Karl Marx’s Concept of Mystification

Mystification is the process of consciously making objects mysterious out of the domain of reason. Mystification is the application of vague abstractions to build sophisticated metaphysical schemes, which sidetrack people from tangible material reality. According to Karl Marx, the term “material reality” means not only biological or physical existence but social and economic relationship.

Karl Marx did not deny the importance and necessity of free will and action. However, as a socialdeterminist, he considered that interactional correlation between individuals and their social environment are the most essential condition of economic development of society (Robinson, 1998). The widely developed elucidation of mystification was found in theoretical analysis, which was written by Karl Marx in relation to economic traditions. Karl Marx defined three phenomena in which mystification as a process is referenced. The first manifestation is a mystification of the productive and consumptive processes that are the basic elements of the commodity. The second phenomenon is a mystification of historical economic verity due to the preconceived transmission of the dominant classes’ position.

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Finally, the third phenomenon is a philosophical mystification of the role-models that are driving society through the relativity of material ideology (Robinson, 1998). According to Karl Marx, Volume I, there are no timeless economic conitions or laws applicable and relevant for every historic period of human development. For each historic period, there are specialized economic conditions and laws that lose their connectedness, pertinence and importance as soon as the general social background changed. Commodity and production relationship cannot exist separately or apart from the primary laws of human society relationships. All endeavors to characterized economic problems on the level of exclusively material matter as relationships between inanimate objects, or between inanimate objects and human beings, are considered by Karl Marx as exhibition of mystification (Marx, 1990).

In Capital, Volume III, nevertheless, Karl Marx developed and deepened the meaning of the term ‘mystification’. Mystification, from this advanced point of view, was associated with isolation and estrangement in their most critical forms: hypostatization or objectification, which derives from the fragmentation of exchangeable values. Therefore, the factual manifestation of mystification is the general manifestation of fragmentation and reification. Karl Marx reckoned that conceptually, when people generalized and adjusted an explanation of the economic process to just commodity’s relationship, they turn on the mystification process. This idea was developed and even a little bit dramatized in Capital, “… within the process of production living labor has already been absorbed into capital … thhe creative power of labor had seemed to possess the qualities of a thing” (Marx, 1990). Volume comprised a comprehensive record of the commodity relations mystification, such as cost-accounting antidote, in which Karl Marx provides a detailed econometric demarcation between surplus value and profit, and he distinguishes his approach from methods that peculiar to classical economists.

Karl Marx criticized the “Trinity Formula” of “labor – wages”, “capital-profit”, “land – rent”, which are peculiar to classical economics. He asserted that the trinity of value and wealth components initially and generally created the mystification of the capitalistic manifestation of commodity relations (Marx, 1990).Today, the approach of the cost-accounting antidote to mystification is popular among economists following Marx’s economic theories. The trace of Marx’s theories, which is becoming gradually more popular since the end-1980s, can be found in the economic studies of commodity relations. There is also a wide range of cultural studies and organizations that develop Marx’s theory of mystification, for example, the Frankfurt School of economics, which examines the commodity relations through art, literature and advertising. In fact, the contemporary researches on the commodity fetishism are derived from theoretical developments of manifestation that were described in Karl Marx’s Capital (Robinson, 1998).