Exchanging entailments: The contested meaning of commodity exchange

2004 2004

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Abstract (summary)

Many economists have heralded markets as institutions promoting individual freedom, liberty and expanding wealth while others have condemned them for generating avarice, economic inequality and crises. Exchanging Entailments critically evaluates how prominent economic theorists link these various associations, called here entailments, to the exchange process and the theoretical and policy implications which result. In contrast, Exchanging Entailments argues that what commodity exchange entails always depends upon the broader constellation of social relations and beliefs situating it within any particular context. Aristotle pioneered such an insight by arguing exchange may positively or negatively impact society depending upon the beliefs and norms motivating the buying and selling of commodities. Adam Smith famously linked exchange motivated by individual gain with liberty, freedom and expanding wealth but also produced a knowledge of what ‘constrained’ exchange entails which constitute rhetorical motifs resonating within much of economic discourse today.

Marx challenged the representation of Smith's understanding of exchange popular as ‘one-sided’ and provided an immanent critique, demonstrating that the very rationale behind linking freedom, liberty and economic expansion to exchange also implies unfreedom, dependence, and economic crisis. Such a dialectic haunts commodity exchange within any social context, providing fodder for the celebrants and critics of markets alike. Besides exploring the significance of exchange within ‘traditional’ liberal bounds, Marx also articulated various class processes behind the production of commodities and merchant capital to exchange, reformulating its meaning in the process.

Exchanging Entailments concludes with an exploration into the role ascribed to commodity exchange within the globalization debates today and maintains that the rhetoric Smith developed surrounding exchange play no some role in the debate. Many pro-globalization theorists, while employing a very different theory, still echo Smith's associations of trade with wealth and harmony. Many critics of the international economic environment also rely upon his exchange entailments as well, albeit unwittingly, with they associate the ills of today with restricted exchange and/or favoritism in trade agreements. To challenge the constrained terrain upon which the globalization debate takes place, a crucial need exists today to challenge the rhetoric behind what exchange supposedly entails for society.

Indexing (details)

Economic theory;
Commodity markets;
0511: Economic theory
0501: Economics
Identifier / keyword
Social sciences; Commodity exchange; Entailments; Globalization; Markets
Exchanging entailments: The contested meaning of commodity exchange
Kozel, Philip M.
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 65/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
9780496132539, 0496132539
Wolff, Richard D.
University of Massachusetts Amherst
University location
United States -- Massachusetts
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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