Capitalism as a Mode of Exchange

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Kojin Karatani:

"What about mode of exchange C? As I noted above, this may appear at first glance to be a simple exchange of material goods, but that is incorrect. Here too an ideational power is at work—and it too arises from ‘exchange’ itself. Marx describes it the following terms. “The exchange of commodities, therefore, first begins on the boundaries of such communities, at their points of contact with other similar communities, or with members of the latter.”10 In other words, exchange takes place with an unknown, perhaps dangerous other. Hence, the need arises for a ‘power’ to control the other—a ‘power,’ moreover, that is different from those that hold sway at the level of community or state. It is, moreover, of an ideational/religious nature. It is, in fact, what we call ‘credit’ or ‘trust.’ Marx called this sort of power a fetish. “Hence the riddle presented by money is but the riddle presented by commodities; only it now strikes us in its most glaring form.”11 In this way, Marx was trying to demonstrate how the commodity fetish, in the form of the money fetish and then the capital fetish, comes to dominate society as a whole. To repeat, what Capital made clear is that the capitalist economy is controlled not by the material, but rather by the power of fetishism—that is, by the idiational power. (See figures 1, 2, and 3). From the above it should be clear how modes of exchange A, B, and C each gives rise to an ideational ‘power’ that compells people. All of these are born out of ‘exchange’ itself."