[OPE-L:5620] RE: Marx & advertising

Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Mon, 20 Oct 1997 08:41:32 -0400 (EDT)

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Mike L wrote:

> I agree that what appears most
> consistent with Marx's discussion is to look at advertising as a device that
> reduces time of circulation and that insofar as any costs incurred are less
> than the savings from more rapid turnover, the result will be to increase
> the annual surplus value and reduce the total capital advanced.

But, (a question for both Mike and Tony), on the aggregate level can't
advertising expenditures be viewed as unproductive expenditures which
represent a deduction from the mass of surplus value?

> Let me float another idea, however. Once we recognise the distinction
> between a product and a commodity, doesn't that permit us to look at modern
> advertising insofar as it produces a desire for particular use-values (ie.,
> helps make them use-values) as part of the process of producing commodities?
> (After all, the emperor's new clothes were a commodity.)

I'm not exactly sure what you are suggesting, but you seem to be implying
that the production of desire has become a precondition for the production
of (at least some) commodities. This would be a good topic for us to
discuss, in large part because of its contemporary relevance (and, inter
alia, as a critique of consumer sovereignty). For us to discuss the
particular contemporary relationship between consumers and firms, I think
we also have to discuss changes in market structure and competition
-- for example, the way in which advertising and marketing (and
product differentiation) have become essential means through which
rivalry among firms in oligopolistic markets takes place. In looking at
that question, perhaps we should also consider how advertising can lead to
a re-distribution of surplus-value among capitalists and (possibly) a
re-distribution of income among classes.

In solidarity, Jerry