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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Within a capitalist economic system, commodification is the transformation of goods, services, ideas, nature, personal information or people[1][2][3] into commodities or objects of trade. A commodity at its most basic, according to Arjun Appadurai, is "anything intended for exchange," or any object of economic value.[4]

Commodification is often criticised on the grounds that some things ought not to be treated as commodities—for example water, education, data, information, knowledge, human life, and animal life.[5][6] Human commodity is a term used in case of human organ trade, paid surrogacy also known as commodification of the womb, and human trafficking.[1][2][7] Slave trade as a form of human trafficking is a form of the commodification of people. According to Gøsta Esping-Andersen people are commodified or 'turned into objects' when selling their labour on the market to an employer.[8]


The earliest use of the word commodification in English attested in the Oxford English Dictionary dates from 1975.[9] Use of the concept of commodification became common with the rise of critical discourse analysis in semiotics.[10]

The terms commodification and commoditization are sometimes used synonymously,[11] particularly in the sense of this article, to describe the process of making commodities out of anything that was not used to be available for trade previously; compare anthropology usage.[12][13]

However, other authors distinguish them (as done in this article), with commodification used in social contexts to mean that a non-commercial good has become commercial, typically with connotations of "corrupted by commerce", while commoditization is used in business contexts to mean when the market for an existing product has become a commodity market, where products are interchangeable and there is heavy price competition. In a quip: "Microprocessors are commoditized. Love is commodified."[14]

Business and economics

In some places, like rivers and seas, water is free. In others, it is a commodity that is being bottled and sold.
In some places, like rivers and seas, water is free. In others, it is a commodity that is being bottled and sold.

The word commodification, which describes assignment of economic value to something not previously considered in economic terms, is sometimes also used to describe the transformation of the market for a unique, branded product into a market based on undifferentiated products.[citation needed]

These two concepts are fundamentally different and the business community more commonly uses commoditization to describe the transformation of the market to undifferentiated products through increased competition, typically resulting in decreasing prices. While in economic terms, commoditization is closely related to and often follows from the stage when a market changes from one of monopolistic competition to one of perfect competition, a product essentially becomes a commodity when customers perceive little or no value difference between brands or versions.[citation needed]

Commoditization can be the desired outcome of an entity in the market, or it can be an unintentional outcome that no party actively sought to achieve. (For example, see Xerox#Trademark.)

According to Neo-classical economic theory, consumers can benefit from commoditization, since perfect competition usually leads to lower prices.[15] Branded producers often suffer under commoditization, since the value of the brand (and ability to command price premiums) can be weakened.[16]

However, false commoditization can create substantial risk when premier products do have substantial value to offer, particularly in health, safety and security. Examples are counterfeit drugs and generic network services (loss of 911).[citation needed]



Concepts that have been argued as having become commercialized include broad items such as patriotism,[17] sport,[18] intimacy,[19] language,[20] nature[21] or the body.[22]


Many holidays such as Christmas, Halloween or Valentine's Day have been argued as having become commodified.[23][24][25]

Human commodification

Commodifications of humans have been discussed in various context, from slavery[26] to surrogacy.[27][28] Auctions of cricket players by Indian Premier League, Big Bash League and others is also discussed to be a case of human commodification.[29][30][31] Virginity auctions are a further example of self-commodification.[32]

Indigenous cultures

American author and feminist bell hooks thinks about the cultural commodification of race and difference as the dominant culture "eating the other". To hooks, cultural expressions of Otherness, even revolutionary ones, are sold to the dominant culture for their enjoyment. And any messages of social change are not marketed for their messages but used as a mechanism for the dominant ones to acquire a piece of the "primitive".[33] Any interests in past historical culture almost always have a modern twist. According to Mariana Torgovnick:

What is clear now is that the West's fascination with the primitive has to do with its own crises in identity, with its own need to clearly demarcate subject and object even while flirting with other ways of experiencing the universe.[34]

hooks states that marginalized groups are seduced by this concept because of "the promise of recognition and reconciliation".

When the dominant culture demands that the Other be offered as sign that progressive political change is taking place, that the American Dream can indeed be inclusive of difference, it invites a resurgence of essentialist cultural nationalism.

Commodification of indigenous cultures refers to "areas in the life of a community which prior to its penetration by tourism have not been within the domain of economic relations regulated by criteria of market exchange” (Cohen 1988, 372). An example of this type of cultural commodification can be described through viewing the perspective of Hawaiian cultural change since the 1950s. A Hawaiian Luau, which was once a traditional performance reserved for community members and local people, but through the rise of tourism, this tradition has lost part of its cultural meaning and is now mostly a "for profit" performance.[35]

Public goods

Public goods like air[36][37] and water[38][39] can be subject to commodification.

Online communities

Digital commodification is when a business or corporation uses information from an online community without their knowledge for profit. The commodification of information allows a higher up authority to make money rather than a collaborative system of free thoughts.[40][41][42]


Various subcultures have been argued to as having become commodified, for example the goth subculture,[43][44] the biker subculture,[45][46] the tattoo subculture,[47] the witchcraft subculture,[48] and others.[49]


Tourism has been analyzed in the context of commodification in the context of transforming local cultures and heritage into marketable goods.[21][50][51][52]

In Marxist theory

The Marxist understanding of commodity is distinct from its meaning in business. Commodity played a key role throughout Karl Marx's work; he considered it a cell-form of capitalism and a key starting point for an analysis of this politico-economic system.[53] Marx extensively criticized the social impact of commodification under the name commodity fetishism and alienation.[54]

See also


  1. ^ a b Maloney, Lauren. "The Commodification of Human Beings". Retrieved 26 February 2020.
  2. ^ a b Wilsterman, James M. (2008). "The Human Commodity". thecrimson. Retrieved 26 February 2020.
  3. ^ "Reducing Cricketers into Cattle: The IPL Destroys the Spirit of Sports - The New Leam". Retrieved 5 September 2020.
  4. ^ For the quote, Arjun Appadurai, "Definitions: Commodity and Commodification," in Martha Ertman, Joan C. Williams (eds.), Rethinking Commodification: Cases and Readings in Law and Culture, New York University Press, 2005, p. 35.

    Arjun Appadurai, "Introduction: commodities and the politics of value," in Arjun Appadurai (ed.), The Social Life of Things: Commodities in a Cultural Perspective, Cambridge University Press, 1986, p. 3.

  5. ^ Rigi, Jakob (2012). "Peer to Peer Production as the Alternative to Capitalism: A New Communist Horizon". Journal of Peer Production.
  6. ^ For animals, "United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics Database", UN ComTrade; Josephine Donovan, "Aestheticizing Animal Cruelty," College Literature, 38(4), Fall 2011 (pp. 202–217), p. 203. JSTOR 41302895
    For slaves as commodities, Appadurai 1986, pp. 84–85; David Hawkes, Shakespeare and Economic Theory, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015, p. 130.

    For body commodification, Lesley A. Sharp, "The Commodification of the Body and Its Parts," Annual Review of Anthropology, 29, 2000 (pp. 287–328) p. 295ff. JSTOR 223423

  7. ^ Capron, Alexander M. (2017). "Human Commodification: Professions, Governments, and the Need for Further Exploration". New Cannibal Markets : Globalization and Commodification of the Human Body. Éditions de la Maison des sciences de l’homme. pp. 397–416. ISBN 978-2-7351-2285-1.
  8. ^ Esping-Andersen, Gosta (1990). The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism (PDF). Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-691-09457-8.
  9. ^ commodification, n. Second edition, 1989; online version November 2010. <>; accessed 6 January 2011.
  10. ^ "Critical Discourse Analysis and Stylistics" (PDF). Retrieved 22 September 2011.
  11. ^ Robert Hartwell Fiske’s Dictionary of Unendurable English: A Compendium of Mistakes in Grammar, Usage, and Spelling with commentary on lexicographers and linguists, Robert Hartwell Fiske, p. 99
  12. ^ Appadurai 1986, also cited in Martha M. Ertman, Joan C. Williams, Rethinking commodification, 2005, in Afterword by Carol Rose, pp. 402–403. This cites various uses of commodification to mean "become a commodity market", and considers the use of commodification (Peggy Radin, 1987) and commoditization (Appadurai 1986) as equivalent.
  13. ^ Greenwood, D.J. (1977). V. L. Smith (ed.). "Culture by the Pound: An Anthropological Perspective on Tourism as Cultural Commoditization". Hosts and Guests. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 129–139.
  14. ^ Surowiecki, James (30 January 1998). "The Commoditization Conundrum". Slate. Retrieved 16 August 2015. What corporations fear is the phenomenon now known, rather inelegantly, as "commoditization." What the term means is simply the conversion of the market for a given product into a commodity market, which is characterized by declining prices and profit margins, increasing competition, and lowered barriers to entry. ("Commoditization" is therefore different from "commodification," the word cultural critics use to decry the corruption of higher goods by commercial values. Microprocessors are commoditized. Love is commodified.)
  15. ^ "Three Steps Towards Market Domination". INSEAD Knowledge. 29 March 2016. Retrieved 27 July 2020.
  16. ^ Surowiecki, James (30 January 1998). "The Commoditization Conundrum". Slate. ISSN 1091-2339. Retrieved 27 July 2020.
  17. ^ Scanlon, Jennifer (2005), Heller, Dana (ed.), ""Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore": U.S. Consumers, Wal-Mart, and the Commodification of Patriotism", The Selling of 9/11: How a National Tragedy Became a Commodity, New York: Palgrave Macmillan US, pp. 174–199, doi:10.1007/978-1-137-08003-5_8, ISBN 978-1-137-08003-5, retrieved 18 March 2021
  18. ^ Walsh, Adrian J.; Giulianotti, Richard (1 April 2001). "This Sporting Mammon: A Normative Critique of the Commodification of Sport". Journal of the Philosophy of Sport. 28 (1): 53–77. doi:10.1080/00948705.2001.9714600. ISSN 0094-8705. S2CID 53309850.
  19. ^ Constable, Nicole (October 2009). "The Commodification of Intimacy: Marriage, Sex, and Reproductive Labor". Annual Review of Anthropology. 38 (1): 49–64. doi:10.1146/annurev.anthro.37.081407.085133. ISSN 0084-6570.
  20. ^ Heller, Monica (21 October 2010). "The Commodification of Language". Annual Review of Anthropology. 39 (1): 101–114. doi:10.1146/annurev.anthro.012809.104951. ISSN 0084-6570.
  21. ^ a b Russell, Constance L.; Ankenman, M. J. (1 January 1996). "Orangutans as Photographic Collectibles: Ecotourism and The Commodification of Nature". Tourism Recreation Research. 21 (1): 71–78. doi:10.1080/02508281.1996.11014765. ISSN 0250-8281.
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  23. ^ Groom, Nick (2 October 2018). "Hallowe'en and Valentine: The Culture of Saints' Days in the English-Speaking World". Folklore. 129 (4): 331–352. doi:10.1080/0015587X.2018.1510651. ISSN 0015-587X. S2CID 165870855.
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  29. ^ "Indian cricketers are a pampered lot; but have they also been commodified? - Firstcricket News, Firstpost". Firstpost. Retrieved 3 July 2021.
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  32. ^ Dunn, Jennifer C.; Vik, Tennley A. (1 September 2014). "Virginity for Sale: A Foucauldian Moment in the History of Sexuality". Sexuality & Culture. 18 (3): 487–504. doi:10.1007/s12119-013-9207-0. ISSN 1936-4822. S2CID 143947497. Retrieved 3 July 2021.
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  34. ^ Torgovnick, Marianna 1991. Gone Primitive: Savage Intellects, Modern Lives (Chicago)
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Further reading

Polanyi, Karl. "The Self-Regulating Market," Economics as a Social Science, 2nd edn, 2004.

This page was last edited on 26 August 2021, at 21:12
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