Fictitious commodities

The concept of fictitious commodities (or false commodities) originated in Karl Polanyi's 1944 book The Great Transformation and refers to anything treated as market commodity that is not created for the market, specifically land, labor, and money.[1]

Critique of commodification

For Polanyi, the effort by classical and neoclassical economics to make society subject to the free market was a utopian project and, as Polanyi scholars Fred Block and Margaret Somers claim, "When these public goods and social necessities (what Polanyi calls "fictitious commodities") are treated as if they are commodities produced for sale on the market, rather than protected rights, our social world is endangered and major crises will ensue."[2]

Polanyi's insight follows the Marxian notions of "commodification" and "Commodity fetishism."[3] Fetishism in anthropology refers to the primitive belief that godly powers can inhere in inanimate things, e.g., in totems. Marx uses this concept to describe "commodity fetishism." For Marx, "a commodity appears at first sight an extremely obvious, trivial thing. But its analysis brings out that it is a very strange thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties." And what is a social relation between people, between "capitalists" and "exploited laborers," instead assumes "the fantastic form of a relation between things."[3]

David Bollier wrote that, according to Polanyi, "prior to the rise of the market as an ordering principle for society, politics, religion and social norms were the prevailing forces of governance. Land, labor and money itself were not regarded chiefly as commodities to be bought and sold. They were embedded in social relationships, and subject to the moral consideration, religious beliefs and community management."[4] As Polanyi points out, these are actually “fictitious commodities” in the sense that they are not truly discrete “products.” Land and human beings have their own sovereign dynamics apart from their treatment as market commodities. Treating them as "mere commodities" creates "dangerous pressures" — as when too much carbon is emitted into the atmosphere or people lose their jobs because they are “redundant.”[4]

See also


  1. ^ Polanyi, Karl (2001) [1944]. The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time (2nd ed.). Beacon Press. ISBN 978-0807056431.
  2. ^ Farrell, Henry (18 July 2014). "The free market is an impossible utopia". The Washington Post. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  3. ^ a b Marx, Karl (1992) [1867]. Capital: Critique of Political Economy. Penguin Classics. ISBN 978-0140445688.
  4. ^ a b Bollier, David (24 February 2009). "Why Karl Polanyi Still Matters". On The Commons. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
Air rights

Air rights are the property interest in the "space" above the earth's surface. Generally speaking, owning, or renting, land or a building includes the right to use and develop the space above the land without interference by others.

This legal concept is encoded in the Latin phrase Cuius est solum, eius est usque ad coelum et ad inferos ("Whoever owns the soil, it is theirs up to Heaven and down to Hell."), which appears in medieval Roman law and is credited to 13th-century glossator Accursius; it was notably popularized in common law in Commentaries on the Laws of England (1766) by William Blackstone; see origins of phrase for details.

Blood donation

A blood donation occurs when a person voluntarily has blood drawn and used for transfusions and/or made into biopharmaceutical medications by a process called fractionation (separation of whole-blood components). Donation may be of whole blood, or of specific components directly (the latter called apheresis). Blood banks often participate in the collection process as well as the procedures that follow it.

Today in the developed world, most blood donors are unpaid volunteers who donate blood for a community supply. In some countries, established supplies are limited and donors usually give blood when family or friends need a transfusion (directed donation). Many donors donate as an act of charity, but in countries that allow paid donation some donors are paid, and in some cases there are incentives other than money such as paid time off from work. Donors can also have blood drawn for their own future use (autologous donation). Donating is relatively safe, but some donors have bruising where the needle is inserted or may feel faint.

Potential donors are evaluated for anything that might make their blood unsafe to use. The screening includes testing for diseases that can be transmitted by a blood transfusion, including HIV and viral hepatitis. The donor must also answer questions about medical history and take a short physical examination to make sure the donation is not hazardous to his or her health. How often a donor can donate varies from days to months based on what component they donate and the laws of the country where the donation takes place. For example, in the United States, donors must wait eight weeks (56 days) between whole blood donations but only seven days between plateletpheresis donations and twice per seven-day period in plasmapheresis.The amount of blood drawn and the methods vary. The collection can be done manually or with automated equipment that takes only specific components of the blood. Most of the components of blood used for transfusions have a short shelf life, and maintaining a constant supply is a persistent problem. This has led to some increased interest in autotransfusion, whereby a patient's blood is salvaged during surgery for continuous reinfusion—or alternatively, is "self-donated" prior to when it will be needed. (Generally, the notion of "donation" does not refer to giving to one's self, though in this context it has become somewhat acceptably idiomatic.)


Capitalism is an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit. Characteristics central to capitalism include private property, capital accumulation, wage labor, voluntary exchange, a price system, and competitive markets. In a capitalist market economy, decision-making and investment are determined by every owner of wealth, property or production ability in financial and capital markets, whereas prices and the distribution of goods and services are mainly determined by competition in goods and services markets.Economists, political economists, sociologists and historians have adopted different perspectives in their analyses of capitalism and have recognized various forms of it in practice. These include laissez-faire or free market capitalism, welfare capitalism and state capitalism. Different forms of capitalism feature varying degrees of free markets, public ownership, obstacles to free competition and state-sanctioned social policies. The degree of competition in markets, the role of intervention and regulation, and the scope of state ownership vary across different models of capitalism. The extent to which different markets are free as well as the rules defining private property are matters of politics and policy. Most existing capitalist economies are mixed economies, which combine elements of free markets with state intervention and in some cases economic planning.Market economies have existed under many forms of government and in many different times, places and cultures. Modern capitalist societies—marked by a universalization of money-based social relations, a consistently large and system-wide class of workers who must work for wages, and a capitalist class which owns the means of production—developed in Western Europe in a process that led to the Industrial Revolution. Capitalist systems with varying degrees of direct government intervention have since become dominant in the Western world and continue to spread. Over time, capitalist countries have experienced consistent economic growth and an increase in the standard of living.

Critics of capitalism argue that it establishes power in the hands of a minority capitalist class that exists through the exploitation of the majority working class and their labor; prioritizes profit over social good, natural resources and the environment; and is an engine of inequality, corruption and economic instabilities. Supporters argue that it provides better products and innovation through competition, disperses wealth to all productive people, promotes pluralism and decentralization of power, creates strong economic growth, and yields productivity and prosperity that greatly benefit society.

Commodification of nature

The commodification of nature is an area of research within critical environmental studies that is concerned with the ways in which natural entities and processes are made exchangeable through the market, and the implications thereof.

Drawing upon the work of Karl Marx, Karl Polanyi, James O’Connor and David Harvey, this area of work is normative and critical, based in Marxist geography and political ecology. Theorists use a commodification framing in order to contest the perspectives of "market environmentalism," which sees marketization as a solution to environmental degradation. The environment has been a key site of conflict between proponents of the expansion of market norms, relations and modes of governance and those who oppose such expansion. Critics emphasize the contradictions and undesirable physical and ethical consequences brought about by the commodification of natural resources (as inputs to production and products) and processes (environmental services or conditions).

Most researchers who employ a commodification of nature framing invoke a Marxian conceptualization of commodities as "objects produced for sale on the market" that embody both use and exchange value. Commodification itself is a process by which goods and services not produced for sale are converted into an exchangeable form. It involves multiple elements, including privatization, alienation, individuation, abstraction, valuation and displacement.As capitalism expands in breadth and depth, more and more things previously external to the system become “internalized,” including entities and processes that are usually considered "natural." Nature, as a concept, however, is very difficult to define, with many layers of meaning, including external environments as well as humans themselves. Political ecology and other critical conceptions draw upon strands within Marxist geography that see nature as "socially produced," with no neat boundary separating the "social" from the "natural." Still, the commodification of entities and processes that are considered natural is viewed as a "special case" based on nature’s biophysical materiality, which "shape[es] and condition[s] trajectories of commodification."

Commodity (Marxism)

In classical political economy and especially Karl Marx's critique of political economy, a commodity is any good or service ("products" or "activities") produced by human labour and offered as a product for general sale on the market. Some other priced goods are also treated as commodities, e.g. human labor-power, works of art and natural resources, even though they may not be produced specifically for the market, or be non-reproducible goods.

Marx's analysis of the commodity is intended to help solve the problem of what establishes the economic value of goods, using the labor theory of value. This problem was extensively debated by Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and Karl Rodbertus-Jagetzow, among others. Value and price are not equivalent terms in economics, and theorising the specific relationship of value to market price has been a challenge for both liberal and Marxist economists.

Commodity status of animals

The commodity status of animals refers to the legal status as property of most non-human animals, particularly farmed animals, working animals and animals in sport, and their use as objects of trade. In the United States, Free-roaming animals (ferae naturae) are (broadly) held in trust by the state; only if captured can be claimed as personal property.Animals regarded as commodities may be bought, sold, given away, bequeathed, killed, and used as commodity producers: producers of meat, eggs, milk, fur, wool, skin and offspring, among other things. The exchange value of the animal does not depend on quality of life.The commodity status of livestock is evident in auction yards, where they are tagged with a barcode and traded according to certain qualities, including age, weight, sex and breeding history.In commodity markets, animals and animal products are classified as soft commodities, along with goods such as coffee and sugar, because they are grown, as opposed to hard commodities, such as gold and copper, which are mined.Researchers identify viewing animals as commodities by humans as a manifestation of speciesism. The vegan and animal rights movements, chiefly the abolitionist approach, of the twentieth century calls for eliminating the commodity or property status of animals.

Customary land

Customary land is land which is owned by indigenous communities and administered in accordance with their customs, as opposed to statutory tenure usually introduced during the colonial periods. Common ownership is one form of customary land ownership.

Since the late 20th century, statutory recognition and protection of indigenous and community land rights continues to be a major challenge. The gap between formally recognized and customarily held and managed land is a significant source of underdevelopment, conflict, and environmental degradation.In the Malawi Land Act of 1965, "Customary Land" is defined as "all land which is held, occupied or used under customary law, but does not include any public land". In most countries of the Pacific islands, customary land remains the dominant land tenure form. Distinct customary systems of tenure have evolved on different islands and areas within the Pacific region. In any country there may be many different types of customary tenure.The amount of customary land ownership out of the total land area of Pacific island nations is the following: 97% in Papua New Guinea, 90% in Vanuatu, 88% in Fiji, 87% in the Solomon Islands, and 81% in Samoa.

Economic democracy

Economic democracy is a socioeconomic philosophy that proposes to shift decision-making power from corporate managers and corporate shareholders to a larger group of public stakeholders that includes workers, customers, suppliers, neighbours and the broader public. No single definition or approach encompasses economic democracy, but most proponents claim that modern property relations externalize costs, subordinate the general well-being to private profit and deny the polity a democratic voice in economic policy decisions. In addition to these moral concerns, economic democracy makes practical claims, such as that it can compensate for capitalism's inherent effective demand gap.Proponents of economic democracy generally argue that modern capitalism periodically results in economic crises characterized by deficiency of effective demand as society is unable to earn enough income to purchase its output production. Corporate monopoly of common resources typically creates artificial scarcity, resulting in socio-economic imbalances that restrict workers from access to economic opportunity and diminish consumer purchasing power. Economic democracy has been proposed as a component of larger socioeconomic ideologies, as a stand-alone theory and as a variety of reform agendas. For example, as a means to securing full economic rights, it opens a path to full political rights, defined as including the former. Both market and non-market theories of economic democracy have been proposed. As a reform agenda, supporting theories and real-world examples range from decentralization and economic liberalization to democratic cooperatives, public banking, fair trade and the regionalization of food production and currency.

Free-rider problem

In the social sciences, the free-rider problem occurs when those who benefit from resources, public goods, or services do not pay for them, which results in an underprovision of those goods or services. For example, a free-rider may frequently ask for available parking lots (public goods) from those who have already paid for them, in order to benefit from free parking. That is, the free-rider may use the parking even more than the others without paying a penny. The free-rider problem is the question of how to limit free riding and its negative effects in these situations. The free-rider problem may occur when property rights are not clearly defined and imposed.The free-rider problem is common with goods which are non-excludable, including public goods and situations of the Tragedy of the Commons.

Although the term "free rider" was first used in economic theory of public goods, similar concepts have been applied to other contexts, including collective bargaining, antitrust law, psychology and political science. For example, some individuals in a team or community may reduce their contributions or performance if they believe that one or more other members of the group may free ride.

Intangible property

Intangible property, also known as incorporeal property, describes something which a person or corporation can have ownership of and can transfer ownership to another person or corporation, but has no physical substance, for example brand identity or knowledge/intellectual property. It generally refers to statutory creations such as copyright, trademarks, or patents. It excludes tangible property like real property (land, buildings, and fixtures) and personal property (ships, automobiles, tools, etc.). In some jurisdictions intangible property are referred to as choses in action. Intangible property is used in distinction to tangible property. It is useful to note that there are two forms of intangible property: legal intangible property (which is discussed here) and competitive intangible property (which is the source from which legal intangible property is created but cannot be owned, extinguished, or transferred). Competitive intangible property disobeys the intellectual property test of voluntary extinguishment and therefore results in the sources that create intellectual property (knowledge in its source form, collaboration, process-engagement, etc.) escaping quantification.

Generally, ownership of intangible property gives the owner a set of legally enforceable rights over reproduction of personal property containing certain content. For example, a copyright owner can control the reproduction of the work forming the copyright. However, the intangible property forms a set of rights separate from the tangible property that carries the rights. For example, the owner of a copyright can control the printing of books containing the content, but the book itself is personal property which can be bought and sold without concern over the rights of the copyright holder.

In English law and other Commonwealth legal systems, intangible property is traditionally divided in pure intangibles (such as debts, intellectual property rights and goodwill) and documentary intangibles, which obtain their character through the medium of a document (such as a bill of lading, promissory note or bill of exchange). The recent rise of electronic documents has blurred the distinction between pure intangibles and documentary intangibles.

International Association for the Study of the Commons

The International Association for the Study of the Commons (IASC) was founded in 1989 as The International Association for the Study of Common Property (IASCP). It is a non-for-profit organization that sees as its mission to further the understanding of institutions for the management of resources that are or could be held or used collectively as a commons by communities in developing and industrialized countries.

According to its vision statement, the goals of the association are:

to encourage exchange of knowledge on the commons among diverse disciplines, areas, and resource types

to foster mutual exchange of scholarship and practical experience

to promote appropriate institutional design

Karl Polanyi

Karl Paul Polanyi (; Hungarian: Polányi Károly [ˈpolaːɲi ˈkaːroj]; October 25, 1886 – April 23, 1964) was an Austro-Hungarian economic historian, economic anthropologist, economic sociologist, political economist, historical sociologist and social philosopher. He is known for his opposition to traditional economic thought and for his book, The Great Transformation, which argued that the emergence of market-based societies in modern Europe was not inevitable but historically contingent. Polanyi is remembered today as the originator of substantivism, a cultural approach to economics, which emphasized the way economies are embedded in society and culture. This view ran counter to mainstream economics but is popular in anthropology, economic history, economic sociology and political science.

Polanyi's approach to the ancient economies has been applied to a variety of cases, such as Pre-Columbian America and ancient Mesopotamia, although its utility to the study of ancient societies in general has been questioned. Polanyi's The Great Transformation became a model for historical sociology. His theories eventually became the foundation for the economic democracy movement. His daughter, Canadian economist Kari Polanyi Levitt (born 1923 in Vienna, Austria), is Emerita Professor of Economics at McGill University, Montreal.

Labour is not a commodity

"Labour is not a commodity" is the principle expressed in the preamble to the International Labour Organization's founding documents. It expresses the view that people should not be treated like inanimate commodities, capital, another mere factor of production, or resources. Instead, people who work for a living should be treated as human beings and accorded dignity and respect.

List of types of formally designated forests

This is a list of types of formally designated forests, as used in various places around the world. It is organized in three sublists: by forest ownership, protection status, and designated use.

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (; French: [pjɛʁʒozɛf pʁudɔ̃]; 15 January 1809 – 19 January 1865) was a French politician and the founder of mutualist philosophy. He was the first person to declare himself an anarchist, using that term and is widely regarded as one of the ideology's most influential theorists. Proudhon is even considered by many to be the "father of anarchism". He became a member of the French Parliament after the Revolution of 1848, whereafter he referred to himself as a federalist.Proudhon, who was born in Besançon, was a printer who taught himself Latin in order to better print books in the language. His best-known assertion is that "property is theft!", contained in his first major work, What is Property? Or, an Inquiry into the Principle of Right and Government (Qu'est-ce que la propriété? Recherche sur le principe du droit et du gouvernement), published in 1840. The book's publication attracted the attention of the French authorities. It also attracted the scrutiny of Karl Marx, who started a correspondence with its author. The two influenced each other and they met in Paris while Marx was exiled there. Their friendship finally ended when Marx responded to Proudhon's The System of Economic Contradictions, or The Philosophy of Poverty with the provocatively titled The Poverty of Philosophy. The dispute became one of the sources of the split between the anarchist and Marxist wings of the International Working Men's Association. Some such as Edmund Wilson have contended that Marx's attack on Proudhon had its origin in the latter's defense of Karl Grün, whom Marx bitterly disliked, but who had been preparing translations of Proudhon's work.

Proudhon favored workers' associations or co-operatives as well as individual worker/peasant possession over private ownership or the nationalization of land and workplaces. He considered social revolution to be achievable in a peaceful manner. In The Confessions of a Revolutionary, Proudhon asserted that "Anarchy is Order Without Power", the phrase which much later inspired in the view of some the anarchist circled-A symbol, today "one of the most common graffiti on the urban landscape". He unsuccessfully tried to create a national bank, to be funded by what became an abortive attempt at an income tax on capitalists and shareholders. Similar in some respects to a credit union, it would have given interest-free loans.


Property, in the abstract, is what belongs to or with something, whether as an attribute or as a component of said thing. In the context of this article, it is one or more components (rather than attributes), whether physical or incorporeal, of a person's estate; or so belonging to, as in being owned by, a person or jointly a group of people or a legal entity like a corporation or even a society. Depending on the nature of the property, an owner of property has the right to consume, alter, share, redefine, rent, mortgage, pawn, sell, exchange, transfer, give away or destroy it, or to exclude others from doing these things, as well as to perhaps abandon it; whereas regardless of the nature of the property, the owner thereof has the right to properly use it (as a durable, mean or factor, or whatever), or at the very least exclusively keep it.

In economics and political economy, there are three broad forms of property: private property, public property, and collective property (also called cooperative property).Property that jointly belongs to more than one party may be possessed or controlled thereby in very similar or very distinct ways, whether simply or complexly, whether equally or unequally. However, there is an expectation that each party's will (rather discretion) with regard to the property be clearly defined and unconditional, so as to distinguish ownership and easement from rent. The parties might expect their wills to be unanimous, or alternately every given one of them, when no opportunity for or possibility of dispute with any other of them exists, may expect his, her, its or their own will to be sufficient and absolute.

The Restatement (First) of Property defines property as anything, tangible or intangible whereby a legal relationship between persons and the state enforces a possessory interest or legal title in that thing. This mediating relationship between individual, property and state is called a property regime.In sociology and anthropology, property is often defined as a relationship between two or more individuals and an object, in which at least one of these individuals holds a bundle of rights over the object. The distinction between "collective property" and "private property" is regarded as a confusion since different individuals often hold differing rights over a single object.Important widely recognized types of property include real property (the combination of land and any improvements to or on the land), personal property (physical possessions belonging to a person), private property (property owned by legal persons, business entities or individual natural persons), public property (state owned or publicly owned and available possessions) and intellectual property (exclusive rights over artistic creations, inventions, etc.), although the last is not always as widely recognized or enforced. An article of property may have physical and incorporeal parts. A title, or a right of ownership, establishes the relation between the property and other persons, assuring the owner the right to dispose of the property as the owner sees fit.

Property rights (economics)

Property rights are theoretical socially-enforced constructs in economics for determining how a resource or economic good is used and owned. Resources can be owned by (and hence be the property of) individuals, associations or governments. Property rights can be viewed as an attribute of an economic good. This attribute has four broad components and is often referred to as a bundle of rights:

the right to use the good

the right to earn income from the good

the right to transfer the good to others

the right to enforce property rightsIn economics, property is usually considered to be ownership (rights to the proceeds generated by the property) and control over a resource or good. Many economists effectively argue that property rights need to be fixed and need to portray the relationships among other parties in order to be more effective.

Tangible property

Tangible property in law is, literally, anything which can be touched, and includes both real property and personal property (or moveable property), and stands in distinction to intangible property.In English law and some Commonwealth legal systems, items of tangible property are referred to as choses in possession (or a chose in possession in the singular). However, some property, despite being physical in nature, is classified in many legal systems as intangible property rather than tangible property because the rights associated with the physical item are of far greater significance than the physical properties. Principally, these are documentary intangibles. For example, a promissory note is a piece of paper that can be touched, but the real significance is not the physical paper, but the legal rights which the paper confers, and hence the promissory note is defined by the legal debt rather than the physical attributes.A unique category of property is money, which in some legal systems is treated as tangible property and in others as intangible property. Whilst most countries legal tender is expressed in the form of intangible property ("The Treasury of Country X hereby promises to pay to the bearer on demand...."), in practice banknotes are now rarely ever redeemed in any country, which has led to banknotes and coins being classified as tangible property in most modern legal systems.

The Great Transformation (book)

The Great Transformation is a book by Karl Polanyi, a Hungarian-American political economist. First published in 1944 by Farrar & Rinehart, it deals with the social and political upheavals that took place in England during the rise of the market economy. Polanyi contends that the modern market economy and the modern nation-state should be understood not as discrete elements but as the single human invention he calls the "Market Society".

A distinguishing characteristic of the "Market Society" is that humanity's economic mentalities have been changed. Prior to the great transformation, people based their economies on reciprocity and redistribution across personal and communal relationships. As a consequence of industrialization and increasing state influence, competitive markets were created that undermined these previous social tendencies, replacing them with formal institutions that aimed to promote a self-regulating market economy. The expansion of capitalist institutions with an economically liberal mindset not only changed laws but also fundamentally altered humankind's economic relations; prior to the great transformation, markets played a very minor role in human affairs and were not even capable of setting prices because of their diminutive size. It was only after industrialization and the onset of greater state control over newly created market institutions that the myth of human nature's propensity toward rational free trade became widespread. However, Polanyi asserts instead that "man's economy, as a rule, is submerged in his social relationships," and he therefore proposes an alternative ethnographic economic approach called "substantivism", in opposition to "formalism", both terms coined by Polanyi.

Soft commodities
Hard commodities
By owner
By nature
(key work)

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