Chapter 7: Consumer Capitalism and Brand Fetishism: The Case of Fashion Brands in Bulgaria
Ulrich Ermann INTRODUCTION In her bestseller No Logo, Naomi Klein (2000) described a new mode of capitalist economy, in which consumption plays a fundamental role. Brands are seen as the central element of such ‘consumer capitalism’. This term has been used in popular criticism of globalization and capitalism, and also in academic publications, since the 1990s, for example in Lash and Urry’s Economies of Signs and Space (1994: 2). But what is new about this new capitalism? Klein says that the management motto ‘Brands, not products!’ has caused radical changes in the economy. She cites Phil Knight, the former CEO of Nike: For years we thought of ourselves as a production-oriented company, meaning we put all our emphasis on designing and manufacturing the product. We’ve come around to saying that Nike is a marketing-oriented company, and the product is our most important marketing tool. (Klein 2000: 44) The main function of brands is no longer to protect from imitation by marking origin, but to invent and render identities and lifestyles. Brands reflect an economy of signs, in which ‘the greater part of consumption is the consumption of signs’ (Slater 1987: 157) and consumption ‘must not be understood as the consumption of use-values, as material utility, but primarily as the consumption of signs’ (Featherstone 2007 : 83). However, the new mode of consumer capitalism dated by Klein to the early 1990s is seen much more in the reflexivity of consumer–producer relations, as Nigel Thrift (1997) stresses with the notions...
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