We have all been guilty of unnecessary purchases one time or another, but what if I was to tell you that all you’re shopping was mostly impulsive and involuntary? It may sound bizarre that what seems like a voluntary action is influenced by mass media. We shop the image value of things and not necessarily the use value of them. These objects are represented in real or imagery settings. Ultimately, this takes the essential use away from the material nature of the commodity or activity that we purchased the item for and lets us fantasize about ourselves. In the circumstances that the commodity is represented it gives us the illusion that they acquired some sort of super natural quality and that we will be worthy of possessing that quality once we purchase it. We want to believe that the commodity has the power of transforming our lives. The power of the commodity lies not in the social relation of the legitimate possession, but in the use value of it.
How do we fall victims of this strategic advertising scheme? Advertisements main goal is to make us forget what commodities are all about, which are mainly for our daily survival such as eating, clothing, sheltering and work. Instead they convince us that they’re a way of expressing things and gaining skills and qualities that we don’t posses. The commodities that were once man made over power us. Marketers use our daily necessities to force ably without regards makes us fetishes about them. They study us psychologically by identifying what colors, music, lighting and even temperature affect our consumption of commodities. In North American mainstream culture the color silver is associated with prestige, and black with sophistication, elegance and mystery. As a result various high-end companies utilize these colors in clothing and even cars such as the jaguar to make us desire them and their factious “qualities”. The second step to making us desire these items is “pricing” given that it affects the way we view things. The more expensive the more valuable, we been socialized into thinking that items that are pricier are of superior value. Realistically thinking we are aware it’s false, but marketers have done such a good job in using the focusing affect method that they displace our rational feelings into our desires and fantasies. Marketers use the focusing effect on consumers by convincing us of the necessary features of the product by ignoring the rest; as a result we develop “tunnel vision”.
“Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do”, stated Steve jobs. This sounds kind of odd, how do you invest so much money and time into creating something that might flop. I use to believe that a Steve job’s was either a mind reader or a great risk taker. None of my hypothesis were actually hundred percent correct, he might of been somewhat of a risk taker; but most importantly he was a very smart marketer. He believed in the power of great marketing. One of the many ways marketers convince us to acquired their products is by reminding us that we have tried their products before and how much we enjoyed them and this is exactly what mister Job’s executed. How can we possibly have memories of a product we haven’t even tried? Or even exist yet? There have been various studies that printed ads with bright colors and vivid descriptions of products unconsciously give us the impression that we have previously tried the fictional product. It has been demonstrated by marketing surveys that if we think we have tried a product previously we are more likely to like it even more and they’re higher chances of the consumer purchasing it again. Most of the businesses if not all have done such tactic; the first step towards achieving the “ hypothesis” like state of the consumers is by launching a trial advertisement to a targeted audience. Depending on the results from the trial they intensified their marketing strategies.
The attributions that we project on to the commodities create a distorted relationship between us individuals and the commodity itself. We lose sight of the fact that we are responsible for the creation of the commodity and we are the ones who hold valuable skills and qualities not the item. Therefore we fall victims of alienation and become dehumanize as Karl Marx mentions. We feel powerless and unworthy and fall into a paradox of misconceptions. That’s causes us to try to fill in the emptiness that we hold by purchasing the items that put us in this situation in the first place. This unhealthy relationship with commodities is created by big companies “capitalist” and there meticulous marketing schemes that are already destroying humanity. So before making your next purchase I suggest you ask yourself, “Do I really need it”?
Commodity fetishism as discussed by Marx has been one of the topics which I have found most interesting. These two words alone, not in conjuction with one another can mean two different things which may not appear relate-able at all. We may see commodities as objects which appeal to us because of the properties they hold. The material properties make commodities useful and capitalism involves the production of commodities for exchange in the market.
The use value of a commodity pertains to consumption. It is determined by the physical properties in relation to our human needs. Marx describes capitalism as a system of commodity production. Goods are produced based on our needs/desires and we consume them accordingly. Commodities are products of labor which are bought and sold on the market. They are characterized by a use and exchange value. Commodities may take on the form of a variety of things not just something tangible as an object. Human labor is a commodity as well. Our labor is sold to companies. Behind commodities is the exchange of human labor; individuals at work which make up the process behind making the product is a commodity itself. Commodity fetishism refers to the distorted relationship exsisting between individuals and the production and consumption of goods. When buying commodities we forget about the human labor it took to make them. The progress in productive abilities leads to greater fetishism. Objects have social power. The power of commodities comes from our own creative labor.
Commodities hold properties which satisfy our human wants just as a fetish. Webster’s dictionary defines a fetish as a strong or unusual need or desire for something. It does not only pertain to a body part or an activity for sexual excitement as I believed it to be. Marx describes a fetish as an object believed to have supernatural powers, or in particular, a man-made object that has power over others. Our society is characterized by innovative technology. It does in a great sense have power over us. We look for ways to obtain the latest high-tech advancements and attentively wait for their release. In commercials and billboards we see intriguing advertisements that push us to desire these objects before they are released onto the market for us to consume. Technology hype is a craze throughout society and it becomes addictive for example iphones, ipads, laptops, electronic devices, etc. These objects appear “magical’ to us because of their features. Innatimate objects come to life with their value and things take on the characteristics of people (reification).
I for one am not high tech and do not care too much for these things but I see how our society is crazed for the latest technological products which are believed to facilitate our daily lives and are available right at our fingertips. We treat the goods we buy as if they have “magical powers”, losing sight of the fact that we create commodities and we part take in commodity fetishism a characteristic of capitalism. Its interesting because I never thought of it this way before until I saw it presented by Marx in class. The article given to us “From the iphone 5S to corporate globalization, modern life is full of evidence of Marx’s Forsight” explains how we enjoy incredible luxury and yet are driven by a constant need for more and more stuff to buy such as the iphone 5S which many of you may own. Is it really better than the iphone 5 or 4S????? As presented by the article “is it a real need or an invented one”? Marx was absolutely wright. Marx argued that capitalism’s tendency to focus high value on arbitrary products would lead to what he called “a contriving and ever-calculating subservience to inhuman, sophisticated, unnatural and imaginary appetites”. Marx’s idea of over-production led him to predict globalization. The U.S. has a need of constantly expanding market for its products across the globe. We establish connections and settle everywhere. The iphone for example on the back says “Designed by apple in California, assembled in China”.
The video below is the one that was presented in class which describes the law of value and fetishism of commodity. It really explains how our society is invaded with commodity fetishism. It represents how commodities have value, money has social power and how we are powerless. Relations between people are indirect and only coordinated with commodities. The video demonstrates how society facilitates commodity fetishism. It also demonstrates the unequal relation between capital and labor in the work place. It presents food as a commodity which I never thought it to be until now.
Karl Marx wanted to reunite theory and practice. His theories are shaped by the world around him. Marx would also refer capitalism as a mode of production which involves commodities for the means of exchange in the market place. Marx used a “materialist” approach in formulating his theory on commodity. He defined commodities as “an object outside of us, a thing by its properties satisfies human wants of some sort or another” (P. 69). He would describe this phenomenal as companies producing goods and pressured to stay competitive in the business world. All commodities are characterized as having a use-value and an exchange-value. Marx would say use-value is reflective on the workers’ labor, whereas, goods that are exchanged for profit becomes an exchange-value.
Modern day Marx would say that the company, Michael Kors, is not producing appealing handbags to its consumers but driven by intentions to make profits. Marx would argue that capitalists turned commodities into ‘Fetishism’ because he said they believe that value can be inherent to a commodity. Fetishism is defined as ‘the belief that natural objects have supernatural powers, or that something created by people has power over people’.
The term ‘Fetishism’ can be applied to material goods such as Michael Kors. One way to convey if commodity fetishism applies to this company or any other materialistic object is if the product affects the normal routine of society. Mostly women are driven to have the latest Michael Kors bag or watch. These two items have become fashionable in today’s society. Modern day Marx would say that people are consumed by materialistic things. Such fetishism may not be healthy to individuals and they continue down this path with the intentions to make themselves look and feel better. However, individual who may not afford such luxury of being fashionable or following the latest trend in society. Such individuals may be looked down upon or not accepted. Marx would say that conflicts may arise resulting in a division in society.
I still question why most people are so bewitched into fetishism in today’s society. If only such strong beliefs can be transferred to important matters in society such poverty or abuse.
According to Karl Marx’s theory of Capitalism, the fetishism of commodities came about. Capitalism made people become materialistic. A fetish is an object believed to have supernatural powers, or particularly a man-made object that has powers over others. In other words, a fetish is a commodity. Fetishism is the belief that natural objects have supernatural powers, or that an object created by people has power over the people.
Today, we can see this idea of fetishism very clearly. Commodities basically “take over” our lives. There are always newer versions of products coming out to the public and no one wants to be “left behind”. Everyone saves up money to buy these products. The worse part is that the older version never gets touched again. For example, if you have a pair of Nike sneakers and buy a new pair, you will never look at the old pair again even if it’s still wearable. We see commodities as a way to express who we are, just like the actor in Fight Club said about the furniture he wanted to purchase. For example, we will buy the latest version of the iPhone and purchase a “cute” cover that represents us best. We may buy more memory for the phone to make it perfect.
We can even see the idea of fetishism in music. For example, take a look at the lyrics in Madonna’s ‘Material Girl’:
They can beg and they can plead
But they can’t see the light, that’s right
‘Cause the boy with the cold hard cash
Is always Mister Right, ’cause we are
Living in a material world
And I am a material girl
You know that we are living in a material world
And I am a material girl
Madonna clearly states that she will only date a boy with “cold hard cash” because we will in this material world and she has to buy all of her favorite commodities. For her, the only boy who is “Mister Right” is the one with the cash.