In this age of commercialization and branding, it does appear as though Marx’s theory of commodity fetish holds true. People do save up in order to buy a certain brand of shoes, handbags, and clothing when there are similar products by not so well known brands because we believe it helps us fit in with a group of friends, or makes us feel good about our financial ability. However, I would like to dwell more along the lines of how the material forms shape social relations, given the premise that we confer social power to commodities.
First of all, the issue of branding and class: there appears to be an implicit relationship that if I am able to afford a certain brand, say a Coach handbag, I belong to a higher social class than another person who has a handbag of no particular brand. Is this really true for our society today? How does the “exclusiveness” of my possessions portray my social status? In my opinion, while material forms do play a part in shaping social relations, the mass manufacturing of goods that diminishes the exclusivity of a product causes the lines between branding and class to be blurred. From an economic point of view, companies want to make profit – that’s how they survive in the market. Hence, it would make economic sense for them to sell last season’s collection at a lower price rather than store it in a warehouse. This is why we have year-end sales or factory outlet stores; but does the value of the product change depending on when or where it is bought? Apparently not, since it is the brand that is of value and shapes social relations. In this particular scenario, it seems as though the material is no longer able to shape class and hence social relations distinctly. Secondly, for the premise that material forms shape social relations, there is an implicit statement that requires all individuals of the community to understand the value of the material form in order for it to be places in a suitable social context. I would then like to question the validness of this implicit value judgment: can the understanding of the value of the material good be homogeneous across the entire society? If a person places a different value on a good, does this mean that his idea of societal relationship is flawed? Is he then, even part of this society?