[Marxism] Fwd: The Political Economy of Fashion » CounterPunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Apr 24 09:20:30 MDT 2015

Perhaps there is no better example of Karl Marx’s “fetishism of 
commodities” than the clothes we buy. Since “Capital” refers almost 
continuously to the textile industry that was the lynchpin of the 
burgeoning capitalist system, this makes perfect sense. As Sven Beckert, 
the author of the highly acclaimed “Empire of Cotton”, put it in a 
Chronicle of Higher Education article in December, 2014, the raw 
material and the manufacturing system it fed were midwives to a global 
system that continues to punish the workers who remain its captives:

	Just as cotton, and with it slavery, became key to the U.S. economy, it 
also moved to the center of the world economy and its most consequential 
transformations: the creation of a globally interconnected economy, the 
Industrial Revolution, the rapid spread of capitalist social relations 
in many parts of the world, and the Great Divergence—the moment when a 
few parts of the world became quite suddenly much richer than every 
other part. The humble fiber, transformed into yarn and cloth, stood at 
the center of the emergence of the industrial capitalism that is so 
familiar to us today. Our modern world originates in the cotton 
factories, cotton ports, and cotton plantations of the 18th and 19th 

Not very much has changed since Karl Marx wrote about the textile 
industry except the geography. In the 1840s it was the factories of 
Birmingham, England and the cotton plantations of the slave states that 
were connected. Today it is China and India that are the largest 
producers of cotton, while the textile mills are no longer in the 
countries that were in the vanguard of capitalist development. They have 
relocated to places like Cambodia and Bangladesh, the places that 
director Andrew Morgan visited in the course of making “The True Cost”, 
a documentary that opens on May 30 (see http://truecostmovie.com/ for 
screening information).


More information about the Marxism mailing list