What Would Karl Say? Commodity Fetishism

There was more to Karl Marx than communism. He offered us a way to consider sustainability when he introduced Commodity Fetishism, a.k.a., why we buy so much stuff.

Episode 6


In Episode 6, Michael and Kimberly put on their academic hats to discuss Commodity Fetishism, a concept Karl Marx used to explain what compels consumers to buy the stuff we do and, ultimately, how understanding this fetishism helps us get out of the sustainability hole we’ve dug.

Key Topics

  • Why we care more about the ‘perceived value’ of a Ralph Lauren Polo shirt than the ‘real value’ of a plain old polo shirt

  • Why we can blame the Industrial Revolution for not talking to the person next to us who’s also been called for jury duty

  • Why ordinary people couldn’t afford the décor and houses that came out of the Arts & Crafts Movement

  • That there’s more to the global supply chain than just the goods we buy

  • Why you should be on the lookout for the ‘hidden cost externalities’ lurking all around us

  • Whether buying more stuff that’s ethically produced is better than buying nothing at all

  • How, despite some arguments, picking low-hanging fruit can lead to a Sustainable Planet

Recommended Resources

Karl Marx statue, Museum of Communism, Prague