By Martyn J. Lee
Lee brings jointly the discourses of political economic system and cultural experiences in an effort to make clear our social occasions. Lee sees the commodity because the important touchstone in the back of either research of the economic climate and tradition.
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We have an ancient, battered Peugeot, and I drive in it for a week. It rarely breaks, and it gets great mileage. But when I pull up next to a beautiful woman, I am still the geek with the glasses. Then I get back into my Porsche. It roars and tugs to get moving. It accelerates even going uphill at 80. It leadeth trashy women…to make pouting looks at me at stoplights. It makes me feel like a tomcat on the prowl… Nothing else in my life compares—except driving along Sunset at night in the 928, with the sodium vapor lamps reflecting off the wine-red finish, with the air inside reeking of tan glove-leather upholstery and the… Blaupunkt playing the Shirelles so loud it makes my hair vibrate.
Many Marxist commentators have used this central assumption as the basis from which to argue for a new form of society in which production and consumption are reunited and a non-alienated humanity is thus allowed to re-emerge from the repression of capitalist modes of production and consumption. It has been the pioneering work of the French sociologist Jean Baudrillard (1975, 1981, 1988a) that has perhaps done most to overturn this notion. For Baudrillard the idea that use-value embodies a natural relation to need, and therefore manages to evade the realm of political economy, has allowed the concepts use-value, utility and materialism to be unduly privileged over the symbolic and the cultural dimensions of consumption.
The processes of signification are themselves regarded as the originators of social meaning and not mere channels for its transportation or simple utilities facilitating its unaffected emergence into culture. Unfortunately, however, the important recognition that there can exist no form of social meaning from outside of the structuring principles of language, and that language itself cannot be reduced to the status of a simple mirror of reality, has had the effect, in certain moments of ‘high structuralism’, of unduly privileging the medium of expression over the subject.