chapter  7
Producing Consumerism: Commodities, Ideologies, Practices
Pages 19

Marx has recently undergone a major revaluation. Dismissed as obsolete by the fall of the Berlin Wall, he is now seen as a thoroughly contemporary fi gure. His face has appeared in some surprising contexts. Customers of the Sparkasse bank in the former East German town of Chemnitz selected his image for a new issue of MasterCard (Jeff ries 2012, 7). Given that the fi nancial crash of 2008 was partly caused by the overextension of consumer credit, this is not without its ironies. But among critical commentators and activists it is Marx’s insistence that the dynamics of capitalism are both global in scope and subject to endemic crises that has reignited interest. As Francis Wheen notes: “Marx may only now be emerging in his true signifi cance [and] could yet become the most infl uential thinker of the twenty fi rst century” (2006, 121). I want to support this claim and argue that a properly critical analysis of the cultural landscape of present-day capitalism must begin by engaging with Marx across the whole range of his writings. This is not to argue that he provides defi nitive answers to present problems. To look for certainties is to ignore the unfi nished and provisional nature of his work. Rather he off ers us essential starting points and resources that we can mobilise and build on. One of these departure points is his analysis of the social life of commodities and the culture of consumption that surrounds them.