Sociology of Emotions: Emodities in the Market and Political Space

We are living in a world of emodities. Emotions have become commodities. Capitalism has extended our commodity experience. We consume not just the products. We have become cannibalistic. We are consuming ourselves along with the products. Emotion of performativity comes along with consumption. Commodities facilitate the experience of emotion and so emotions are converted into commodities. Commodities produce emotions and emotions lead to further consumption. Emotions ,therefore, produce commodities. This means commodities and emotions co-produce each other. Eva Illouz names them emotion linked commodities as emodities. Emodity brings about a co-production of emotions and commodities as new kind of commodity that puts on the mask of a promotion of self-improvement. This is how our private emotions have found their way in the consumer market and we have the challenge to deal with them. How did we arrive at this point ? We have come to this point through what is being called as gift giving practices where market participates in our gift giving rituals by entering celebrations like Christmas day, mother’ s day or Valentine day. These holidays, therefore, become intensification of personal relationships as well as opening of platforms where the self gets opportunity to conduct a renewal ritual of its membership of the market. Consumption is thus, defined to express specific emotion. This is perhaps why Slavoj Zizek says that ‘ it is not sexuality that has to be liberated. Its love’ in his incisive message on the tweeter.

Consumption and emotions have become closely intertwined. We are seeing that personal life has become a matter of pursuing an emotional life-projects like chasing romantic love, overcoming depression, finding inner peace etc. Emotional fulfilment has become the goal of life. Emotional life-projects have become central to one’s identity. Emotions and consumer acts coincide to make emodities. Emodities are reinforced by moral discourse that centralizes emotional personal self-fulfilment. Besides, emotalization of the workplace, we face emotalization of the nation. Emodities have become political capital and politicians and their parties are milking an emotalized nation. The citizens also derive their pound of flesh especially those that have their lion share in the symbolic exchange. This is why majoritarianism does not appear immoral and care of the minorities begin to look as appeasement. The cultural underpinings of economic or symbolic exchange is generously employed by the market to build capital. Production of emotions have become a major stay of both the market and the political space. While we wish to reach emotional fulfilment through individual consumption, we long for majoritarian emotional fulfilment through enactment of what is uncritically passed off as nationalism and assumed as the highest moral good of the nation.

Karl Marx had neatly separated commodities and the consumers. But with the rise of emodities, we cannot separate commodities and the consumers. They both are intimately related. Later growth of capitalism was not anticipated by Marx. The system of production did not just produced goods to be consumed. It also produced the consumers. As time went, this led to the production of identity of the consumer. The product semiotically marked the status and identity of the consumer. Steadily emotions, commodities and identities came together in the market and the political playground. Thus, emodities are important for what they mean to us and what they semiotically say about us. Today the production system creates emodities that produce economic and political capital for the power elite. This is why it is important to understand this new capitalism. We are consuming emodities as well our very self in the market and the political arena under this new regime of capitalism.

We seem to be living under the commodity-emotion-chain. Following Michel Foucault, we may discern the dispositif under which we as consumers are produced and taught to consume. Not just our consent is manufactured as Noam Chomsky would teach us, we have to agree that it is we who are manufactured today. We have several competing health models or mental health models that have been internalized by us out of fear of loss of physical or mental health. Actually these benchmarks of health are being monitored by us religiously and we are thus produced into self-monitoring health conscious consumers of the health and wellbeing market and we enjoy the health product and feel good about ourselves. Emodities are mediated by our cultural and moral ideals and hence, the market and masters of politics socially engineer to manipulate us by masking our cultural and moral ideals as promoting the good of our individual self as well as that of the collective nation. This is why we need critical thought that would enable us to discern how we are manufactured to consume our own selves while the market and political elite wins. This is why we have the challenge to work to liberate the self that has become a slave of the commodity-emotion-chain. Perhaps, we may have to ask ourself: what kind of life do these emodities offer us? This interrogation may enable us to mark a critical distance between emotions and the commodites. Such a critical distance can enable us to arrive at discernment about real character of emodities and enable us to resist their consumption. The marking of distance is very central to derail the semiotic chain that produces us and our society. It is not easy to resist the commodity-emotion-chain. But our critical ability which has been celebrated by Socrates and Marx will become an important resource to contest the new regime of capitalism. We can reject the self produced for us by the market. We can also refuse to accept the subject position offered by the majoritarian politics. We have the power not to get subjected to the market and manipulations of the political playground. We can live an alternate life and create an alternate society.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao