Commodity Fetishism and Its Impact on Contemporary Society and Culture

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What is commodity fetishism as defined by cultural and media theorists? Identify and analyse three images that demonstrate the way commodity fetishism is impacting on contemporary society and culture.

“Commodities are defined as things that are bought and sold in a social system of exchange.” (Sturken & Cartwright, 2009, p. 279 )”The concept of commodity culture is intricately allied with the idea that we construct our identities through the consumer products that inhabit our lives” (Sturken & Cartwright 2009, p. 279) The idea of a commodity culture has been described by media theorist Stuart Ewen as a commodity self. He believes that we are constructed through our relationship with and use of commodities in our everyday lives. Karl Marx
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Not only does it allow the development of a broader social context of devaluing labour, making it hard for workers to take pride in their work but it also allows consumers to remain ignorant of working conditions.” (Sturken & Cartwright 2009, p. 280) This image is an example of commodity fetishism because it is “essentially a process of mystification that not only empties commodities of the meaning of their production but also fills them with new, appealing meaning.” (Sturken & Cartwright 2009, p. 279) The process of making something seem more appealing is used to promote and sell the product. Consumers purchase Calvin Klein jeans because they are a designer label and are promoted as being fashionable and worn by celebrities. Consumers are not purchasing the Calvin Klein jeans because they were mass produced in a different country or because of the people who produced them. This example relates back to the Frankfurt school theory that “commodities are hollowed out objects that propagated a loss of identity and erode our sense of history.” (Kaplan 2006, p. 105)
Image two is the front cover of a book. It shows chocolate and has been chosen as an example of commodity fetishism. Chocolate is associated with desire and is a form of pleasure in people’s lives. Chocolate is also a popular gift to give loved ones for birthdays and special occasions. Chocolate is a symbol of love and comes in many shapes and forms which can suit a variety of occasions. It is
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