Handbook of Contemporary Animism, 19-20



Submitting to Objects : Animism, Fetshism, and the Cultural Foundations of Capitalism

Alf Hornborg


pp. 244-5 fetishism of capital : mystification through means of fetishism

p. 244

"Karl Marx ([1867] ...) famously observed that relations between people in capitalist society assume the form of relations between things. ...

{The "things" herein intended are purely material things, not immaterial verb-based abstractions things (activities) such as love, kindliness, goodwill. Because (unlike abstractions) material things are not commensurable with ethical principles, capitalism is devoid of ethics.}

It simultaneously animates such things, by attributing to them autonomous value, productivity, or growth ... . ... .

{The sets of divinities (who are themselves quite animate) which associate themselves with such material things, how-be-it, indeed mutually maintain their own (i.e., autonomous from that of mortals) arrays of value, productivity, and growth for any equipment or for any commodities.}

... fetishized human-object relations such as these,

{more actually, mortal-to-divinity-to-object relations}

in order to reveal underlying social asymmetries {such as the distinction, in the United Kingdom, between hereditary nobility and oppressed commoner}, can be a powerfully subversive ... strategy. ...

{To construct adequate interaction with the fetish-divinities of commodities, could constitute a powerful method for subversively (i.e., without the method's being detected and resisted by the ploutokrateia) deconstructing capitalism. [written Apr 27 2015]}

p. 245

Modern technological objects (... "machines") are basically also ... attributed with autonomous productivity or even agency ... . ...

{Machines, in particular, are claimed by a peculiar variety of fetish-divinity, the gremlin. The autonomy of gremlins is more readily observable than is that of most other varieties of fetish-divinities.}

All three categories of objects (money, commodities and machines) are fetishes in the sense that they mystify ... by being attributed autonomous agency or productivity.

{The autonomous agency is that performed by the divinity who hath taken a liking to, and relationship with, the particular object. The reasonable aspect of the mystification is a realization that, because the capitalist can afford (especially could afford rather exclusively before the advent of cheap modern electronic devices) the music and artwork so appretiated by such divinities; and a concurrent recognition that the underpaid wage-worker cannot afford so much of such -- to deduce that the divinities and deities all must have a great love for capitalists, and a despicience toward workers (but such deduction is illusory). [written Apr 27 2015]}

Marx 1867 = Capital, Vol. 1.

{It may be needful for devotees of the fetishist ideology to come to grips with the responsibility, in very large measure, of divinities of the sorts who praeside over manufactured objects, for establishing the praevalent oikonomic system among mortals. This responsibility could be influenced by obtaining information about its functions from divine worlds (visited in dreams etc.), so as to learn from the deities themselves the fetish-caerimonies need to rectify the social system among mortals. [written Apr 27 2015]}

pp. 246-7 animist subjectivity vs. capitalist objectification

p. 246

"Entities such as plants ... may be approached as communicative subjects ... .

True : and the spirits controlling the plants may be approached as subjects even more communicative.}

We can approach ... animism from the perspective of what Latour (1993) has called a "symmetric anthropology" : an anthropology ... that is equally capable of subjecting modern life to cultural analysis. ... The notion that the world of objects and the world of subjects are separable ... has been illusion from the start. ... Latour makes the important point that modernity itself, through the new socio-technical networks ..., continually generates ever more obvious examples of hybrids or "quasi-objects" that contain both subjective and objective aspects".

p. 247

"it may ... be that which distinguishes us ... as the incapacity to exercise ... relatedness within the discursive and technical restraints of the professional subcultures that organize the most significant share of our social agency."

{These incapacities are forcibly imposed by capitalism, which enforceth a professional dissociation between ethics and social duties.}

Latour 1993 = Bruno Latour (transl by Catherine Porter ) : We Have Never Been Modern. Cambridge (MA) : Harvard Univ Pr; Hertfordshire : Prentice Hall/Harvester Wheatsheaf.

p. 247 animist/fetishist freedom vs. capitalist-imposed serfdom

"Would modernity {read "materialist delusion"} be impossible where living things are consistently recognized as subjects? ... yes.

It is only by severing or submerging our capacity for relatedness that we are set free {"free"?!} to impose our {"our?! -- What, "we ploutokrats'"??} modernist {what is so "modern" about capitalist oppression of wage-slaves??} designs on the world."

{This is quite awkwardly put. More practicably, it is by our being forcibly submerged in the irresponsible system of capitalism that we are subjugated (by the ploutokrateia) to the extent that we may be compelled to impose the class-enemy's horrific designs on the thus-maltreated long-suffring world.}

p. 251 impropriety of sabotage of production-machinery in factories

"the early nineteenth-century Luddites ... were not yet quite modern.

{They were wantonly heedless of the fact that gremlins who care about machines could easily become so annoyed by wanton destruction of their equipment as to inflict woe on saboteurs of factory-machinery.}

Today we supposedly know better than to direct our political frustrations at machines."

{Instead, we ought to take our grievances to the divinities who care for the equipment, asking those divinities to pray up through their chain-of-command until the socio-oikonomic difficulty can be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties.}

pp. 251, 259 agency of machines

p. 251

"But if ... modernist {read "materialist"} convictions were indeed to collapse ..., our machines would ... conceivably be credited with ... agency ... of ... pre-modern fetishes."

{Any such agency would needs be ascribed to the divinities who have adopted such machines as their own personal ritual devices.}

p. 259, n. 9

"Cf. Pietz's (1988:114) remark that colonial European writers frequently observed that

pre-modern Africans were inclined to perceive technological objects as magical beings."

{More accurately stated, however, the Africans were simply perceiving (sensing, observing) the supernatural deities (gremlins etc.) who had adopted as their own such "technological objects" (machines).}

Pietz 1988 = William Pietz : "The Problem of the Fetish, III". RES 16:105-23.

p. 252 Luddism

"the so-called Luddite movement ... created considerable turbulence in the heartland of early British industrialization (the counties of Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cheshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire)

from late 1811 to early 1813. ...

{Was the War of 1812 instigated by the government of England (1) to distract public attention from Luddism, or (2) to provide an excuse for imposing martial law against Luddism?}

The factory system was explicitly likened to "colonial slavery" (Sale 1995:23), and the ... workers ... suffered dwindling incomes".

Sale 1995 = Kirkpatrick Sale : Rebels Against the Future : the Luddites ... . London : Quartet Bks; Reading (MA) : Addison-Wiley Publ Co.

p. 253 capitalist oppression via wage-slavery

"capitalism is ... slavery (Graeber 2007:85-112). Not only was wage labour generally abhorred by free men, the underlying principles of capitalism and slavery are ... similar ... . (Yet ..., capitalism presents itself to us as reedom, viz. the freedom of every individual to sell his or her freedom.) ...

freedom, viz. the freedom of every individual to sell his or her freedom.) ...

{yea, the "free choice" of either to work for a nigh-unto-starvation-wage -- or else to starve to death outright}

In thus systematically alienating human beings from the products of their labour, these systems make it possible for the extracted {i.e., exploited under dire circumstances}

agency or life force (Graeber calls it "creative action")

{i.e., labor-power}

of human workers to be appropriated by others {e.g., by capitalist masters} in the form of ... congealed ... labour."

Graeber 2007 = David Graeber : Possibilities : Essays on Hierarchy, Rebellion, and Desire. Oakland (CA) : AK Pr.

pp. 254, 259 caused by "psychology"?

p. 254

"the capitalist world order ultimately rests on the beliefs and conceptions of its participants.

{What, are ownership of virtually the entire world's means of production by a tiny hereditary ruling class, and the forcible exploitation of wage-slaves, both to be counted as categories of "beliefs and conceptions"??}

If restricted to the psychology of financial collapse, this is quite obviously true."

{Evidently untrue! National and international financial collapses have never been caused by sheer "psychology", but rather always by major systematic fraud on the part of legalized conspiracies such as the banking system (now-a-days, by the Foederal Reserve Board) in collusion with the richest ploutokrat families.}

p. 259, n. 11

"In fact, it is not unusual to regard Marx as ... a victim of ... technological ideology ... (e.g., Benton 1989:76)."

{However that may be, it Karl Marx can more definitely be treated as a victim of the delusive ideology of materialism, which with its deceitful blandishments had throughly deluded him personally.}

Benton 1989 = T. Benton : "Marxism and Natural Limits". NEW LEFT REVIEW 178:51-86.

p. 255 one or the other?

"pre-modern {prae-modern = non-materialist} sacred and ritual power ... never operates only by the power of suggestion, [n]or conversely, by power intrinsic to the people who have it".

{Actually, though supernatural power can operate by "suggestion" (i.e., via praeternaturally induced transcendental trance transmitted through the deity's divine grace), never can it be "intrinsic to the people who have it", for a mortal earthling can have no power except that the power be divinely imparted into the ritual, from Heaven (i.e., the miracle be performed by genuine deities).}

p. 257 cannibalistic capitalists

"if the commodities ... are really embodiments of other people's {wage-slaves'} life energy, not only is capitalism ... slavery ..., but ... cannibalism."

{Capitalists are cannibalistic also in the sense that they seek to devour (viz., acquire) the wealth owned by other capitalists; and often they do, by wrecking their competitors' business by any means feasible. Capitalism is a ruthless, merciless dog-eat-dog world.}

p. 258 in denial?

"the common denominator of the ideological pillars of modern {read "ploutokratic"} power ... is

the phenomenon of denial."

{Not quite! : It is more a manoeuvre of evasion. Apologists for capitalism do not so much deny (i.e., argue against) the fact of exploitation of wage-slaves' labor-power, as simply ignore it.}



The New Fetishism : Western Statue Devotion

Amy Whitehead


p. 260 relational activity

"According to Graham Harvey, animism is a relational activity that is discerned through ... relationships with "the living world" (2005a).

Unlike Tylorian animism (Tylor 1871), it is not restricted to the theoretical confines of spirit and matter, subject and objects".

{These are mere grammatical categories : spirit is active, thus is a verb-category; while matter, which is not an activity, is a substantive-category. Subject and object are grammatical case-categories. Linguistics, but not metaphysics, can be well-described through such grammatical categories.}

pp. 260-1 are religious statues ever regarded as veritable "persons" by worshippers?

p. 260

"religious statues are persons ... : they not only have access to the divine ..., but they are also capable of

{Untrue! Religious eikones are never regarded as animate, feeling, thinking, conscious "persons" by any but the most unsophisticated of worshippers. Instead, they are regarded by the pious much like theatrical props, parts of the stage-scenery helpful for worshippers' holding in mind the supernatural purport of divinity. Eikones are not claimed by the faithful to "have access to the divine", but rather to assist in furnishing access to the divine to worshippers who employ them. Power is not of the statue, but of the divinity to whom the worshipper is attracted by means of the statue. Petitions may be offered in the praesence of the material statue, but the petitions are directed to the immaterial divinity.}

p. 261

being power ... . If petitioned correctly or given the right gift, they can make good things happen -- but only if they so desire."

{This is not an accurate description; it is a travesty, of the sort written by Iconoclasts falsely to justify their wastefully smashing of expensive art-objects known as eikones.}

p. 261 spirit "of" matter

"Pels's distinction between what he refers to as animism's "'spirit in', as opposed to {read "contrasted with"; they are not opposed} fetishism's 'spirit of' matter" (Pels 1998:91) is significant".

{There is, indeed, a category of spirit known as the spirit "of" matter : it is the "elemental" (/stoikheion/, Strong's 4747) spirit, mentioned in the Epistole to the Galatai 4:3 & 4:9. This is conjured by certain esotericist occultists.}

Pels 1998 = Peter J. Pels : "The Spirit of Matter". In :- Patricia Spyer (editrix) : Border Fetishisms : Material Objects in Unstable Spaces. London : Routledge. pp. 91-121.

Strong's [italicized #] = Greek Dictionary of Bible Words.

Epistole to the Galatai 4:3 http://biblehub.com/galatians/4-3.htm

Epistole to the Galatai 4:9 http://biblehub.com/galatians/4-9.htm

Hellenic text (interlinear) of Epistole to the Galatai 4 http://www.scripture4all.org/OnlineInterlinear/NTpdf/gal4.pdf

p. 264 goddess Bridie

""there had been at Glastonbury ... the female ... deity ... Bride" (Bowman 2007:25). ... "Where we find St. Bridget ... the goddess Bridie was once honoured" (Bowman 2005:160)."

{"Bri`d, Bride. Variant of ... Brigid or Brigit." (DCM, p. 51b)}

{"bri`deo`g ... A puppet ... to represent St. Bridget, ... Celtic goddess BRIGIT" (CM&F, p. 58b).

Bowman 2007 = M. I. Bowman : "Arthur and Bridget in Avalon". FABULA 48:16-32.

Bowman 2005 = M. I. Bowman : "Ancient Avalon ..., Heart Chakra of Planet Earth". NUMEN 52:157-90.

DCM = James MacKillop : Dictionary of Celtic Mythology. Oxford Univ Pr, 1998.

CM&F = Patricia Monaghan : The Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore. Checkmark Bks, NY, 2004.

p. 265 the 9 Morgen goddesses

"Kathy Jones says that the Nine Morgens are a ninefold sisterhood who "rule over the isle of Avalon surrounded by the Lake of Mysts" ([1991]:213)."

{"Morgan Le Fay ... the most beautiful of nine women who lived on a FORTUNATE ISLE ...; her sisters were Moronoe, Mazoe, Gliten, Glitonea, Gliton, Tyronoe, and Thiten." (CM&F, p. 338b)}

Jones 1991 = Kathy Jones : The Ancient British Goddess. Glastonbury : Ariadne Publ. reprinted 2001.

p. 268 immanence of goddess nigh the statue repraesenting her

"the Glastonbury Goddess is ... hovering above ..., ritually brought in to inhabit the temple and the statues, and is said to take up residence in the physical forms of the statues, then let go in the evening. ... In any case it is through her statues that the Goddess is addressed in her Temple and it is here she is honoured ..., given gifts and negotiated with."

p. 269 "statue-persons"

"Can statue-persons and human-persons share gift-giving etiquette ... ?"

{/Statue-persons/ is a misnomer : this ought to read "Can divinities invoked through means of statues ...?"}

"resisting the fetish is futile."

{To resist a divinity who is invoked through means of a fetish may be futile, much as to resist a flying-saucer crewed by divinities may be futile.}


Graham Harvey (ed.) : Handbook of Contemporary Animism. Acumen Publ, Durham; ISD, Bristol, 2013.