Marxism, fashion and unequal exchange - a detailed story from the Youth for International Socialism site

Jurriaan Bendien bendien at
Tue Jul 22 02:42:09 MDT 2003

I have been thinking lately about fashion and aesthetics, you know the
things that remind us about the beauty of life, how life could be and the
joys it offers (as against the downside of life often accentuated in Marxist
discourse, which does not prettify bourgeois society), and I was surfing
about it - I found this story from 2000 which is dated, but I think it bears
thinking about and thought I would post it anyhow. (As regards the Rolling
Stones lyric "Monkey Man" (featuring Nicky Hopkins on piano, and performed
on the Voodoo Lounge Tour 1994-1995) which I posted earlier, it was actually
a 1969 parody of John Lennon's 1968 "Everybody got something to hide 'xcept
me and my monkey", a somewhat clumsy and unsubtle reference to bourgeois
sexual racism and public perceptions of his new relationship with Yoko Ono.
Quite a few Rolling Stones songs parodied Beatles songs, suggesting they
were too tame. Whereas in Beatles compositions the rough edges were usually
shaved off, the released songs being sanitised and airbrushed, and sexual
references balanced with feelings of human sympathy, innocence and
sincerity, in Rolling Stones lyrics the harsher stuff is often accentuated;
innocence and open-mindedness is more often implied as a form of stupidity;
themes of irreverent ridicule, defiant hedonistic contempt, iconoclastic
mocking and self-deprecatory humor are more frequent; while a Jungian
"shadow" often hangs in the background. During a recent "Forty Liks"
performance in France, the Stones encountered some trouble with striking
workers. Meanwhile, there had been an allegation of plagiarism against Bob
Dylan, the suggestion being that he might have derived bits on his "Love &
Theft" album from an obscure Japanese novel).

Fashion Victims - Textile and Clothing Workers Worldwide
By Mick Brooks

March 17, 2000

There's a saying among girls in the slums of Bangladesh: if you're lucky,
you'll be a prostitute - if you're unlucky, you'll be a garment worker. The
fashion industry is big business. It makes a lot of money - but the workers
in the industry don't see much of it. All over the world, textile and
clothing workers are poor. Yet they work hard. They say nobody ever got rich
though hard work. But it's not true. The people who work hard never got rich
through working hard. But the rich got rich by getting other people like us
to work hard for them. That's the way of the world under capitalism.

In 1992 Michael Jordan earned $20 million for endorsing Nike running shoes.
What does that mean? Michael is a famous basketball player in the United
States. He lets them use his photo on their adverts. That doesn't sound too
hard, does it? The Nike brand name - just the brand name on shoes - is
supposed to be worth more than $8 billion. That's why Nike had no problem
breaking the Michael Jordan record by handing Tiger Woods $90 million in a
sponsorship deal this year.

Anyway, Michael got more on his 1992 deal than the entire 30,000 strong work
force in Indonesia who make Nike shoes full time. In that year they banged
out 19 million pairs of sneakers.

Whole story:

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