In examining these writers’ perspectives, this essay considers the concept of taste and demonstrates how it cannot be removed from the concept of the consumer.
In ‘the Fetishism of Commodities and the Secret Thereof’ Karl Marx (2005) explores the concept of stuff from the production angle. In this piece Marx links the process of production to the consumer’s festishization of the product, and therefore their taste for it. Marx is noting that this fetishization of the commodity is not directly related to use – it’s ‘use-value’ – and instead indicates that there exists as sort of mystical character that comes to surround these commodities that increases consumer interest. Marx goes on to attempt to describe this mystical commodity fetishism through a number of penetrating insights, however the foundation of his argument is simply that consumer taste is linked to the means of production of the product.
In further elucidating this connection between commodity production and taste Marx the traditional economic concept of division of labor. His argument is that the production of a commodity requires separate skill sets and subsequently various individuals to produce the object, so upon its production the object is more transcendent than a mere object of utility, but also constitutes a sort of collective element of society. Marx (2005, Web) writes, “It is only by being exchanged that the products of labour acquire, as values, one uniform social status, distinct from their varied forms of existence as objects of utility.” That is, as Marx notes, the social nature of production makes the commodity and the consumer one in the same, so that taste, festishization, etc. constitutes more than one’s preference or need for a commodity, but on a more fundamental level constitutes a means of social relations. What Marx exactly means by this ‘social relations’ is left somewhat ambiguous. He embarks on a