Beyond the market: representing work in advanced economies
Colin C. Williams
Purpose – A recurring assumption across the social sciences is that non-commodified work has been increasingly replaced by the commodified sphere in which goods and services are produced and delivered for monetary exchange by capitalist firms for profit-motivated purposes. The purpose of this paper is to evaluate this thesis critically. Design/methodology/approach – A review is conducted of the extent of commodified and non-commodified work in the advanced economies. Findings – Analyzing the extent of commodified and non-commodified work in the advanced economies, the commodified sphere is shown to be far from hegemonic and, if anything, to have receded rather than penetrated deeper during the last four decades. This is here explained in terms of both the existence of resistance cultures to market-ism and the contradictions inherent in the structural shift towards commodification. Practical implications – The outcome is a call to transcend the representation of commodified work as victorious, all-powerful and hegemonic, and for greater discussion of the feasibility of, and possibilities for, alternative futures beyond a commodified world. Originality/value – It contests the dominant narrative that we live in an ever more commodified world.
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