Authentic TM: the politics of ambivalence in a brand culture by Sarah Banet-Weiser

By Sarah Banet-Weiser

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Indeed, this “appetite” has certainly been whetted; a more contempo rary manifestation of “voyeurtainment” occurred in the fall of 2008, when a twenty-two-year old American woman named Natalie Dylan attempted to sell her virginity on the online auction site eBay. According to a press release, Dylan hoped that selling her virginity on the immensely popular website would help pay for graduate school; she has a bachelor’s degree in women’s studies and expected to fund her master’s degree program with the profit made from this unique auctioning.

The neoliberal digital economy privileges forms of labor that are not generally recognized as labor by a more con ventional capitalist exchange system, such as affective relationships, emo tion, and brand 60 experiences. This kind of “immaterial labor:’ as I argued in chapter i, not only involves new characteristics of production, such as digital technologies and flexibility but also “involves a series of activities that are not normally recognized as ‘work’—in other words, the kinds of activities 72 II BRANDING THE POSTFEMINIST SELF involved in defining and fixing cultural and artistic standards, fashions, tastes, consumer norms, and more strategically, public opinion:’ ’ As a result, 6 the relationship between labor, products, and capitalism has a new dynamic, so that affect, attention, and culture itself are available as part of capitalist 62 Because labor is now understood as flexible, ephemeral, and con exchange.

With these affective practices, the successful brand becomes more diffuse, more permeable, and therefore more wide-reaching in the influence it can have on each consumer, and the way each consumer, in turn, can influence it. These shifting dynamics between tangible and intangible products and labor practices point to the dynamism of the concept of the product itself. The product has not disappeared from this affective, experiential landscape but has expanded to encompass a range of new phenomena that are char acteristic of the contemporary US political economy—affect, emotion, the self.

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