[-empyre-] Value

Timothy Taylor tdtaylor at ucla.edu
Mon Jun 9 03:22:52 EST 2014

Hi all

Here’s the gist of my thinking of questions of value, labor, and cultural commodities such as music.

Art objects and other cultural commodities are not special types of commodities, as some have written (or assumed). They are commodities like any other, produced for the purpose of exchange in a capitalist market, generating surplus value for capitalists. They differ, however, in their value. This assertion contradicts much of the research on cultural commodities, which holds that they in fact are different from other commodities, and that the labor that produces them is a special type of labor (called “immaterial” by some, “creative” by others, and affective by still others). David Graeber’s work on value, which draws on the two main historical approaches (from Marx and Marcel Mauss, usually thought to be in opposition) has been useful in attempting to characterize value in today’s neoliberal capitalism, in which the value of cultural commodities must be evaluated not only in terms of use-value and exchange-value (and Maussian gift-exchange), but value as measured by people’s action, which can be measured in terms of traffic on social media. Streaming audio services build in ways to create and share playlists, and follow others’ tastes. Billboard magazine, which has maintained charts on best-selling recordings since the mid-1930s, introduced in 2010 a new chart called “The Social 50,” which tracks the buzz of various artists and recordings on social media, a development that registers how important this form of value has become.




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