Surplus value is an instructive concept for the study of consumer culture insofar as it provides a way of thinking about the social and economic relations underpinning the production of the commodities consumed. In Karl Marx's analysis of capitalism and class conflict, the creation and retention of surplus value was positioned as the main source of profit and the key mechanism through which the proletariat are exploited by the bourgeoisie. Marx argued that before the emergence of capitalism, exchange took place as a means to an end insofar as a certain level of exchange was necessary to ensure basic levels of human subsistence. By contrast, capitalist production seeks to expand or add value and exchange the commodities produced for a higher value than the inputs ...

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