Sunday, December 8, 2013

Commodification, Finance Capital, and Consumerism

Considering that globalization is basically the expansion of capitalism from a state constrained capital accumulation process to an intricate global network of consolidating international capitalist accumulation and consolidation, globalization does not impact capital trade, commodification, and consumerism.  It is the expansion of capitalism that creates and expands commodification, including the commodification of technologies accredited to globalization, and the expansion of capital trade made fluent by IMF international currency exchange rates that actually define the character of globalization.  Therefore, globalization does not have implications on trade, because it is capitalist trade that has implications on globalization as the most basic pillar of the international system of globalization.

Capitalism is not a new system of accumulation and has been evolved multiple times throughout history due to the development and commodification of technological advancements and trade.  Capital generation once was mainly acquired “through trade in agricultural and mining output as well as in certain luxury goods like furs and spices” (Scholte, 112) during the early era of colonial imperialism and evolved after the Industrial Revolution as “commodities expanded to include manufactures from large-scale factory production” (Scholte, 113) and tactics of enhanced labor division in mass manufacturing.  The system of Capitalism continued to expand with each technological wave, not only in scope of supraterritoriality….but in methods of capital accumulation as “from the late nineteenth century onwards, commercial and industrial capital were supplemented with finance capital” (Scholte, 113).  Finance capital is especially noteworthy of attention because of the commodification of capital itself, as “global banking, global securities and global derivatives business have hugely increased both the volume and the variety of financial instruments that serve not so much as facilitators of other kinds of production, but as channels of accumulation in their own right” (Scholte, 113).  When capital becomes a commodity, it is “not only to further capitalist production in other sectors (agriculture, manufacture, etc.), but also as a means of accumulation in their own right (Scholte, 116).

While there is no question that capitalism, especially in its current international format and the various history affiliated with the accumulation and consolidation of capital still in existence, is exploitive in nature, the trend of consumerism and the mass produced promotion to glamorize such a culture of consumerism by capitalists utilizing technological commodities such as television, satellite, internet, and smart phones, technically falls on the shoulders of the people in consumer states.  Advertising is a major component in the development of a consumer state, such as the U.S., as “advertising has over the past century, and especially during recent decades, become a crucial adjunct to much capitalist enterprise” (Scholte, 114). An example of the recent advertising increase can be seen in the following statement: “World expenditure on product promotion burgeoned from $7.4 billion in 1950 to $312.3 billion in 1993” (Scholte, 114).  Consumerism is an unhealthy state trend “where people frenetically acquire (and usually fairly quickly discard) a variety of goods that provide the user with some kind of instant but ephemeral gratification” (Scholte, 113) and “transient desires, especially cravings for novelty, entertainment, fantasy, fashion and pleasure” (Scholte, 113).

Everything that capitalism touches becomes commoditized, and yet private sector capital actors still strive to extend maximized capital profiting by manufacturing in so-called lesser developed countries in order to avoid tariffs or taxation (depending on different variables such as regional trade agreements, etc.) in selling to the citizens of consumer states, like the United States.  Two areas of note, if not concern, are off shore manufacturing zones for private sector corporations and private sector multi-national corporations.  These off shore “sites also entice capital with low costs, limited regulation, and statutory guarantees of confidentiality” that “provide `tax efficiency' and `discretion'” (Sholte, 124).  Multi-Nationals Corporations (MNCs) also maximize profits to consumer states by “establishing affiliates in two or more countries or by forging strategic alliances with enterprises based in other countries” (Scholte, 125).  In the case of the most economically heavy private sector conglomerate entities, international manufacturing is spread throughout many various states depending on wage requirements, taxation, and tariffs.  The example provided in the Scholte text is: “as of the mid-1990s the Unilever corporation encompassed more than 500 subsidiaries in over 90 countries, and the mass media conglomerate Bertelsmann covered more than 600 affiliates in 53 countries. In the realm of strategic alliances, the WorldPartners Association, formed in 1993, has linked 19 telecommunications carriers in operations across over 35 countries. The advertising firms FCB and Publicis have since 1988 developed collaboration between their several hundred offices in over 70 countries” Scholte, 125).  Many MNCs within globalization are products of “mergers and acquisitions” caused by the capital consolidation process…..the recirculating capital still wet with blood from the transatlantic slave trade and colonialism.

Generating capital from the trade of commodities is the basis of capitalism, and capitalism is an expanding and consolidating organism that “has brought substantially increased concentration to many areas of production” (Scholte, 129) and trade.

Scholte, Jan. 2000. Globalization: a Critical Introduction. London, England: MacMillan.



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