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Chapter 4

Sociology 2172A/B Chapter Notes - Chapter 4: Totalitarianism, Symbolic Power, Cultural Artifact

Course Code
SOC 2172A/B
Gale Cassidy

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-Constructing the Consumer
-“Consumption and Advertising”
-different forms of media are saturated with advertisements designed as
simple factual statements, sophisticated narrative developments, or
complex symbolic undertones
-moreover, social practices and relationships are interwoven with shopping
and consumption
-Consumption: The Paradoxical Phenomenon
-many of our everyday practices are organized around consumption
buying groceries, leisure activities, shopping, spending for certain
occasions, etc
-to a less visible extent, consumption is also integral to policy making
sales taxes on luxury items, tobacco, alcohol, etc
-consumption is therefore more than style, it broadly includes leisure, arts,
sports activities, and industries
-consumption can be social, cultural, psychological, economic, political, and
historical, depending on which aspect of consumption we address and
how we interpret it
-commodification of the most personal and serious issues:
 ➢ self-esteem
 ➢ emotions
 ➢ values
 ➢ relationships
- All of these things can be commodified, advertised, and sold
-consumption also treated in moral terms- reward for hard work or sign of
-The Marxist Perspective on Production and Consumption

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-taking a Marxist perspective, we start by analyzing consumption from a
structural point of view and in terms of class relations
-Marx saw the inseparable relations between consumption and production at
3 levels:
-“Production is also immediately consumption, consumption is also
immediately production” we consume raw materials in order to produce,
and in consuming we subsequently produce things
-Production and consumption constitute a mediated relation because of their
mutual dependence no matter how production and consumption are
directly identified together, they remain distinctive. Production creates the
material for consumption, as an external object, while consumption
creates the need for production, as an internal object
-Each level of consumption and production completes and creates itself as
the other, and feeds off the other as an expression of supply and demand
- consumption makes production meaningful, and in turn, production
validates and creates the specific manner, use, and stimulus of
-the inseparable connection between consumption and production at three
different levels points out that consumption is not an individual, subjective
behaviour detached from greater socioeconomic structural forces
-consumption for Marx is not about individual tastes, an expression of
individual achievement, or individualism rewarded by material substances
-consumption is far from politically neutral once it is only understood in
relation to production
-consumption perpetuates production, which overrides the use, value,
function, or utility of a product for exchange (monetary) value this
makes a product a commodity, used for the accumulation of capital
-this process in turn alienates the worker from their work and what they
create, and makes their commodifies their labour as another thing to be
bought and sold
-consumption becomes the justifying force behind the need for capitalism to
fulfill the unending need for products
-it also functions as an ideological apparatus that creates a double false

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-the first false consciousness misrecognizes the meanings of
-the second false consciousness is created when consumption appears to
reward the worker’s labour, creates the false consciousness that material
goods can provide satisfaction
-consumption for the worker understood at two levels:
-it is productive consumption that turns labour purchased by capital into the
process of production
-it is individual consumption, an offering to the workers as rewards for their
work. However, individual consumption in turn is converted into means of
subsistence to ensure the continuation of productive consumption for the
-Horkheimer and Adorno follow Marx’s critique on consumption, especially in
its mass media form, as the embodiment of propaganda and ideology in
maintaining industrial capitalist society
-Example: Sweatshops and Consumption
-for those who follow the Marxist tradition, the relations between production
and consumption are fundamentally unchanged despite the expansion of
-sweatshops are the places where many labour-intensive commodities, such
as garments, shoes, electronic gadgets, etc are manufactured
-example: pair of sneakers cost less than $15 (US) to produce, while the
retail price (exchange value) can be $200 (US)
-while some sweatshops are still found in ethnic enclaves in major Western
cities such as New York and Los Angeles, majority are found in less
developed countries where human rights are questionable
-characterizing by extremely harsh treatment, poor working conditions that
threaten health, safety, psychological well-being, extremely low wage,
long working hours, no job security or health care
-average between 10-16 hours of work/day during the peak season of May-
December to meet the Western demand for Christmas shopping
-false consciousness develops from the discrepancy between the money the
workers make producing these products and the empowerment they get
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