Removing the Veil? Commodity Fetishism, Fair Trade and the Environment

Ian Hudson and Mark Hudson
Publication Date: 
For Marx, commodity fetishism is the tendency of people to see the product of their labor in terms of relationships between things, rather than social relationships between people. In other words, people view the commodity only in terms of the characteristics of the final product while the process through which it was created remains obscured and, therefore, unconsidered. This has crucial implications for our collective ability to see and address the ongoing processes of social and environmental destruction under capitalism.
This article examines one effort to lift the veil obscuring the relations and processes of commodity production. Fair trade attempts to make visible the social and environmental relations of production and exchange that lie behind the commodity. This assists producers in making a shift in the qualitative nature of production, particularly in terms of its impacts on producers and on the environment. The purpose of this article is to determine the extent to which fair trade can address the problem of commodity fetishism and to identify the barriers it encounters in attempting to do so.