Chapter 5: Economic Theory, Marxism,
and Material Culture
1 Needs Versus Desires: Traveling Light
and Arriving Heavy
1.1 objects/ possesions
1.1.3 attachment to possessions
2 Marxist Theory & Alienation
2.1 economic & psychological theories
explain the role of capitalism in the
2.2 alienation: a separation or
estrangement of man's true nature
from the sense of self
1. needs are not real but artificially imposed upon people by advertising that tries to convince that buying means happiness
2. people are alienated because the work is external (work = making money to live)
3. objects & artifacts are signifiers of the alienation & estrangement
3 Class Conflict
3.1 classes: bourgeoisie & proletariat
3.2 false consciousness doctrine
3.3 unequal distribution of goods
4 Role of Advertising
4.1 Advertising - the main engine of consumer culture
in capitalist societies. It is a merchandizing tool and
the industry. It gives objects their valuation (Henri
4.2 Immediate goal: to sell artifacts & products. Long-term goal: to turn people's
attention away from exploitation & justify the existence of a capitalist economic
5 Thorsten Veblen and Conspicuous Consumption
5.1 Ultimate goal: an enhanced sense of self; to excel
neighbors to attain heightened self-evaluation.
5.2 Functional analysis - objects' function to
indicate & enhance status
6 Max Weber & Calvinist-Protestant Thought
6.1 worldly Protestant asceticism
6.2 Protestant ethics justifies consumption.
6.3 Divine Providence justifies the unequal distribution of wealth .
7 Georg Simmel on Fashion
7.2 new models of artifacts
7.3 women's fashion consciousness
8 Walter Benjamin & the Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
8.1 the impact of mass production on objects
8.2 aura = authenticity
9 Authenticity & Postmodern Thought
1. Overarching metaphysical systems of belief are not important any more.
2. no boundaries between elite & popular cultures and between original works of art & reproductions/ imitations. Authenticity is not important.
3. Contemporary American culture is postmodern with mixed styles.
10 John Berger on Objects & Adversitising
10.1 Publicity is about social relations, not objects
11 Definitions: artifacts & human
Artifacts - objects showing human workmanship.
Human labor - labor that involves designing, manufacturing, transporting, advertising, and selling objects.