The Mutability of Economic Things

Veit Braun, Saskia Brill, Alexander Dobeson*

*Corresponding author for this work

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How can we understand the relations between economic things and different forms of exchange–commodities, assets, gifts and singularities–in the contemporary economy? The decline of industrial capitalism and the emergence of new types of intangible valuables challenge our understanding of what economic life is about. Analysing economies through one dominant form of exchange risks overlooking the interplay between different types of valuables, their materiality and interactions that form the basis of value creation and exchange. In contrast, this special issue highlights the mutability of things–their capacity to take on and abandon different forms–as a precondition for economic activity. Drawing on a variety of empirical case studies of markets for seeds, grains, fish, carbon emissions and cattle, the contributions set out to trace the social biographies of economic things in, between and beyond multiple economic forms. We argue that it is the very ability of economic things to shift in and out of particular forms of exchange that enables the complex globalised economies of our time.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Cultural Economy
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)271-279
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Gifts
  • Commodities
  • Singularities
  • Assets
  • Value
  • Forms of exchange

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