The 's Theory Of Political Economy

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Originally coined by Bernhard London (1932) in the context of the Great Depression, up to this date there is no generally accepted definition of planned obsolescence. According to a common definition by Tim Cooper, planned obsolescence is “the outcome of a deliberate decision by suppliers that a product should no longer be functional or desirable after a predetermined period” (Cooper, 2010, p. 4). Another frequently cited definition was formulated by industrial designer Brooks Stevens: “Instilling in the buyer the desire to own something a little newer, a little better, a little sooner than is necessary” (cit. in Adamson, 2003, p. 4). Whereas the former definition emphasises the planning involved in designing products, the latter foregrounds the manipulation of consumer desires and implicitly argues that these desires have become detached from 'actual ' human needs. What is frequently overlooked, however, is the inherent critique of capitalism in the narrative of planned obsolescence and how strongly it builds upon Marx 's theory of political economy.1 Marx was already well aware of the fact that even perfectly functioning goods can lose their value and become obsolete, a phenomenon he termed “moral depreciation” (1992, p. 264). To Marx, the reason for this lies in the capitalist logic of accumulation, which forces manufacturers to constantly innovate and modernise their means of production. The higher production capacity resulting from this, however, can only be maintained
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