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COMM 287
Sut Jhally

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? Market 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 system. 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 more things Is this true? Does happiness come from material things? Does more happiness come from more material things? 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 years earlier 25% of the population experiences some of the clinical symptoms of depressions sometime in their life 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 they need 85% of people aspired to be in the top 18% of American households Only 15% would be satisfied with “living a comfortable life” Effect: 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 Protection Bureau 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
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