The Elgar Companion to Social Economics
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The Elgar Companion to Social Economics

Edited by John B. Davis and Wilfred Dolfsma

As this comprehensive Companion demonstrates, social economics is a dynamic and growing field that emphasizes the key role that values play in the economy and in economic life. Social economics treats the economy and economics as being embedded in the larger web of social and ethical relationships. It also regards economics and ethics as essentially connected, and adds values such as justice, fairness, dignity, well-being, freedom and equality to the standard emphasis on efficiency. The Elgar Companion to Social Economics brings together the leading contributors in the field to elucidate a wide range of recent developments across different subject areas and topics. In so doing the contributors also map the likely trends and directions of future research. This Companion will undoubtedly become a leading reference source and guide to social economics for many years to come.
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Chapter 16: Are Markets Everywhere? Understanding Contemporary Processes of Commodification

Luís Francisco Carvalho and João Rodrigues


16 Are markets everywhere? Understanding contemporary processes of commodification Luís Francisco Carvalho and João Rodrigues 1. Introduction The expansion of markets and of market rhetoric is one of the defining signs of our age. In this chapter, we explore the sense by which dominant economic discourses and social processes of commodification are part of an interconnected movement. By so doing, we show how economics relates with the way the economy is structured. Economic theory influences the way individuals perceive themselves and their motivations, how they perceive others with whom they interact, and the type of institutional context where this interaction takes place. We contend that the so-called ‘economic imperialism’ is an extreme version of a tendency, carried out most expressively in mainstream economics, to universalize and naturalize a contentious version of a particular economic institution – the market – and the egoistic motivations that individuals supposedly exhibit within it. In fact, economists who subscribe to economic imperialism end up favouring the idea that everything can be seen as reducible to a market transaction, leaving ‘no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous “cash payment” ’ (Marx and Engels, 1998 [1848], p. 242). These imperialistic discourses, by creating a series of metaphors through which all sorts of human interactions are perceived, should not be seen as innocuous exercises, because the way we look at the world influences how we act upon it. Commodification, moreover, implies a shared understanding of what is...

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