The Problem of the Fetish (Hardcover)

The Problem of the Fetish By William Pietz, Francesco Pellizzi (Editor), Stefanos Geroulanos (Editor), Ben Kafka (Editor) Cover Image

The Problem of the Fetish (Hardcover)

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A groundbreaking account of the origins and history of the idea of fetishism.
In recent decades, William Pietz’s innovative history of the idea of the fetish has become a cult classic. Gathered here, for the first time, is his complete series of essays on fetishism, supplemented by three texts on Marx, blood sacrifice, and the money value of human life. Tracing the idea of the fetish from its origins in the Portuguese colonization of West Africa to its place in Enlightenment thought and beyond, Pietz reveals the violent emergence of a foundational concept for modern theories of value, belief, desire, and difference. This book cements Pietz’s legacy of engaging questions about material culture, object agency, merchant capitalism, and spiritual power, and introduces a powerful theorist to a new generation of thinkers.
William Pietz is an intellectual historian and political activist.

Francesco Pellizzi (1940-2023) was the cofounder and editor of RES: Journal of Anthropology and Aesthetics. He was also a coeditor of The Problem of the Fetish.

Stefanos Geroulanos is professor of history at New York University. He is the author of Transparency in Postwar France and coauthor of The Human Body in the Age of Catastrophe, published by the University of Chicago Press.

Ben Kafka is a psychoanalyst and associate professor of media, culture, and communication at New York University. He is the author of The Demon of Writing.

Product Details ISBN: 9780226821795
ISBN-10: 022682179X
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication Date: November 30th, 2022
Pages: 272
"A remarkable contribution to the anthropological, ethnographical and political literature."
— Contemporary Political Theory

“Pietz’s dazzling investigation of the fetish as an enigma of power—a material artifact and a source of spiritual authority at once—binds together colonial history, merchant capital, anthropological inquiry, and group psychology. His prescient framing of the concept as establishing social value and debt is indispensable reading in our era of disaster capitalism and commodity terrorism.”
— David L. Eng, University of Pennsylvania

“Assembling Pietz’s early programmatic texts and later, lesser-known ones, this book discloses the momentum and trajectory of a body of work that changed how we think about the fetish concept and so much more. As the excellent introductory essays make clear, this influence is at once profound and enigmatic, a function of the elusive phenomenon called ‘fetishism’ and of Pietz’s rigorous thinking. The book is a gift—mandatory reading for every critical thinker of the contemporary and its histories.”
— Rosalind C. Morris, Columbia University

“In this groundbreaking work of interdisciplinary scholarship, Pietz provides an illuminating genealogy of fetishism, one that is also a fascinating theory of persistent misrecognition—of others and ourselves. Here, at last, the celebrated deployments of the fetish by Hume, Kant, Hegel, Marx, and Freud are put into philosophical and historical context. Fetishism was an essential ideologeme in the European colonializing of the world; this book is an essential tool in its conceptual decolonizing.”
— Hal Foster, Princeton University