This article reads three recent documentary films as commodity biographies in which the story of a commodity’s production functions less as defetishizing knowledge than as a new object of consumerist desire; such narratives tend to leave untouched the relations of inequality obscured by the commodity form. As an attempt to transform complicitous consumption into ethical consumerism, an emergent discourse of postconsumerism privileges commodities that dare tell their stories. Postconsumerism offers the promise of helping the poor or saving the planet by buying things; it marks the moment when the self-consciousness about consumption and its external costs that shadows the entire history of capitalism becomes an ethos in itself.
Jennifer Wenzel; Consumption for the Common Good? Commodity Biography Film in an Age of Postconsumerism. Public Culture 1 September 2011; 23 (3 (65)): 573–602. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/08992363-1336426
Download citation file: