Jesús Suaste Cherizola Wins the 2021 CASP Essay Prize

Jesús Suaste Cherizola Wins the 2021 CASP Essay Prize
Fix, Blair. (2021). Economics from the Top Down. 3 May. (Review; English).

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In his essay, Suaste Cherizola explores a puzzle in political economy — the neglect of assets. Why, he asks, do most radical political economists focus on commodities, when capitalists themselves care about assets? The answer, Suaste Cherizola proposes, owes to a bad decision made by Karl Marx. In formulating his theory of capitalism, Marx insisted that capitalism’s ‘laws of motion’ must be grounded in production. The way to do this, Marx decided, was to focus on commodities — the things that workers produce and capitalists sell.

Marx’s obsession with commodities caused some embarrassing problems. It led him, for instance, to dismiss the stock market as ‘fictitious capital’. (He saw stocks as a kind of ‘false’ commodity — something that had a price but was not backed up by ‘real’ production). In hindsight, this decision was dubious. Fictions aren’t supposed to impact the real world. And yet the motion of the stock market dominates our lives. Something is amiss.

Suaste Cherizola thinks the solution is to turn Marxist theory on its head. Rather than ignore ‘fictitious capital’, he argues, we should ignore the Marxist idea of the ‘commodity’. The reason is simple. Commodities are a small subset of the things that have a price. When you use this small subset to explain everything in capitalism, weird things happen. You end up invoking ‘distortions’ to explain all the prices you’ve excluded from your theory. This ‘distortifying’ is standard practice in neoclassical economics. Sadly, it’s also part of Marxism — an unavoidable consequence of Marx’s focus on commodities. According to Susate Cherizola, "… once the commodity-form has become the basis of our understanding of exchanges, the other forms of economic transactions can only be considered as distortions or mystifications. … The ‘commodity’ thus becomes a theoretical fetish — a concept endowed with supernatural explanatory powers."

A century ago, Marx chastised people for ‘fetishizing’ commodities — treating commodity exchange as a relation between things rather than a relation between people. But perhaps the true ‘fetishism of the commodity’, Suaste Cherizola proposes, is how Marxists have reified the commodity itself. The commodity’s true ‘secret’, Suaste Cherizola argues, may be that it has nothing to reveal.



Publication Type


Commentary on

From Commodities to Assets: Capital as Power and the Ontology of Finance
Suaste Cherizola, Jesús. (2021). Review of Capital as Power. Vol. 2. No. 1. May. pp. 1-29. (Article - Journal; English).


assets commodities finance financialization ownership power property value


BN Law
BN Money & Finance
BN Power
BN Theory
BN Value & Price
BN Business Enterprise
BN Capital & Accumulation
BN Distribution
BN Institutions

Depositing User

Jonathan Nitzan

Date Deposited

03 May 2021 21:28

Last Modified

04 May 2021 13:18


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