Commodification

 
 Editor
Fleissner, Peter  fleissner@arrakis.es
 Incorporated contributions
Fleissner (28/02/09)
 Usage domain
political economy, moral
 Type
concept
 French
marchandisation
 German Ökonomisierung
 
On a general level the concept “commodification” (C) denotes the transformation of mere goods (use values) into "commodities" (German: "Waren") by selling and buying them on a market. Commodities carry both, use value and exchange value. As use values they are useful things for anybody (in any type of society) and represent concrete labour. As exchange values they embody a certain amount of abstract labour (in market economies only). C is closely related to the more general concept of "commercialization" (Z), which is not only true for physical or energetic objects, but also for services. The essential difference between C and Z is that only commodities contribute to the surplus product which is the basis for capital investment (on the physical level) and for surplus value (on the value level). Without surplus product in a closed economy there cannot be any profit.

Information societies are characterized by three new technologies, the computer, the Internet and Mobile Communication. The economically essential features are on the one hand that those technologies allow to reduce the transaction cost of business and private individuals (all activities of identification, retrieval and exchange of information, coordination, and management). This enables new groups to enter business and markets and destroys others, but also empowers individuals to improve their organizational and networking competence. On the other hand, new digital technologies allow for the commercialization of more and more human activities (in particular cultural ones). While digital telephone services enable business to create new profitable markets and open up new spheres of investment, by a tricky interplay of Technology and the Law information goods can be transformed into new commodities. In the manner of a time machine Information Technology allows for freezing language, sound, movements (talking, singing, making music, dancing, writing etc.) on a carrier and for reanimating them at different points in time and space. In principle, Information and Communication Technology would also allow to copy the information and to distribute it on a global scale. There would be an abundance of information goods, because they do not disappear when they are consumed. But this would not be profitable. Therefore legal measures (Intellectual Property Rights) were creatively invented to secure markets of commodified information goods. By adding prices to information goods and services artificial shortage is created and can be directly and indirectly (by building up the infrastructure needed) exploited by private companies.

Lawrence Lessig (2004) rightly stresses that C and Z restrict the universal access to cultural products. Further cultural development and creativity could be severely hampered.


References


  • Fleissner, P. (2006). "Commodification, information, value and profit ". Poiesis & Praxis: International Journal of Technology Assessment and Ethics of Science, February, Vol. 1, pp. 39 – 53. online publication http://www.springerlink.com/
  • Lessig, L. (2004). Free Culture. How Big Media Uses Technology and The Law To Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity. New York: The Penguin Press.
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Fleissner (28/02/2009)
 
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