The Commodification of Everything   /   Summer 2003   /    Introduction

The Commodification of Everything

From the Editors

These days you can buy almost anything. Sperm and eggs are advertised on the web. Speed dating services will provide you with several minutes-long dates in one night for the right price. Human organs are being bought and sold around the world. Universities are increasingly thinking of the education that they offer as a “product” and their students as “consumers.” There are fewer and fewer realms of life in which the language of money does not speak powerfully.

We now live not only in a market economy, but also in a market society, where the market and its categories of thought have come to dominate ever more areas of our lives. Many see the political revolutions of the last decade as offering a complete vindication of American-style free and self-regulating markets. Free markets promise the most efficient allocation of resources, unmatched production of wealth, and greater liberty. But what does the spread of the paradigm of the market mean for the things that we hold most dear, for our most intimate relationships, for our understanding of what it means to be human?

This issue of The Hedgehog Review explores what is at stake in the encroachment of commodification into almost every aspect of life. While commodification is certainly not a recent innovation, what is new is its scope and power. It has become intensified and institutionalized in new and far-reaching ways, carrying meanings that reconfigure our understanding of the world and our place within it. The very character of life seems increasingly consumeristic and commercial.

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