Fetishism or Ideology? A Contribution to the Political Economy of Television

  • Noam Yuran Tel Aviv University
Keywords: Television, brands, alienated labor, Marx, fetishism, ideology


The dominant approach to the political economy of television argues that television produces "audience commodity" which is sold to advertisers. It situates the economic effects of television in the sphere of subjects and subjectivity. This article presents a different approach, according to which television produces objects. Television advertising produces brands as economic objects possessing qualities that material goods cannot provide. For that purpose, it changes the basis of a critical study of television form ideology, which is primarily an epistemological category, to the ontological category of fetishism. This change entails a shift in the topology of critique of the visual image. Instead of seeing images as inverted representations of reality, in fetishism, according to Marx, things “appear as what they are”. The article argues that broadcast television is the distinctive fetishistic visual medium, in both the Marxian and the psychoanalytic senses of the term.