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Alf Hornborg

Alf Hornborg

Professor

Alf Hornborg

Symbolic technologies: Machines and the Marxian notion of fetishism

Author

  • Alf Hornborg

Summary, in 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.

Department/s

  • Human Ecology

Publishing year

2001

Language

English

Pages

473-496

Publication/Series

Anthropological Theory

Volume

1

Issue

4

Document type

Journal article

Publisher

SAGE Publications

Topic

  • Social and Economic Geography

Keywords

  • semiotics
  • technology
  • material culture
  • fetishism
  • economic anthropology
  • unequal exchange

Status

Published

ISBN/ISSN/Other

  • ISSN: 1741-2641