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Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

1968, from commodity + -fication. Originally in Marxist political theory, "the assignment of a market value," often to some quality or material the user of the word feels would be better without it.


n. The assignment of a commercial value to something previously valueless.


Commodification is the transformation of goods, services, ideas and not least people into commodities or objects of trade. A commodity at its most basic, according to Arjun Appadurai, is "any thing intended for exchange," or any object of economic value. People are commodified—turned into objects—when working, by selling their labour on the market to an employer. One of its forms is slavery. Others are, the trading with animals and body parts through formalised or informalised organ transplant.

Commodification is often criticised on the grounds that some things ought not to be treated as commodities—for example education, data and knowledge in the digital age.

Usage examples of "commodification".

We certainly agree with those contemporary theorists, such as David Harvey and Fredric Jameson, who see postmodernity as a new phase of capitalist accumulation and commodification that accompanies the contemporary realization of the world market.