Edited by Barbara Hobson, Jane Lewis and Birte Siim
6. Commodiﬁcation and de-commodiﬁcation Trudie Knijn and Ilona Ostner INTRODUCTION ‘Commodiﬁcation’ – and even more so – ‘de-commodiﬁcation’ are tonguetwisting words that denote a basic historical process: derived from ‘commodity’, commodiﬁcation alludes to the great historical transformation of human labour into marketable goods or commodities, that is, the transformation of non-wage-labour(ers) into wage labour. ‘Commodiﬁed’ can be both: an activity and the person who delivers the activity, for instance, care and the caretaker, an example we use in our analysis. Commodiﬁcation of an activity implies that an exchange value is added to the use value of the activity, resulting in surplus value, as depicted by Karl Marx in the ﬁrst volume of Das Kapital (Marx  1971, MEW 23). Karl Marx elaborated the many consequences of this transformation that renders the activity comparable and, thereby, exchangeable within a price-making market economy. He was well aware of the many radical changes that ensued from commodiﬁcation, which altered and aﬀected human life and activities. Most centrally, commodiﬁcation turned use-value-oriented activities, ‘work’, into what he calls (in English) ‘labour’. Marx alludes to the change in craftmen’s activities; we, seeking a gendered example, focus on taking care of others – caring. In a footnote Marx praises the English language, in contrast to the German language, for making the distinction between ‘work’ versus ‘labour’, that is, activities and/or commodities that are predominantly, if not solely, exchange-value-oriented (MEW 23, note 16, pp. 61–2). Correspondingly, the logic of...
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