Comm Exam 4 Lecture Notes
The Hidden Abode of Production
Globalization: Social, Cultural, Political, Economic
Our relationship with Commodities/Thing, The modern marketplace is Global
The question is: How do we UNDERSTAND our participation in the world?
Does NOT knowing how goods get to the marketplace make a DIFFERENCE?
Would KNOWING how goods got to the marketplace make a DIFFERENCE in the MEANING
that we give to our interaction with commodities?
Part of the most important information about a product that we need to know is:
How was it made? By whom? Under what conditions?
Marcel Mauss- analysis of Maori gift-giving
Goods were made up of the Life-Force of the producer
The exchange of the things was literally an exchange of persons
Process of Objectification (a persons labor/activity is a part of things_
Things come to Resonate with social relations – eg. The Sentimental gift
Embedded in goods are the social relations of their production
Products are both concrete and ABSTRACT
If we can DECODE the information stored in them we will be able to understand the entire
However, in the system of global capitalism, this REAL meaning is HIDDEN or MASKED
There is a RUPTURE between the way things APPEAR and their REAL meaning
Cotton, Coffee, Carpets, Tombstones, Cell Phones,
1. The meaning of production is EMPTIED out
2. Advertising then FILLS the commodity with meaning Production produces commodities as SIGNIFIERS
Advertising and the marketplace converts them into SIGNS
Hidden Abode of Production: Low wages, exploitative conditions, anti unions, harassment,
hazardous conditions, and environmental damage.
The Paradox of Affluence
Power of advertising is cultural
Culture is the place where a society tells stories about itself
Culture is where the central values of s society are articulated
What are the central stories that advertising as a system spins for the society?
1. Stories about happiness: products and consumption will make us happy
In fact, people are encouraged to have a deep intimate and emotional relationship with things
If happiness comes from products then more happiness will come from even more products
Even political freedom is connected to the spread of the market and more access to the
“immense collection of commodities”
Advertising is the major expression of this story that equates happiness with things and with
Is this true? Does happiness come from material things? Does more happiness come from more
Are we, as a society: – more happy – the same –less happy , than 50 years ago?
Richard Easterlin: is there a positive relationship between income and subjective happiness
1. Within a country. 2. Between countries. 3. Over time in a single country
1. Within a country: YES, there is a positive relationship between wealth and happiness
The wealthier you are the more likely you are to report yourself as very happy.
2. Between countries: NO richer countries are not happier than poorer ones
3. Over time in a single country: has the US become happier as it becomes richer?
NO the level of happiness has not gotten higher over time
Rise in incidence of DEPRESSION People born after 1945 are 10 times more likely to suffer from depression than those born 50
25% of the population experiences some of the clinical symptoms of depressions sometime in
48% of population has suffered from depression severe enough to inhibit functioning for 2
weeks of more
The Limits of Satisfaction
Happiness is a RELATIVE state: status is dependent upon COMPARING yourself to what others
have in society at the PRESENT time
Happiness is a RELATIVE state: Fred Hirsch, Social Limits to Growth
Positional Goods: Scarce, Expensive, Satisfaction comes from the context of their use
There has been a significant change in the reference group that people compare themselves to:
Not the next group up, but the RICHEST 20% of the population
27% of households making over $100,000 say they cant afford to but everything they need
39% of household making between $50,000-$100,000 say they cant afford to but everything
85% of people aspired to be in the top 18% of American households
Only 15% would be satisfied with “living a comfortable life”
a) Rise in household debt: largest increase among the middle class (50,000-100,000)
63% in credit card debt, debt service is 18% of disposable income
Bankruptcy Reform Act 2005- made it much harder to declare bankruptcy
The banks pushed hard for the bill, did not want to give desperate people a way out
Elizbeth Warren, Professor of Business at Harvard, Created the new Consumer Financial
The more of a risk you are the more money the banks will make from you
They can charge higher interest rates and they will make money from late fees
Changes in the MINIMUM MONTHLY PAYMENT
Used to be 5% of balance now is 2% Means that if you make minimum payments then it will take you a long time to pay off your
balances (Multiple decades)
For example: $1000 at 20% interest
Minimum payment @2% = $20 a mont