Abstract

Bruno Latour’s critique of so-called anti-fetishism is central to the “ontological turn” that has spurred the recent decline of historicist approaches in the humanities. According to Latour, anti-fetishists such as Karl Marx believe themselves to be exposing the illusory projection of human agency onto things. This leads them, says Latour, to overlook the actual roles and powers of nonhuman actors in constructing actor-networks. Here I suggest that Latour has fundamentally misrecognized the object of Marx’s analysis. In Marx’s account, the fetishism of commodities is not an ideological projection but a historically specific form of life. A critical materialism would focus not simply on demonstrating again and again the facts of nonhuman agency, but rather on examining the historically diverse forms of material association that organize possibilities for agency. Marx’s analysis of the commodity form as a form of estranged interaction provides rich resources exactly to that end.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2052
Print ISSN
0042-5222
Pages
pp. 667-682
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-10
Open Access
No
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