Chapter 5: Economic Theory, Marxism, and Material Culture

Tetyana Zhyvotovska
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Tetyana Zhyvotovska
Created by Tetyana Zhyvotovska over 3 years ago


Chapter 5

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Chapter 5: Economic Theory, Marxism, and Material Culture
1 Needs Versus Desires: Traveling Light and Arriving Heavy
1.1 objects/ possesions
1.1.1 brand
1.1.2 shopping
1.1.3 attachment to possessions
2 Marxist Theory & Alienation
2.1 economic & psychological theories explain the role of capitalism in the modern world
2.2 alienation: a separation or estrangement of man's true nature from the sense of self
2.3 Tenets


  • 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 Lefebvre)
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 system.
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
7.1 clothing
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
9.1 Tenets


  • 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 labor


  • Artifacts - objects showing human workmanship. Human labor - labor that involves designing, manufacturing, transporting, advertising, and selling objects.
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