The slow advance and uneven penetration of commodification


A common assumption is that commodification – the process by which goods and services are increasingly produced by capitalist firms for a profit under conditions of market exchange – is colonizing, albeit slowly and unevenly, ever more areas of daily life. Yet little evidence has been supplied to show either the extent or unevenness of this penetration. Here, therefore, we first draw upon secondary data to evaluate the degree to which the advanced economies have been permeated by commodification. This identifies large spaces of non‐exchanged work, non‐monetized exchange and non‐profit‐motivated monetary exchange. To both explain the existence of these spaces as well as the uneven penetration of commodification, we then report case study evidence from the sphere of domestic services in UK urban areas. This displays that although domestic services are slightly more commodified amongst higher‐income populations, the uneven contours of commodification cannot be explained simply in terms of whether populations can afford to use formal service provision. While economic constraints do prevent the advance of commodification, especially in lower‐income populations, strong ‘cultures of resistance’ are also uncovered that impede its deeper penetration. To conclude, therefore, the contrasting roles played by economic and cultural constraints in slowing the advance of commodification and creating its uneven contours are explored.