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Fetishism and the language commodity: a materialist critique

Simpson, W; O'Regan, J; (2018) Fetishism and the language commodity: a materialist critique. Language Sciences , 70 pp. 155-156. 10.1016/j.langsci.2018.05.009. Green open access

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Abstract

Over the past 10 years, an emerging body of research in applied linguistics and linguistic anthropology has made the argument that recent global political-economic developments have led to the commodification of language. In focussing on how language is seen as a tradeable commodity, the process of commodification is portrayed as a principally discursive event, where value and commodity status are attributed to languages. However, the notion of both value and of commodities themselves as discursive matters stands in contrast to Marxist and classical political economy where commodities have value only insofar as they are congealed embodiments of human labour, expended in production processes where labour stands in relation to capital. In juxtaposing the ‘language commodity’ with the commodity of Marxist political economy, and in drawing on Marx's notion of commodity fetishism, we argue that though language may appear to be a commodity, it is not one, as language itself is not a product of labour. We conclude by discussing what a closer engagement with the more material concerns of production offer political economy approaches to language in addressing an ‘ideal’ and ‘material’ epistemological divide (Gal, 1989; Irvine, 1989; Friedrich, 1989; Shankar and Cavanaugh, 2012).

Type: Article
Title: Fetishism and the language commodity: a materialist critique
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.langsci.2018.05.009
Publisher version: http://doi.org/10.1016/j.langsci.2018.05.009
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Culture, Communication and Media
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10050465
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