Fictitious commodities

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The concept of fictitious commodities originated in Karl Polanyi's 1944 book The Great Transformation (book) and refers to those things treated as market commodities which are not created for the market, specifically, land, labor, and money.[1] For Polanyi, the effort by classical liberals to make society subject to the free market was a utopian project and, as Polanyi scholars Fred Block and Margaret Somers say, "When these public goods and social necessities (what Polanyi calls “fictitious commodities”) are treated as if they are commodities produced for sale on the market, rather than protected rights, our social world is endangered and major crises will ensue."[2]


  1. Polanyi, K. (2001). The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time, 2nd ed. Foreword by Joseph E. Stiglitz; introduction by Fred Block. Boston: Beacon Press. ISBN 9780807056431
  2. The free market is an impossible utopia (2014-07-18), The Washington Post. A conversation with Fred Block and Margaret Somers on their book, The Power of Market Fundamentalism: Karl Polanyi’s Critique (Harvard University Press, 2014).

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