and how they vary spatially, utilize the environment, and change the landscape. Cultural geographers are extremely interested in the commodiﬁcation of culture. Slavery commodiﬁcation commodiﬁes human beings, while The conversion of an online dating services commodify object, a concept, or the procedures for meeting and geta procedure once not available for purchase ting to know prospective partners. into a good or service Plasma collection centers and sperm that can be bought banks reﬂect the commodiﬁcation of or sold. bodily ﬂuids. Seeing what’s available consumption on eBay quickly reveals the extent of Broadly deﬁned, commodiﬁcation. the use of goods to Commodiﬁcation is closely assatisfy human needs sociated with consumption. Cultural and desires. geographers note that consumption both inﬂuences and is inﬂuenced by culture. Your cultural background inﬂuences the things that you use, but these items also shape the interactions you have with other people. Commodities affect social relationships. Prenuptial agreements signed by couples before the formal marriage ceremony provide a good illustration of how commodities shape social relationships. Commodities also affect social relationships because they communicate meaning. Think, for example, about the different social messages that your clothing, jewelry, car, house, or apartment send about you. Commodities become symbols of ideas and values. People who share the same cultural background share the same codes for interpreting these symbols and their meanings.
Advertising, Commodiﬁcation, and Cultural Practice Advertising is one of the main forces affecting patterns of consumption locally as well as globally. Simply stated, advertising is designed to inﬂuence consumer behavior, and it does so by the clever manipulation of images, text, symbols, and slogans. In this section we explore some of the connections between geography, advertising, and consumption through developments involving diamonds. This example highlights some of the ways in which commodiﬁcation can shape cultural practices. Do you agree that gems have intrinsic value? Globally there are enough people who do to sustain a lucrative market for them. Among Westerners, diamonds have long been considered the most precious of all gems. The average
amount spent by grooms on a diamond engagement ring now exceeds $3,000, double what they would have paid if they had made their purchase in 1995. If they shop at Tiffany’s, the renowned luxury diamond retailer, they can expect to pay, on average, $10,000 for a diamond engagement ring. But diamonds are not scarce, so how can they command such high prices? The answer is a complicated mix of economics, geography, history, and marketing. Think about the diamond commercials and advertisements you have seen. If you believe that “a diamond is forever,” you have accepted one of the diamond industry’s most familiar and durable advertising slogans, ﬁrst launched in the United States by De Beers in 1947. The diamond industry cultivates the idea that diamonds are associated with everlasting love, will retain their value over time, and are symbols of beauty, preciousness, happiness, and status. Also, diamond marketers have strongly conventionalized—even ritualized—the act of giving a diamond engagement ring. The history of De Beers is instructive in understanding the commodiﬁcation of diamonds. De Beers began as a mining company in the late 19th century in what is now South Africa. The Englishman Cecil Rhodes established De Beers and sought to control the worldwide diamond industry by acquiring the diamond mines in the region. Under the direction of the Oppenheimer family in the 20th century, De Beers established a diamond cartel that cartel Entity controlled the supply of diamonds consisting of individuals and therefore the demand for them. or businesses De Beers solicited contracts that control the with other diamond producers to production or sale of a bring them into the cartel; as a commodity or group of commodities—often result, for the better part of the worldwide. 20th century the company controlled between 66 and 80% of the global supply of rough, unprocessed diamonds. This control gave the company the power to decide when to sell diamonds and also to determine the selling price. Even though diamonds are not scarce and can actually be manufactured, the De Beers cartel succeeded in creating the illusion that diamonds are in short supply by carefully controlling the quantities of diamonds they made available for sale. In the late 1980s and 1990s, a number of events helped to break the De Beers monopoly. New diamond mines opened in Russia and Canada. Russia only participated in the cartel during some years, while Canada did not participate at all. Diamond mining companies in Australia and Angola also remained outside the cartel.
The Commodiﬁcation of Culture
Chapters for Manual High School