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The Refrigerator And Marx's Theory Of Commodification And Alienation

2131 words - 9 pages

Refrigeration and freezing are two of the most common forms of food preservation used today. Virtually, in the kitchen of every home of the developed world, there is a refrigerator of one kind or another. This technological invention has become an irreplaceable and indispensable part of our life, which we take for granted.In this essay I will focus on the fridge freezer within its social and economic environment based on Karl Marx's theory of Commodification and Alienation. I will examine the refrigerator as a commodity, its relationship to production and exchange of commodity, to consumption and the way we 'reproduce' our life. According to Marx, a production process of any kind and the distribution of a product are determined by social relations and forces of production (produktivekrafte). The dominant social relation in the capitalist world is based on class, but Marxists have expanded that to include race and gender. The forces of production, as seen by Marx, are those material and human means through which a society reproduces itself materially.Is the fridge freezer a commodity? 'In Karl Marx's critique of Political economy, a commodity is simply any' useful 'good or service offered as a product for sale on the market' (reference.com). As every one knows fridge freezers are mass-produced appliances for domestic and commercial use, sold world wide and which people can buy, whenever required. They are very useful because people can store, freeze, prepare and preserve fresh food for long period of time, like never before. The main function of the refrigerator was to help improve the health standards as the low temperatures inside slows down the activity of bacteria. For example, bacteria will spoil milk in 2 - 3 hours if left out at room temperatures. However by reducing the temperature of the milk, it will stay fresh for up to 2 weeks. All of the above defines the fridge freezer as a commodity.The refrigerator, as most of the other technological inventions, is presented and perceived as a time and labour saving device, which makes peoples life easer and frees them up for other leisure activities of their liking. On one hand, because it releases people from every day shopping for fresh food and in many cases from daily cooking. On the other hand, because it means people don't have to spend time pickling and preserving food, when they can just freeze it.Today, peoples' "saved" time and labour are organised to suit their work.Prior to refrigeration growing and preserving food played a very important role and peoples' life was organised around it. This is the time of non-alienated labour, which Marx describes as an immediate producer's enjoyment of production as a confirmation of his or her powers. Also 'the production is to meet the needs of others, thus confirming for both parties our human essence as mutual dependence'(Jonathan Wolff, Why read Marx today?). With the term 'non-alienation' Marx refers to the time in the past before the actual...

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