chapter  8
20 Pages

Commodification

ByCarl David Mildenberger

Judging on the basis of standard accounts of commodification, one might reasonably suggest that liberalism intrinsically lacks an adequate theory of commodification. Liberalism, with its commitment to individual choice and to neutrality as regards competing evaluation practices, seems conceptually incapable of identifying or abolishing many significant forms of commodification. This chapter refutes this claim. In principle, a liberal state may permissibly condemn and counter commodifying exchanges. This is possible as the normative problem with commodification lies not with evaluative misresponses to goods on the individual level but with market-based evaluation practices harmfully crowding out others. However, even on this basis there is no way for liberals to straightforwardly identify normatively problematic instances of commodification, to clearly condemn them, and to easily agree on appropriate regulatory policies. The conditions for a liberal interference with commodification are so strict that there will basically be no consequence for regulatory policies. While market exchanges might be unjust because of commodification, this is a purely theoretical finding, with no practical impact.