The first question I have is a little more obvious, but I would like to have more in-depth explanations/resources for the second. These questions are based on an argument I had.
My reasoning is that no, they do not give products more value. Useful labor gives value, whereas advertisements are both (a.) basically useless and (b.) not related to the production of the commodity. The person I was arguing with talked about how diamonds are useless, and they were artificially given demand by both ‘limited’ supply and vigorous advertisement campaigns. I replied that price gauging/differentiating exchange values does not mean an increase in use value/actual value, and the consumers were purely getting ripped off. The other person then said that advertisements, in fact, contributed to the inherent value of a product (somehow?) by making the consumer enjoy the commodity more. To me, even if advertisers were to produce use value, it would be in advertisements, not the commodities themselves. Given all of this do sales-people and advertisers fit the description to be part of the labor aristocracy?
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" Do advertisers give the products they advertise value?
My reasoning is that no, they do not give products more value. Useful labor gives value, whereas advertisements are both (a.) basically useless and (b.) not related to the production of the commodity. "
That’s exactly right.
“The person I was arguing with talked about how diamonds are useless, and they were artificially given demand by both ‘limited’ supply and vigorous advertisement campaigns. I replied that price gauging/differentiating exchange values does not mean an increase in use value/actual value,”
This is exactly what I would say.
“The other person then said that advertisements, in fact, contributed to the inherent value of a product (somehow?) by making the consumer enjoy the commodity more”
Value is not evaluated by enjoyment, if that were the case sex workers would be billionaires.
Yes they can be labor aristocrats. Labor aristocracy occurs when one’s job is valued (subjective) by the relative capitalist economic conditions above most jobs and crosses the threshold of real wages to extracted surplus value, making said worker being able to thrive under capitalism. Basically, worker gets paid to the extend their job allows growth and alleviates poverty, they are labor aristocrats, now they are benefiting from the capitalist system. The more this is true, the more aristocratic they are, and the closer their interests are tied to that of the bourgeoisie’.
Advertisers produce corporate propaganda, which induces brain corrupting mind control. Similar to war, it not only has zero labor value, but also reduces the peoples’ ability to create value.
Artists always produce value. If no one wants their art, they still contributed to their own ability to make art, which has full value.
I’d actually disagree. Yes, technically you can produce the physical good without advertisement. But what makes a good a commodity is that it is produced to be sold. How can you sell without advertising? You can’t. From the small traders on farmers markets to big corporations, you have to advertise what you’re selling if you want to sell. Therefore advertisement in fact is necessary to the production of a commodity, it is not necessary for the production of goods though. The labour expended for advertising, I’d say both adds to the value of the commodity being advertised and the value of the commodity advertisement itself. As such advertisement isn’t just not useless, but actually quite essential.
I think it’s important here to make the distinction between use-value, utility and usefulness. Use-value is a much more technical and scientific term than the way that person was using. To quote Marx:
“Use-value as an aspect of the commodity coincides with the physical palpable existence of the commodity. Wheat, for example, is a distinct use-value differing from the use-values of cotton, glass, paper, etc. A use-value has value only in use, and is realized only in the process of consumption. One and the same use-value can be used in various ways. But the extent of its possible application is limited by its existence as an object with distinct properties. It is, moreover, determined not only qualitatively but also quantitatively. Different use-values have different measures appropriate to their physical characteristics; for example, a bushel of wheat, a quire of paper, a yard of linen. Whatever its social form may be, wealth always consists of use-values, which in the first instance are not affected by this form.”
Use-value isn’t really “how much do I like this”. Diamonds eg definitely do have use-values. As industrial material for one, but even their use as social signifiers of love, as asset, etc. That use-value doesn’t decrease, because I personally can’t use it to saw a piece of wood or something tangible like that.
“For instance, let us take as a use-value a commodity such as a diamond. We cannot tell by looking at it that the diamond is a commodity. Where it serves as an aesthetic or mechanical use-value, on the neck of a courtesan or in the hand of a glass-cutter, it is a diamond and not a commodity. To be a use-value is evidently a necessary prerequisite of the commodity, but it is immaterial to the use-value whether it is a commodity. Use-value as such, since it is independent of the determinate economic form, lies outside the sphere of investigation of political economy.” Same passage by Marx
Honestly, I’d avoid discussions around use-value with people like the one you were talking to. In my experience you don’t ever really get to anything, because you mostly just end up discussing semantics and terminology.
Is a 14 year old waving a Pizzahut cardboard ad on a busy intersection part of the labour aristocracy? Is a fisherman advertising his catch on a seafood market? A carpenter on the bazaar? Why should we even make such a broad categorization?
Art is subjective whether is has use value or not (though as a commodity, which it mostly is in capitalism, it definitely does). Someone’s individual perception or evaluation of any individual piece of art isn’t really what the LTV is discussing, it’s concerned with much more objective and broader trends in production and exchange. A painting definitely has the use-value of people being able to hang it on their walls as decoration. Whether I think that’s important or which piece of art is most fitting for that purpose - how useful it is to me - is a different question.
Discussions around value in this context are always a bit difficult though, because value is such an everyday term and is used in all kinds of ways, with all kinds of connotations and on top of that often interchangeably with “price”, “usefulness”, etc which muddies theoretical discussions about it. If we’re talking in Marxist terms, we should always remember this language is incredibly technical and is trying to be scientific. Individual preferences and subjective evaluations aren’t that important to political economy.
🏆 Great comment, loaded to the brim with value!
Thanks for some further consideration! However, I do have a few things to say…
You do have a wonderful point about advertisements being necessary for commodity production. However, it almost feels as if I were to delve into philosophical idealism when agreeing to the idea of continuously more distant labor that creates value for an increasingly abstract commodity.
I would be reluctant to agree that advertisers bring value to commodities they make advertisements about. It seems more as if advertisements are commodities themselves that have their use-values realized when viewing said advertisement, and the ability to advertise is exchanged by host websites, radio waves, television, or even not viewing ads with a premium on websites.
Yeah, unfortunately, I am arguing with a relative of mine(who is not Marxist but knows I am), and I have foolishly used many Marxist terms with either no or poor elaboration. They have even unironically told me, “We need more diverse oppressors!!!”
We shouldn’t. I have had poor experiences with people working in advertising, so that’s coming out a little bit, I suppose… It’s certainly a stretch to even consider categorizing all advertisers in the labor aristocracy.
But anyway, I pretty much agree with most of what you have said. Great analysis!
This is an interesting point. I’ve never attempted to analyze advertising in this manner before. Analyzing adverts it as a tool (even if tailor made for an application, and regardless of its likeliness to become either irrelevant, or less relevant upon the transition to a more advanced mode of production), seems as though it could be very useful.