The Politics of Value Revisited: Commodities, Assets, and the Gifts of Nature

Alexander Dobeson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

What links the value and exchange of everyday commodities with the production of new wealth in contemporary capitalism? By taking the reader on an ethnographic stroll through a potlatch-like community festival sponsored by the Icelandic fishing industry, this article sheds light on a new liberal politics of value that is rooted in the redirection of societal wealth through the privatisation of access rights to former common pool resources. While this politics of value has created a new, highly valuable asset class by neatly separating the right to fish from the fish in the sea, it has caused moral outrage and controversy over the ownership of the nation’s most valuable export commodity. To reunite what has been divided, asset-rich companies return the gifts of nature by handing out generous donations of free fish, while valuable fishing rights remain the de facto inalienable assets of societal influence and intangible wealth.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Cultural Economy
Volume14
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)344-356
Number of pages13
ISSN1753-0350
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Potlatch
  • Gift exchange
  • Commodities
  • Assets
  • Common wealth

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