The Fetishism of Commodities
A commentary on commodification and the labor obscuring nature of capital.
Commodities are an essential part of capitalist society, and one that cannot be avoided. Commodities satisfy our wants and needs – they have a social use value. Yet most consumers are mostly unaware of the labor involved in creating this value, and the producers of these commodities continue to remain largely invisible. Primarily, this is due to the use of money as the universal equivalent for exchange. Through the use of money, the labor-value of commodities is obscured. This leads people in capitalist societies to then treat commodities as if they had inherent value, rather than value due to the amount of labor spent to produce the product. This abstraction leads to a paradigm shift in the capitalist-laborer relationship, masking the social contributions of private labor to appear as relations between material objects.
For this project, I chose to create a line of products which feature the laborer as decoration. Six gender-neutral items were carefully selected to meet this requirement, and to ensure there was no miscommunication in choosing certain products. Ultimately, the product line consisted of a water bottle, iPhone case, iPad case, headphones, duffel bag, and a sweatshirt.
My intention in doing this is that at first glance, the consumer will see a product with decorations similar in appearance to a product that has been gaudily smeared with the Louis Vuitton or Gucci pattern. This homogeneous mark of luxury and wealth will soon fade as the viewer realizes the content of the pattern and its relation to the product it is printed on. A pattern was assembled from images of Chinese laborers, taken during my time as a product engineer visiting the country. In doing this I intended for the product to be a mirage of luxury: what is perceived as an object of fetish soon reveals its purpose of tying the laborer to the commodity.
shop for commodities here