Regina Lee Blaszczyk and David Suisman's Capitalism and the Senses (U Pennsylvania Press, 2023) is the first edited volume to explore how the forces of capitalism are entangled with everyday sensory experience. If the senses have a history, as Karl Marx wrote, then that history is inseparable from the development of capitalism, which has both taken advantage of the senses and influenced how sensory experience has changed over time.
This pioneering collection shows how seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, and touching have both shaped and been shaped by commercial interests from the turn of the twentieth century to our own time. From the manipulation of taste and texture in the food industry to the careful engineering of the feel of artificial fabrics, capitalist enterprises have worked to commodify the senses in a wide variety of ways. Drawing on history, anthropology, geography, and other fields, the volume’s essays analyze not only where this effort has succeeded but also where the senses have resisted control and the logic of markets. The result is an innovative ensemble that demonstrates how the drive to exploit sensorial experience for profit became a defining feature of capitalist modernity and establishes the senses as an important dimension of the history of capitalism.
Contributors: Nicholas Anderman, Regina Lee Blaszczyk, Jessica P. Clark, Ai Hisano, Lisa Jacobson, Sven Kube, Grace Lees-Maffei, Ingemar Pettersson, David Suisman, Ana María Ulloa, Nicole Welk-Joerger.
Robin Steiner is an economic anthropologist based in Miami, FL. His published work explores economic development, labor and citizenship in Oman and the Arab Gulf. He teaches in the Department of Global and Sociocultural Studies at Florida International University. For more information, visit robinsteiner.net.