Commodity fetishism has been used in a lot of perverse ways. I’m digging up some of the more perverse for my lit review. Here are the first few i’ve found:
Chocolate’s fetishism is partially resolved through Fair Trade, which redistributes some of those profits back to the working class and makes the consumer conscious of the worker.The fetishism of chocolate is only partly resolved, however, since the owning class continues to profit from the fetishism of the commodity and from the enhancing status of the “Fair Trade” label. The purchasing of Fair Trade chocolate, you see, provides the consumer with some emotional comfort; it flatters them just as a high end chocolate product flatters buyers who identify themselves as elite. Therefore, there is an increase in the consumer’s cultural capital with the purchase of Fair Trade chocolate. It is still fetishism to the extent that the consumer is purchasing a comforting emotion or an image of themselves saving the world, which is encouraged by advertising campaigns and wrapper designs. However, in an interesting twist, fetishism is used to reverse the effects that it is traditionally guilty of: benefiting the upper-class at the expense of the lower-class.
Scholars have postulated that commodity fetishism represents Marx’s theory of capitalist materiality, but the content of that theory is contested. I offer an archaeology of Marx’s material world in order to understand the development of the concept. During his time in London, Marx wrote and published Capital: A Critique of Political Economy (1867), in which he outlined the concept of commodity fetishism. I demonstrate that he formed his analysis of commodity fetishism from daily practices including shopping, and consuming tobacco, in combination with his research at the British Museum. I take an experiential approach to archaeology that foregrounds Marx living in a world of objects, and posit a relationship between his experiences and his understanding of commodities. In so doing, I show how Marx’s “everyday life” shaped his concept of commodity fetishism, and how this concept could be useful to historical archaeologists.
In the April 2006 “Green” issue of Vanity Fair, the editor, Graydon Carter, declared “Green Is the New Black.” Fashion designers, such as Giorgio Armani, Oscar de la Renta, Stella McCartney, Betsey Johnson, and Todd Oldman are creating ecofashions for the runways, boutiques, mass markets, and especially for celebrities. Current eco-conscious designers create ecofashions far different than the stereotypical images of “eco-dress,” such as rope sandals, tie-dye T-shirt, and hemp cargo pants established in the 1960s and often associated with the Hippie subculture that represented anti-fashion and empowered the wearer visual cues of his/her sociopolitical ideals and values associated with animal and human rights, and environmental issues. As a result, stereotypical eco-dress functioned as a “green” commodity fetish imbued with “magical” value that reflected the eco-conscious lifestyle.
The introduction of current ecofashions challenges these understood stereotypical images and identities, especially among celebrities. Eco-conscious celebrities actively seek out ecofashions that are consistent with their “green” lifestyles while non-verbally communicating their cultivated tastes and styles. Although sharing many of the same eco-conscious ideals, these new ecofashions do not share the same non-verbal communications as those garments worn in previous decades. By donning these “green” or ecofashions celebrities have depoliticized highly charged sociopolitical issues, and as a result, ecofashion communicates only the aesthetic of the wearer. This article unpacks past eco-dress choices by deconstructing how the stereotypical eco-dress functioned as a commodity fetish within Western industrial capitalist society. It also analyzes the changing “magical” meanings and values of the commodity fetishism associated with current ecofashions, giving particular attention to the new non-verbal communications and identities associated with ecofashions.