Concept fetishism and leather skirts

So a fetish is a god we create and then forget that we created and get down to serious worshipping of.  There’s a rather good Doctor Who story from 1976, that was going to be called “The Day God Went Mad” but ended up being called “The Face of Evil” that outlines this with added flesh-eating worms and Louise Jameson in a leather mini-skirt.

Marx of course used the notion of a “fetish” to talk about “commodity fetishism” – you can read more here. Or this from wikipedia

commodity fetishism is the perception of the social relationships involved in production, not as relationships among people, but as economic relationships among the money and commodities exchanged in market trade. As such, commodity fetishism transforms the subjective, abstract aspects of economic value into objective, real things that people believe have intrinsic value

So the obvious problem for ideas-mongers is that they fall in love with the categorisation tools that they invent, and mistake the map for the territory (insert Borges reference about here).

Canon laser photocopiers can help us here;

Another example is the Canon laser photocopier which produced digital signals that could be electronically digitally processed, stored or transmitted simultaneously to a number of distant slave printers. The analog system of its conventional predecessors were unable to network. The new technology was the application of a laser and electronic information processing step inserted between the original optical and print systems. The digital processing subsystem allowed the production of a technologically new laser digital copier. Utterback would label the movement from analog to digital technology a market broadening, competence enhancing, radical innovation. Yet for Rothwell and Gardiner, radical technology embedded in a reinnovation does not constitute a radical innovation, instead just a redesign on an ‘innovation’. Thus, they would label this innovation an incremental innovation with a subassembly change. Kleinschmidt and Cooper would label it a moderate innovation, and to Abernathy and Clark the copier technology evolution is a regular innovation.
(Garcia and Calantone, 2002: 118)


So, I offer a label to help us remember that the axes we create can end up being axes we grind (see what I did there?).  I offer the world… “concept fetishism”.




Garcia, R. and Calantone, R. 2002. A critical look at technological innovation typology and innovativeness terminology: a literature review. Journal of Product Innovation Management, Vol. 19, pp.110-132.

And those references

  • J.M. Utterback Mastering the dynamics of innovation, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA (1996)
  • R. Rothwell, P. Gardiner Reinnovation and robust designs: producer and user benefitsJournal of Marketing Management, 3 (3) (1988), pp. 372–387
  • E.J. Kleinschmidt, R.G. Cooper The impact of product innovativeness on performance Journal of Product Innovation Management, 8 (1991), pp. 240–251
  • W.J. Abernathy, K.B. Clark Innovation. mapping the winds of creative destruction Research Policy, 14 (1) (1985), pp. 3–22

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