Beyond Commodification: Re-Reading the Future of Work

9 Pages Posted: 6 Jul 2013

See all articles by Colin Williams

Colin Williams

University of Sheffield - School of Management

Date Written: 2004


A widely held supposition is that goods and services are increasingly produced and delivered for monetised exchange by capitalist firms in pursuit of profit. The result of this view of an on-going encroachment of the market is that there is only one perceived future for work and it is one characterised by an ever more commodified world. The aim of this paper is to evaluate critically this discourse. Analysing the balance between commodified and non-commodified work in the advanced economies, a large non-commodified sphere is identified that, if anything, is found to be expanding relative to the commodified realm. Rather than reading the future of work as a natural and unstoppable progression towards a victorious, all-powerful and hegemonic commodity economy, this paper thus opens up the feasibility of alternative futures beyond a commodified world.

Keywords: commodification, informalisation, informal economy, informal sector, shadow economy, economic development

JEL Classification: O17, H31, H26

Suggested Citation

Williams, Colin, Beyond Commodification: Re-Reading the Future of Work (2004). Foresight, Vol. 6, No. 6, pp. 329 - 337, 2004, Available at SSRN: or

Colin Williams (Contact Author)

University of Sheffield - School of Management ( email )

15 Conduit Road
Sheffield, S10 1FL
United Kingdom

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