The Commodification of Abstinence

Justin Kotzé*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
5 Downloads (Pure)


Various modes of ‘resistance’ to capitalism assume one of two broad forms, active or passive. However, capitalism effortlessly assimilates this resistance into its circuitry and thrives precisely because it allows it to take place. This theoretical chapter focuses on the commodification of passive forms of resistance. It claims that periodic gestures of ‘protest abstinence’ become yet another form of micro-rebellion that simply represent a new opportunity for commodification. Various commodities, often produced in exploitative conditions, easily present themselves as suitable replacements for ‘abstained objects’ during difficult periods of abstinence. In an act of pure sociosymbolic interpassivity the new ‘thing’ allows politically passive subjects to imagine themselves as rebellious and virtuous heroes. The replacement is enjoyed just the same as any other consumer experience, but the imaginary resistance it represents does nothing to ameliorate the real harms precipitated by our current social arrangements. Furthermore, its ostensible ‘appearance’ of change only serves to negate real transformation. Accordingly, this chapter makes a case for participation in a gesture of refusal towards becoming absorbed in the latest micro-revolution and stresses the need for an enlightened catastrophism.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCrime, Harm and Consumerism
EditorsSteve Hall, Tereza Kuldova, Mark Horsley
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9780429424472
ISBN (Print)9781032081755, 9781138388628
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jan 2020
Externally publishedYes


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