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Journal of Consumer Culture
DOI: 10.1177/1469540505053093
Journal of Consumer Culture 2005; 5; 235
Adam Arvidsson
Brands: A critical perspective
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Downloaded from at University of Leicester Library on May 5, 2010
A critical perspective
英国论文网University of Copenhagen
Abstract. This article proposes a critical perspectives on brands based on recentdevelopments within Marxist thought. It argues that brands build on the immaterial
labour of consumers: their ability to create an ethical surplus (a social bond, a sharedexperience, a common identity) through productive communication. This labour isgenerally free in the sense that it is both un-paid and more or less autonomous.Contemporary brand management consists in a series of techniques by means ofwhich such free labor is managed so that it comes to produce desirable and valuableoutcomes. By thus making productive communication unfold on the plateau ofbrands, the enhanced ability of the contemporary multitude to produce a commonsocial world is exploited as a source of surplus value.
Key words
autonomous Marxism ● brands ● consumption ● critical theory ● multitude
WHEN MARTHA STEWART – THE SUCCESSFUL American lifestyle icon –
appeared to salute her fans following her prison sentence in July 2004, sheurged them to stay faithful to her brand. She stressed how their continued
belief in its values, and their continued commitment to the community thatit embodied, was the only thing that could prevent the shares fromplunging.1 Mrs Stewart’s appeal to her customers to ‘keep believing’ mightseem the natural reaction of any businessperson who sees her reputationsullied. But it also expresses a more profound sociological truth. Today, thevalue of brands like Martha Stewart’s builds only in part on the qualities ofJournal of Consumer CultureCopyright © 2005 SAGE Publications
(London, Thousand Oaks, CA and New Delhi)
Vol 5(2): 235–258 1469-5405 [DOI: 10.1177/1469540505053093]
Downloaded from at University of Leicester Library on May 5, 2010products. To a great extent it is also based on values, commitments and
forms of community sustained by consumers. This way, brands aremechanisms that enable a direct valorization (in the form of share prices,

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