to happen because the producers of material commodities do not come into contact with one another. Therefore, there is no thought put into how laborious, and time-consuming, it was to create the commodity (Marx in Desfor Edles and...