Social Dissonance, 35–104


Alienation from Above: Spectral Objectivity


What is this phantom-like or spectral objectivity (Gespenstige Gegenständlichkeit) and how does it relate to our experience of selfhood? We produce commodities through our human labour-power and this labour is transmuted into ‘crystals of social substance’. However, the process of becoming a commodity erases all subjective and social traces by making the commodity appear as an objective thing, a natural phenomenon; what we take to be a relation between things (i.e. commodities), is a relation between people (i.e. expended human labour-power), and what we take to be a relation between people is actually driven by commodities such as money which have become quasi-personified agents. This is what György Lukacs, following Georg Simmel, called reification (Verdinglichung) and, as we shall see, it has effects not only on our perception of the world, but also on our self-conception. Capitalist mediations of the social and our engagement in value production have effects which we cannot fully understand through our personal experience, but which nonetheless condition the way in which we experience, and our understanding of our experiences and of ourselves as persons.…