On Life as a Fictitious Commodity: Cities and the Biopolitics of Late Neoliberalism


Building on a biopolitical understanding of the economic crisis, this essay contends that the occurrence of the crisis warns that life is not a real commodity but — to put it in Karl Polanyi’s terms — a ‘fictitious commodity’. This means that life cannot be integrally subsumed within the economy, and therefore the crisis is to be seen as a pathological way in which societies react to the pervasiveness of capitalist relations, showing the illusory character of self‐regulating markets and ownership ideologies. Two mutually contradictory biopolitical responses to the neoliberal crisis, led by the state and grassroots movements respectively, are discussed in the concluding section of the essay.