chapter  5
18 Pages

Luxury brands in the wrong hands

Of Harleys, harm, and sovereignty
WithTereza Kuldova

This chapter invites the readers into the world of outlaw motorcycle clubs, such as the notorious Hells Angels MC, in order to think through the relation between class, capitalism, exploitation, harm, and luxury consumer objects. It not only looks at the perspectival illusion at the core of luxury, at luxury as a manifestation of the ‘filthy sacred’ which by its own nature depends on harm that is sublimated, but also shows that luxury goods are sold today as a form of commodified sovereignty – a profoundly unsatisfying substitute for real experiences and moments of sovereignty that always leave one wanting more, in line with the logic of consumerism. The case of the evolution of the outlaw motorcycle subculture in the post-war period nicely illustrates the transition from real sovereignty to commodified sovereignty, and the ways in which branding has fundamentally transformed the subculture, enabling the rise of a transnational criminal enterprise and its manifold harms at the same time as preserving at least something sacred, inalienable, and uncommodifiable in a world obsessed with consumer goods.