Consumer Culture Reborn: The Cultural Politics of Consumption

Consumer Culture Reborn: The Cultural Politics of Consumption

Consumer Culture Reborn: The Cultural Politics of Consumption

Consumer Culture Reborn: The Cultural Politics of Consumption

Synopsis

Lee brings together the discourses of political economy and cultural studies in order to shed light on our social situations. Lee sees the commodity as the vital touchstone behind both analysis of the economy and culture.

Excerpt

Any study of consumption must inevitably begin with a recognition of the fact that, whatever else it may represent to us in contemporary society, the consumption of mass-produced commodities constitutes a vital dimension of the modern capitalist economy. Consumption is the final link in a chain of economic activity in which capital, existing in the form of money, is transformed through a process of material production into commodity capital. It is the exchange and consumption of commodities which allows for the realisation of profits, which, when returned back to the money-form, can be reinvested into further production and so begin the circulation of capital once again. This process represents the primary characteristic of capitalist enterprise, and it is from this basic process that a vast social environment begins to take on its distinctive character.

Since by far the most thoroughgoing and detailed analysis of capitalism has been undertaken in the work of Marx, it would seem to be appropriate to begin this study of consumption with a consideration of some of the important issues he identifies. However, before it is possible to explore Marx’s critique of capitalism per se, let alone some of the implications that this may have for modern practices of consumption, it is first necessary to outline some of the central principles expressed in materialist philosophy and which inform most of Marx’s ideas. These were to be firmly established in many of Marx’s earlier writings, but can be seen principally in the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts written in 1844 (Marx 1975) and The German Ideology of 1846 (Marx and Engels 1974).

One of the central questions addressed by Marx in these early works focused upon the ontological difference that marked out humanity from the rest of the animal world. What was it, asked Marx, that made human beings not merely a highly advanced form of animal life, but a unique species-being? For Marx the answer to this question lay in the nature of human needs and the manner in which they were satisfied. To be sure, humans, in common with all other forms of animal life, must appropriate materials from the

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.