Commodity Fetishism vs. Capital Fetishism. Marx’s Reflections and Marxist Interpretations

… In this context, financial risk is calculated on the basis of particular fetishistic representations of the events and outcomes of class struggle. Risk is the way capitalist agents perceive the future from an ideological point of view. Risk is the anticipation of future trends (usually expressed in probabilistic terms) on the basis of the fetish mystification of capitalist reality. We can understand that without this intermediation of risk, it is absolutely impossible for capitalization, i.e. the pricing of securities, to take place. Capitalization as a pricing process presupposes a mode of representing, identifying, arranging, and ordering certain social events, which are first “distinguished” and then objectified as risks. In other words, capitalization is not possible unless there is some specification of risk, that is to say, unless specific events are objectified, accessed and estimated as risks.

It is a forward-looking process, which assesses and evaluates in advance, future events of the class struggle as risks. Since the inner workings of an enterprise constitute a political terrain, the production of surplus-value, as a battlefield situation where resistance is being encountered, is never something that can be taken for granted. Therefore, risk evaluation carries out an intermediation, which is absolutely crucial to the organization of capitalist power. It translates into quantitative data the dynamics of class power relations. It is a fetishistic process which does not simply mystify capitalist reality but also embeds social behaviors and strategies proper to the reproduction of class exploitation.

The “secret” of financialization is to be found in the risk valuation aspect of modern finance, an aspect that is deeply rooted in the circuit of capital. From this point of view, finance can be also understood as a technology of power, which organizes capitalist power relations. Techniques of risk management, associated with the functioning of the“deregulated” money markets, are indeed a critical point in the management of resistance from labor. We can fully understand these processes only if we rely on Marx’s theory of fetishism…

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