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Commoditization and oppression

A systems approach to understanding the economic dynamics of modes of oppression


Address for correspondence: Jack P. Manno, Department of Environmental Studies, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, 211A Marshall Hall, Syracuse, NY 13210.


Commoditization is a generalized Darwinian selection pressure in economic evolution driven by profit- and efficiency-seeking in the investment of key resources. By winnowing noncommodity opportunities to satisfy human needs, commoditization distorts development in ways that intensify negative social outcomes experienced by oppressed groups and undermines the possibility for sustainable development. When market logic dominates the investment of financial capital, energy, raw materials, human attention, labor, and creativity, market goods with traits associated with commodities are fully developed while nonmarket goods lacking those traits are systematically underdeveloped. Analysis of the traits of commodities explains the unsustainable development or maldevelopment that disproportionately affects those who are dependent on or who highly value important nonmarket relationships. Oppression theory is addressed with specific examples. A generalized form of oppression is theorized that systematically stunts the imagination and creativity required to meet contemporary environmental crises.