Fetishizm And Its Anthropological Meaning

FetishismA fetish is a thing or an object, which, according to the beliefs or psychological attitude of a person, has a supernatural influence, power or abilities, or from the other point of view, a thing which has supremacy over people. Fetishism is the condition of belonging to such mental or conscious dependency. In other words, a fetish is an entity, which attracts unusual, anomalous attention of a person, and drastically dominates in the perception of the situation. Correspondingly, fetishism is a tendency to focus on special things and entities and to surrender such one-sided perception of the environment, which decreases the influence of other entities in surrounding system of objects.

Examples of fetishism include any demonstration of pseudo objectivity and tendency to maximize the role and importance of an object (fetish) in observation and sensing of a situation. Fetishism can be taken in many various perspectives: religious, psychological, sexual, economical, sociological, ethnographical, even anthropological and philosophical. Words “fetish” and “fetishism” have Latin origin, and the very concept of fetishism came out to our times from 18th century, initially created and formed by French explorer Charles de Brosses, who introduced this term to describe the early development of religious evolution. Within the time, fetishism, its nature and particular understanding, became an issue of interest and researches of specialists of different fields of science.

The category of anthropological fetishism was presented by E. B. Tylor and J. F. McLennan, historians and anthropologists of the 19th century, who have been working over development of the theories of totemism and animism and recognized fetishism as a subdivision of these theories. Anthropological concept of fetishism suggests switching the religious connection between God and people onto the connection between people and religious material symbols. The theory of animism and anthropological fetishism, as a part of it, became a good instrument for social scientists and historians to explain fundamentally the nature and psychological background of religious beliefs.

Recently the idea of anthropological fetish is taken in much more extended manner. If before it was only something sacred and holy, like, for example, perception of a cross as a representation of God or Jesus, lately any object or a thing, which is taken by a person as a key element of any ideology (not only religious, but also cultural, personal, etc.), can be called as anthropological fetish. Posters of famous singers, Hollywood stars or NBA players, articles with autographs of celebrities, the manner to dress or to act, copying the way famous people do this, or pictures of family members, who are far away, located on telephone tables – all these are examples of anthropological fetishism of our times. Therefore, this category grows into something more secular and individual.

Later in the 19th century the concept of fetishism has been explored from economical point of view by Karl Marx, who engaged this term in opening chapter of his main work, Capital to describe a false perception of “commodities” in capitalistic society with complex market systems. The idea of commodity fetishism takes source from the tendency of people to give much more value to the goods and commodities they buy, then to labor of people who produced them. For example, an owner of a luxury car has more advantageous economical position than workers and technicians, who produce such cars. So, the belief according to commodity fetishism is that for an owner of such car his car is more important than people.

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