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Fetishism in Literature and Cultural Studies

Fetishism And Ideology

Combining Marx and Freudian notions of fetishism via Jacques Lacan, Slavoj Zizek has argued that ideological fantasies function according to the logic of disavowal. His studies focus on capitalism and thus on metropolitan political economies, the United States in particular. His insight is to point out that the misrecognition involved in commodity fetishism is not on the level of knowledge—that people do not know that economic exchanges are the reification of social relations—but that it is on the level of practice itself. Thus, paraphrasing Mannoni's patient's declaration, Zizek argues that individuals know very well that relations between people are behind relations between things but that they act nevertheless as though commodities embody value and thus produce social reality as fetishistic "illusion." Social reality, Zizek argues, is thus structured by an unconscious illusion that he calls ideological fantasy. This revision of Marx's commodity fetishism, combined with psychoanalytic notions of disavowal, allows Zizek to explain some of the new forms ideology takes—including cynical reason, or the perception that society is "postideological"—in postmodernity.

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