You are on page 1of 17

1

Commodification

...the exchange of commodities implies contradictory and mutually exclusive conditions.


The further development of the commodity does not abolish these contradictions, but
rather provides the form within which they have room to move.
-Karl Marx, Capital

Commodification means the transformation of relationships, formerly untainted by


commerce, into commercial relationships, relationships of exchange, of buying and
selling.
Commodification is a term that only comes into currency in 1977, but expresses a
concept fundamental to Marxs understanding of the way capitalism develops.
Marx and Engels described the process in 1848 in the Communist Manifesto:
The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal,
patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that
bound man to his natural superiors, and has left no other nexus between man and man
than naked self-interest, than callous cash payment. It has drowned out the most
heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine
sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth
into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has
set up that single, unconscionable freedom - Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation,
veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct,
brutal exploitation.
The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked
up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet,
the man of science, into its paid wage labourers.
The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the
family relation into a mere money relation. [Communist Manifesto]

2
Example of Commodification
Socialization
Socialization is the process by which activity and relationships move out of a private, or
in general more restricted, domain into a broader sphere of action. In particular,
socialization is used in reference to the transformation of private businesses into public
enterprises, or on the other hand, moving labour which is taking place within a closed,
domestic domain into the general economic sphere.
One of the most important instances of socialization has been the socialization of
womens labour. From time immemorial, women have carried out certain kinds of labour
within a system of kinship relationships, and more recently, in the industrialized
countries, within very small family groups. Beginning from around the time of the
Second World War, domestic appliances produced by the manufacturing industry began
to become effective as labour saving devices; later on, with the establishment of the
welfare state in many countries and the growth of the service sector, women more and
more found employment in the broader economy, while labour-saving devices,
manufactured foodstuffs, and services like health and education began meet needs
formerly met by their domestic labour. That is, the system of needs and labour, which
was formerly confined to the domestic sphere, was shifted out into the
broader social arena. The socialization of womens labour was equally
the feminization of the economy.
Privatization
Privatization is the movement of labour out of the public sector into the private sector,
usually by the sale of public assets and the associated services. The privatization of
government services, with work such as education, public transport and health care, water
supply, road works being provided on a user-pays system, instead of as public services,
which in many cases were provided out of tax revenue and delivered to the public free of
charge.

3
Commercialization
Commercialization is the process orienting labour away from a public service ethos to
production of commodities and a commercial ethos. Commercialization is a kind of
creeping privatization which has been at work since the very birth of bourgeois society,
and the term has been in common usage for a long time. Recent activities which have
been subject to commercialization include scientific research, artistic and cultural
activity, public education and sport.
Scientists find their work subject to commercialization through the increasing pressure
conveyed through funding mechanisms to orient activity towards serving commercial
rather than human interests, often with corporations funding research on condition that
the findings become their own intellectual property.
Sponsors often present themselves as saviours to sporting associations or artists who find
their work threatened by shrinking public funds, the rising cost of operations and the
difficulty of competing with others already in the commercial arena.
Commercialization is a form of socialization which ensures the dominance of the
interests of capital in a given field of activity.
Professionalization
Professionalization is the transformation of an area of activity into an industry, as part of
the dominant system of production and consumption.
The most well-known example is when amateur or semi-professional sports become big
businesses and rather than being people simply playing a game for the pleasure of it, the
players are professionals commanding very big salaries, frequently risking serious injury
and working extremely hard at the job.
On the other hand, there are those services which were formerly done on a community or
family basis such as baby-sitting for neighbours or volunteers coaching the school
football team or staffing the local fire-station; legislation comes in which sets standards
baby-sitters must have a degree in child development and so on and work once done
for free by amateurs is done by paid professionals or not at all.
Professionalization is an aspect of Commodification.

4
Corporatization
Corporatization is the process of restructuring of labour usually public service
organizations or small parts of larger businesses so that the organization acts like an
independent business, rather than a department of the larger organization.
Usually, internal relations of accountability and command are replaced with one-line
budgetary mechanisms of planning and control. Corporatization is usually a preparatory
step towards privatization or out-sourcing.
Corporatization is a kind of Commodification which breaks up a relation
of Collaboration and replaces it with relations of buyer and seller. Very often, the
objective is not commercialization as such, but simply to break up one set of power
relations and replace them with another, and frequently the hidden agenda is union-
busting.
fee-paying services supplanting voluntary collaboration and association, as when
the volunteer fire brigades and school tuck shop people gradually fade away, to be
replaced by wage-labour;
the feeding of coins into slot-machines, the purchase of packaged games, images,
magazines and so on, replacing participation in games, sing-alongs, conversation
and altogether normal human interaction, etc.;
intellectual property, copyright, patent and price tags being placed on information
and knowledge in all branches science, industry and art.

Commodification refers to those processes through which social relations are reduced to
an exchange relation, or as Karl Marx (1978) refers to it in the Communist Manifesto, as
"callous 'cash payment.'" Marx focused on the Commodification of the labor process, in
which the real, material activity of labor by individual workers was transformed into
abstract labor, just another cost the process of production. As abstract labor, labor could
be measured in terms of hours, an abstracted unit of time.
However, any discussion of Commodification today must extend to the cultural economy.
It turns out that people are most sensitive to the effects of Commodification in the

5
cultural arena. Paradoxically, advertising promotes Commodification while
simultaneously denying it. Advertising blankets the cash nexus with narratives and
signifiers that position the meaning of the commodity within non-commodified relations.
For example, ads often place commodities at the center of idyllic familial relations. Just
think of the many McDonald's commercials in which dad shares a moment of quality
time with his son over a Happy Meal that includes a plastic promo from the latest Disney
movie. Imagery of exchange is replaced by a representation of a caring moment between
father and child. Or an advertising campaign might engage in 'falsified
metacommunication' to take the side of those offended by excessive Commodification.
The Sprite "Image is Nothing" campaign mocks commodified social relations, thus
distancing its own product and sign from such practices, while encouraging viewers to
associate the aura of authenticity thus cultivated with the product itself. The sign
of Sprite is thus an irreverent and flip attitude towards the sterility of over
Commodification.

While advertising discourse spectacularizes the power of the commodity to enhance


social relations to the point that the commodity itself mediates the successful playing of a
social role, it disguises the production process by either absence, abstraction, or
aestheticization. Furthermore, advertising absents the amount of labor necessary to
produce the cash equivalent to participate in the exchange. As advertising seeps into
every nook and cranny of our social lives, it becomes increasingly difficult to take a
critical position toward the process of Commodification. Nevertheless, the many forms of
advertising address that deny this process in some form suggest a nostalgic desire to live
in a non-commodified world. In this genre of advertising, however, Capital does not
apologize for the Commodification of place, social relations, and knowledge. Capital
positions Commodification as an inevitable process driven by technology advances. This
fundamentally reverses the relationship between Commodification and technology. In
corporate advertising, Commodification produces a clean, neat, civil society. This is
much different than commodity advertising, which often uses the strategy of falsified

6
metacommunication or makes claims to authenticity in an attempt to deny their
participation in the Commodification of social relations. Here the market dominates and
all social relations are subjected to the process of Commodification without apology. The
process of globalization is contingent upon the free movement of capital and its products
and services into all social relations in all cultural settings.

Commodification of Cultural

The Concept of Culture


The word 'culture' comes from the Latin cultus, which means 'care', and from the French
colere which means 'to till' as in 'till the ground'. There are many terms that stem from the
word culture. For example, there is the term 'cult' which suggests some kind of a religious
organization. We are continually amazed at the power cults have to shape our behavior,
to brainwash us -- to turn intelligent and educated people into fanatics. Here we are
dealing with the power of charismatic personalities and of groups over individuals.

An Anthropological Definition of Culture


culture refers to behavior and beliefs that are learned and shared: learned so it is
not instinctual and shared so it is not individual
whatever is distinctive about the way of life of people, community, nation or
social group within which diversities of conception f life and interpretation of
meanings could coexist.
UNESCO: "[Culture] is that complex whole which includes knowledge, beliefs, arts,
morals, laws, customs, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by [a human] as a
member of society."
Commodification of culture
Basically it is packaging culture for sale - e.g. establishment of a value (in terms of labor
or real monetary value) for any number of markets. - Making culture into a commodity.

7
The dictionary definition of commodification is to make something into an object for
commercial use. In terms of tourism, commodification refers to using a place's culture
and the cultural artifacts to make a large enough profit to support part of the area's
economy (Fiaux).
In today's tourism, commodification is prevalent everywhere one looks. Whether the
tourist eats at McDonald's in China or buys souvenirs in India, they are participating in
commodification. The problem with commodification is that it alters the tourists' abilities
to have an authentic experience and introduces a false culture into the indigenous one.
McDonald's is an American originated fast-food place and it has been globalized and
introduced into the cultures of many countries. This does not allow travelers to
experience the native foods because fast-food places like McDonald's are more common
in tourist areas than the authentic food restaurants (Fainstein).
Another example of commodification in tourism is tourist attractions like Disney World
and Disney Land. Disney parks are tourist attractions made to make money. There is
minimal historical information exposed while visiting Disney parks. The history of some
of the cartoon characters is shown along with the life of Walt Disney, but the basis of the
park is entertainment and profit (Fainstein). Entertainment in tourism is fine, but Disney
has threatened the habitats of many animals, created huge amounts of waste, and failed
to incorporate an authentic historical aspect that is needed for true tourism. In terms of
cultural tourism, Disney World and Disney Land do not meet the cultural requirements
because of its lack of historical content (Ivanovic).
Commodification can be seen as a good thing, but in tourism the more authentic the
experience the better it is not only for the tourist, but also for the indigenous culture. The
more accurate the learning that can come from tourism, the more accurate the reporting
or the tourists' responses can be. Tourists' responses can promote a place, and help that
place's economy especially in developing countries (Rothman).

8
Relationship of Media to Culture

Media reflect and shape the values of a given culture


Media represent the Otherproducing and reproducing stereotypes that
influence our communication
Media serve as a site of resistance for cultures building their own identity (often
in opposition to dominant culture)
The media is bias in its representations of different groups of people
The media is bias in their control of meaning, and its interpretations, and to whom
those representations benefit.
The control of news content feeds implied meanings by those it representations,
and also by those who are underrepresented.
As a society our maps of reality are dictated by what we see through the media and
what those images represent, if they are distorted than we do not receive the true
meaning (Hall).
As a society, we become immersed in a set of cultural beliefs that are a reflection
of what is instilled in us by a shared culture.
The media is an outlet where those ideologies get distributed. The media controls
what content we are allowed to invite into our reality, and into our shared cultural
and social perception

9
Cultural Impacts of Globalization

Globalization is a very complex term. It is used very broadly by economists, sociologists


and politicians to explain the mechanisms that are leading to a more and more
interconnected world.
Globalization refers to all those processes by which the peoples of the world are
incorporated into a single world society, global society".(Albrow, 1990: 9).
Ritzer, in the book "Modern Sociological Theory" describes globalization as a "Spread of
worldwide practices, relations, consciousness and organization of social life" arguing that
almost everyone worldwide has been affected by the impacts of globalization.

Cultural Globalization

Cultural Globalization is the increasingly occurring process of global conformity in


people's behaviours and needs.
Cultural Imperialism is a theory which describes the dominance and influence that a
culture has on other cultures. Examples such as the European states colonization of
America's continent can be used to show how European cultural values have been spread
to dominate other cultures.
Contemporary cultural globalization focused its attention on the influence and dominance
of cultural values and identities from Americanized/Westernized culture to other cultures.

Globalization has been associated with a range of cultural consequences. These can be
analyzed in terms of three major theses, namely, homogenization, polarization, and
hybridization.

10
Homogenization

This is a theory which looks at the impact of globalization worldwide, it is linked to the
influence of a major culture which spreads to other cultures by promoting values,
behaviors and commodities which come from a main dominating culture.
Westernization is a process of homogenization which originates from North America,
also called McDonalization, or Americanization. It is a process where mechanisms are
closely interconnected with the diffusion of the globalized market economy and
multinational organizations which promote particular cultural values and behaviors to
other cultures, influencing them.
Worldwide, consumer capitalism has been constructed by a uniform, standardized brand
image. This involves the use of mass advertisement to create an image of a superior, high
quality culture. This broadcasting of cultural values, norms and behaviors has attracted
the attention and popularity of other culture's individuals.
This promotion of a main culture is causing the "homogenization" of cultures. This is to
say that many traditionally Western values and behaviors are in the contemporary world
more and more imitated by non Western people.
When one is looking at the homogenization of culture globally, there are many positive
aspects, such as the breaking down of barriers between societies and an increase in
freedom. But the peculiarity of current global cultural homogenization is that it is
impartially influenced by one area, North America, therefore more than a cultural
homogenization, we can describe homogenization as an increase in the extent of one
culture over others, and this is the Western society influencing the rest.
Therefore homogenization is not a neutral phenomenon. The mechanisms under which
globalization runs have a built in character of inequality which is created between
wealthy and poor countries.
A form of resistance to this process of Western homogenization is created, minorities
such as terrorist groups like Al Quaeda fight back against the globalized world in an
attempt to save conservative tradition and cultural values. The terrorist attacks of 9/11
11
have shown how problems can arise when a culture is dominating and influencing other
cultures.
This highlights the issue and bring into question the process of homogenization which is
impartially sided on the Western world side to influence and "convert" the rest of the
world by imposing a fascination for western society, with it's norms, behaviours, values
and ultimately culture.
There is as a result of homogenization a loss of regional pride and a loss of traditional
cultures.
It is argued by many that homogenization as it exists today is superficial. This means that
instead of a complete form of cultural homogenization, only certain aspects are being
spread. There are limitations to this cultural spread and influence on other cultures, apart
from media and materialistic goods, not much else seems to travel through the barriers
that cultures impose. ". It leaves largely untouched the freedom and agency of the
subjects in creating and changing culture, both as individuals and as groups."
Cultural homogenization is happening everywhere. For example, Mexico's culture is
being strongly influenced by the consumerist western capitalist culture. This has created a
devaluation of Mexican products compared to U.S products. The explosion if foreign
investment led to the expansion of North American brands such as McDonalds,
Blockbusters, Subway etc.
While Western cultural values grow in Mexico, they inhibit and weaken local Mexican
tradition. A clear example of this is that most Mexicans discriminate against "Native"
indigenous people. Western ideals have created a rejection of their historical Mexican
traditional culture in exchange for a more Westernized view. Mexicans have become
influenced by media, brands and ideas spread from western society to such an extent that
they look up to this culture and want to be a part of it.
This example shows that a major culture can influencing another culture and radically
transforming it into a new culture that rejects its traditional past and seeks to embrace an
idealized, constructed image of a culture.

12
The main factors which promote these cultural shifts are foreign investment, the
promotion of global media and rationalism.
Rather than a uniform democratic world homogenization, what we are experiencing is
Westernization whose influences have become global and impartially distributed. This
does not mean that consequences are negative or positive; this depends on one's point of
view and to the importance given to past and culture. The interesting influence that
cultural homogenization has created also shapes political and traditional values.
In Egypt for example western influences are making women marry at a later age, many
are choosing to marry different men rather than those decided by the woman's family as
Egyptian traditional culture dictates. Therefore cultural homogenization serves as a
means for liberalizing politics and reduces traditionalism and conservatism.
A positive view is given by Beck, he sees hope in the diminishing sovereignty of nation
states and the emergence of trans national organizations and possibly a translational state
as a result of the globalization and homogenization processes. We are already
experiencing this shift of sovereignty, WTO and the IMF are gaining more and more
power onto the individual state. Ultimately
Ritzer argues about "the globalization of nothing", this is a similar concept that describes
how homogenization is influencing society by spreading values and ideals of one cultural
origin.
This process supports the idea of globalization as the imperialistic wants and needs of
international actors such as corporations, states and organizations to expand their global
reach in order to maximize their profits.
By nothing Ritzer means the spread and divulgence of media and values that are
practically empty in context and cultural values. This is a way of homogenization that is
more compatible with other cultures, as the empty forms of continent are exported
throughout the world; it is much easier for a foreign culture to assimilate empty or little
content rather than forms of information and media which are rich in content.
An example of this is the creation of shopping malls around the world; these unlike
Westernized brands such as McDonalds are much more empty in content.

13
An empty shopping mall can for example be filled with local shops and although
promoting the homogenization of society, it also contributed to the "Globalization" of
society; this new concept means the co existence of the global and the local resulting in
the "Global".
Another example of homogenization under the process of globalization of nothing is the
worldwide reach and accessibility to credit cards, services provided by ATM's re believed
to be non services as "the costumer does all the work needed to obtain the service"
The next Theory is an opposing one; the polarization theory acknowledges the influences
of cultural globalization and cultural homogenization, recognizing the cultural spread of
western ideals. It differs from the homogenization theory by highlighting areas of cultural
clashes and describing how cultures will have more conflicts than convergences in the
future.

Polarization

Polarization is a term which is linked to Cultural diversity and opposition. It explains that
there are definite cultural differences that are not affected by globalization.
Cultures are different in their basic values and cultural clashes rather than cultural mixes
are expected.
An example used by many sociologists to back up this cultural diversity gap is the
contrasting difference between the Islam world and the Western world. The "Islamic"
attacks of 9/11 and the following "Western" retaliation in Afghanistan and Iraq are
historic facts that highlight this crack and incompatibility between the West and Islam.
Samuel Huntington in his book "Clash of Civilizations" (1996) described the existence of
various major world civilizations: "Sinic (Chinese), Japan, Hindu, Islamic, Orthodox,
Western Europe, North America and Africa. Huntington believes that there are large
differences between these cultures in the base of their philosophical assumptions.

14
Huntington believes that cultures will clash in imposing their different religions and
cultural values in a war described as "McDonald vs. Jihad", this interesting view puts the
consumerist western culture against the fundamentalist Islamic one.
Burke in his book "the 9/11 wars" concludes that al-Qaeda's future is more likely to be
that of a strong cult rather than a mass social movement.
Initial popularity of groups such as al Qaeda has diminished as a result of the mistargeted
violence which often hurt the local supporters as well, making al Qaeda an unfriendly
"strong cult rather than a mass movement"
"As they lost popularity, the terrorists relied more on coercion -- and in so doing made
themselves even less popular".
We have two main opposing ideologies, one, the western "MacWorld" culture with its
liberal market capitalism which connects us through cultural commodities, and on the
other hand the conservative Islamic world which has in its values the liberation from
capitalism and its inherited characteristics of greed and mass consumption.
In my opinion there are more connections than clashes in contemporary world relations
between the West and the Islamic world. Extremism is only a part of largely moderate
Islamic countries. Huntington does not recognize the extent of the connections between
West and East and seems to put Central Europe and North America in the same side,
even if there are also major differences between these two continents.
As David Myers puts it, "Globalization is a complicated process that does not always lead
to cultural homogenization, but can also produce hybrid or even polarized local cultures".
Myers explained that although the world is more interlinked and globalized.
Phenomenon's such as the homogenization of movies, music, news, language and
symbols are attributed to the strong influence and connectivity worldwide of Western
society, particularly North America and Europe.
This type of polarization that we can observe is therefore not a uniform split, on one hand
we have the process of globalization that works in conjunction with homogenization,
therefore if there is a polarization which goes against a term as global as globalization,
this polarization is between all those globalised and those who resist it.

15
Hybridization

When looking at how globalization influences cultures not always we see a cultural
homogenization or a cultural polarization, but more so we notice a transformation and
evolutions in cultures as they clash, join and diversify. "on the intercultural exchange and
the incorporation of cultural elements from a variety of sources within particular cultural
practices."
This mixing of cultures can give rise to hybrid cultures which are new and differ from
their original cultural values in an attempt to reshape and remodel culture to
contemporary world.
The hybridization theory has the concept of "Globalization" at its core, it can be defined
as "the interpenetration of the global and the local resulting in unique outcomes in
different geographic areas".(Ronald Robertson (2001)
We find that Globalization unlike Globalization describes how the local influences the
global and reshapes the global influences on the local rendering the local globalised and
at the same time unique in its local values.
Globalization reflects the growth of pluralism around the world, it gives importance to
the local and individual actors in shaping the influences of the Globalization process to a
local level.
Hybridization is at odds with Globalization as it argues that there is an increased
pluralism and diversity around the world. Globalization theory associates uniformity
rather than plurality.
An example of Hybridization could be a Chinese couple in Dublin, watching a French
TV show in a Arab owned pub. This shows how cultural identities are mixing in a more
and more interconnected world. Mass migration along with the increased communication
between countries have speeded up the process of hybridization making globalization a
possible, perhaps more romantic scenario than globalization

16
References

This includes money itself, human beings, and the natural environment, which are not goods or services, let
alone commodities. See Karl Polanyi, "The Self-Regulating Market", page 40 in Economics as a Social
Science, 2nd edn, 2004.

Prodnik, Jernej (2012). "A Note on the Ongoing Processes of Commodification: From the Audience Commodity
to the Social Factory". triple-C: Cognition, Communication, Co-operation (Vol. 10, No. 2) - special issue "Marx
is Back" (edited by Christian Fuchs and Vincent Mosco). p. 274-301. Retrieved 30 March 2013.

Prodnik, Jernej (2012). "A Note on the Ongoing Processes of Commodification: From the Audience Commodity
to the Social Factory". triple-C: Cognition, Communication, Co-operation (Vol. 10, No. 2) - special issue "Marx
is Back" (edited by Christian Fuchs and Vincent Mosco). p. 274-301. Retrieved 30 March 2013.

Appadurai, Arjun, ed. (1986). The Social Life of Things: Commodities in a Cultural Perspective. Cambridge:
Cambridge UP.

http://anthro.palomar.edu/culture/culture_1.htm
Hermsen, J. G. Th., and M. S. Ramanna. 'Barriers to hybridization of Solanum bulbocastanum Dun. and S.
Verrucosum Schlechtd. and structural hybridity in their F1 plants.' Euphytica, Volume 25, Number 1 / January,
1976, Springer Netherlands, ISSN 0014-2336 (Print), 1573-5060 (Online), pp.1-10.

DiMaggio, Paul; Evans, John; Bryson, Bethany (1 November 1996). "Have American's Social Attitudes Become
More Polarized?". American Journal of Sociology102 (3): 690755. doi:10.1086/230995.

Justin Ervin; Zachary Alden Smith (1 August 2008). Globalization: A Reference Handbook. ABC-CLIO.
p. 35. ISBN 978-1-59884-073-5. Retrieved 4 February 2013

Justin Jennings (8 November 2010). Globalizations and the Ancient World. Cambridge University Press.
p. 132. ISBN 978-0-521-76077-5. Retrieved 4 February 2013.

17