Friday, September 29, 2006

The Fetishised Body of Victoria Beckham

Before you visit A Suit That Fits and purchase one of their excellent suits, pause for a moment and let me inform you about the exact nature of this thing you're about to do. In this age of consumer capitalism, one Marxist concept remains tellingly accurate: the phenomenon of commodity fetishism. Marx distinguished between the 'use value' and the 'exchange value' of a product; the former, he argued, had little to do with the value of a product in the capitalist system; rather, capitalism created its own economy, in which the commodity's ability to be exchanged was the real determinant of its worth. Later Marxists, such as Herbert Marcuse, explored the 'fetishism of commodities' that arose from this system of exchange. Integral to this phenomenon, they said, was the belief that power resided in the product. Purchasing this product meant that power would be bestowed upon the owner.

One may argue that this 'power' is illusory, that by emphasising illusion, consumerism is shallow. But in the context of a society that values this illusion, its power is no longer illusory at all: it becomes the determining means by which some are empowered and others are excluded from power. Victoria Beckham is a case in point. By hiding her face behind Jackie O glasses and stuffing her ritually starved limbs into Rock & Republic jeans, she oozes the essence of consumer power, utilising the fetishism of commodities to bestow her body with a mystical power. Her greatest talent, then, is perhaps the way she adheres so rigidly to these rules; by adorning herself with a surplus of fetishised commodities, leaving us with no doubt as to the artificial, socially constructed nature of their power, her appearance contains a devastating critique of consumer capitalism itself. She is, in fact, a great deconstructionist; and whereas the theorists of old sat writing in their ivory towers, she is on the carpet, posing before the cameras, undermining the very system she upholds.

It's the same with this blog. Like any advertising endeavour, its existence relies on the fetishism of commodities. The belief that the bespoke tailored suit bestows power on its wearer is central to my attempt to get you to buy a suit from A Suit That Fits. The effect the suit produces is different to the mystique of Victoria Beckham. But it's certainly no less seductive, representing wealth, commerce and power. Its authority arises from an all together less mysterious, masculine physicality, which our culture - the City of London - fetishes above all else.

This blog entry was made possible by A Suit That Fits.