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“the Reproduction of Everyday Life” by Perlman

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“The Reproduction of Everyday Life” by Perlman

ZhiYi Chen


“The Reproduction of Everyday Life” by Perlman

Summary

Perlman (1969) in his work “The reproduction of everyday life” argued that each society is reproduced through the everyday activities of its members. To this end, the peculiarity of capitalism is related to the fact that people’s activities are carried out in a way to systematically eliminate the very material conditions to which capitalism manifested itself as a response. The main point of the author is that the key driving force underlying the destruction of the initial state of affairs through alienation of individuals is the phenomenon of commodities fetishism.

According to Perlman, capital is reclaimed and people’s lives are annihilated every time they admire the products of their own labor as alien objects. Individuals passively consume them with the money they receive as a means of compensation for their alienated activity. An act of work and its result are mediated by the fetish, unnoticed by the workers.

The author considers the commodity fetishism as a reification of production relations between people in terms of commodity production based on private property. Its essence lies in the fact that the element of social relations prevailing over people is apparently acting as a domination of certain things. This is the basis of a mystical attitude towards the material goods as supernatural sources of power generated by the commodity form, covering the dependence of producers on the market. Commodity fetishism is an objective historical phenomenon. It reaches the peak of development under capitalism, where commodity-money relations become absolute and universal form of economic activity. Moreover, objectification of economic relations is determined by the peculiarities of the organization of social production, instead of the natural properties of things themselves. The author noted that the fetishistic nature of the world of commodities was affected by the specific social relations surrounding the production of goods.

         In the commodity economy based on private property, the manufacturers operate independently and separately from each other in an atmosphere of anarchy and fierce competition. The products of their labor appear as a result of independent private works. However, the social division of labor implies the interdependence of agents of the commodity production. The connection between them is established through the market, which transforms the products of labor into commodities. In these circumstances, the social nature of labor costs of independent producers is recognized in terms of the exchange of one commodity for another. Public assessment of the economic performance of individual producers is made possible only through the exchange of goods based on the law of value. Commodity exchange stands for the economic relations between people in terms of commodity production based on private property. It inevitably assumes the form of social relations between things. There is a so-called reification of production relations taking place under capitalism.

         Commodity fetishism is the personification of things and economic categories. Capital as a relation of production is embodied in capitalists, and workers epitomize wage labor. Through personalization of economic relations, laws of capitalist production are manifested through the actions and the will of individuals and groups. Fetishism permeates all economic categories of capitalist society. The exploitation of man by man is disguised as a payment of salaries. A power, forcing the worker to excessive labor, is represented by the means of production, that is, things, but not the class of capitalists. Profit, loan interest, rent, being the product of the exploitation of wage labor, outwardly appear as a product of the things themselves. Profit seems the outcome of the means of production, the percentage is seen as a result of money, and rent is linked to land. The highest form of commodity fetishism is a manifestation of the cult of money, acting, under capitalism, as the universal form of wealth. To overcome the dependence on things, it is necessary for people to stop selling their living activities. Men should not relate to each other through things. “If men were collectively not disposed to sell their lives,” according to Perlman, “universal prostitution would not be a condition for survival.”

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