Sorting Out Economic Forms: A Field Guide to Contemporary Capitalism

Alexander Dobeson*, Saskia Brill, Veit Braun

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


A series of recent works have put forward a post-commodification understanding of the contemporary economy as based on one central economic form. While this approach allows us to conceptualize the transformation of the economy around one particular type of valuable, it also suffers from conceptual monoculture, risking to overlook the specific relationships between different forms. To grasp the complexities of contemporary capitalism, this article offers an analytical field guide for analysing the interdependent relationships of the most salient economic forms – commodities, assets, gifts and singularities – on three levels: (i) form, defining the boundaries of economic forms as socio-material configurations determined by their mode of exchange; (ii) formatting, denoting the process of turning something into a particular economic form through relational and boundary work; and (iii) formation, referring to the wider configuration of prerequisites and opportunities that allows economic things to take on their respective forms. We argue that rethinking economies as specific relational configurations of multiple economic forms allows for a sharper understanding of regional dynamics and politics.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 3 Sept 2023

Bibliographical note

Epub ahead of print. Published online: 3 September 2023.


  • Economic forms
  • Gifts
  • Commodities
  • Singularities
  • Assets
  • Assetization

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