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Symbolic technologies: Machines and the Marxian notion of fetishism

  • Alf Hornborg
Publiceringsår: 2001
Språk: Engelska
Sidor: 473-496
Publikation/Tidskrift/Serie: Anthropological Theory
Volym: 1
Nummer: 4
Dokumenttyp: Artikel i tidskrift
Förlag: SAGE Publications Inc.

Abstract english

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.


  • Social and Economic Geography
  • semiotics
  • technology
  • material culture
  • fetishism
  • economic anthropology
  • unequal exchange


  • ISSN: 1741-2641
Human Ecology
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