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Spectacular Productions: Community and Commodity in the Beijing Olympics

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Abstract

This article examines how Chinese intellectuals experienced the 2008 Beijing Olympics, arguing that the games were a key site for the construction and analysis of two forms of spectacle—the commodity spectacle and the collective spectacle. Considering the case studies of Olympic architecture and traditional Chinese products (laozihao), it suggests that “culture,” debated and defined within the context of the Olympics, emerged as a mechanism through which the commodity spectacle was, albeit perhaps paradoxically, used to produce moments of national collectivity for intellectuals in contemporary China. This research also suggests that although this collective form represents a classic Marxist commodity fetish, labeling the resultant form of that community “inauthentic” because of its commodity nature, represents a theoretical fetishization of the theory of the spectacle itself.

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