When I was in the process of finishing my Master’s degree in Natural Resources, I took a course titled Political Ecology. This course introduced me to a lot of nifty cool concepts that I am not a shame to say, I knew nothing about. We talked about neo-liberalism, hegemony and the one that totally blew my mind… COMMODIFICATION. Let’s clarify that as a Biology undergrad; I had never delved into the deep seas of political/ economic courses (Just the basics). So, it was a breath of fresh air to come into contact with these ideas and how they affect the environment and the policies being made.
For those of you, who like me had never heard of the concept of commodification; it basically means to turn something into a commodity. What is a commodity? Well, the Free Dictionary sums it up as; something useful that can be turned to commercial or other advantage. Basically, everything we use in our day is some type of commodity. Isn’t that mind-blowing? Let’s take for example, coconut oil; coconut oil comes from the kernel of mature coconuts and was part of the lives of many before someone decided to harvest and sell it. Now, it has gain great hype as this super food/ super product; you can cook with it and spread it on your face. **Full disclaimer here: I know, because I have done it. I use it for many purposes, including as a face mask.** Interesting, huh?
Ever since I learned about commodification, every once in a while I find myself questioning, whatever product I’m using; whatever food I’m eating; whatever book I’m reading; whatever interaction I’m having. Because, the thing about commodifying something is that it has consequences. If we go back to the coconut oil example, as this fad grows; farmers get affected, the price of it rises and the people who used the oil as part of their culture get touched by it becoming a commodity.
What is more astounding is that the more you think about it and get informed, the more you understand how even ideas can become commodities; cultures, activities, individuals can all be commodities. This brings me to the most recent time I’ve been stung by the commodification bee… The World Cup.
I’ve been following the FIFA men’s World Cup since 2002. This year with all the issues it has had in Brasil, and because I’m older and wiser (maybe?); I found myself googling the commodification of soccer. Interesting enough, sports can of course be turned into commodities and so can the big players. I found a few interesting articles which talked about not only the implications of sports in the economic and political arenas, but also the effects it has on how we see players. Here are the links:
If you have been following the FIFA, then you are no stranger to the amount of tv ads with the multiple famous players; the incident involving Luis Suarez from Uruguay; or Neymar’s injury. You then are no stranger to reading social media comments about how Neymar’s absence affected Brasil’s possible win against Germany (and if you are not, spoiler; Germany kicked butt). This is commodification at its best (or worst); we as consumers of the sport didn’t care about Neymar’s possible pain, but of how it affected a game. This person lost his humanity and became an asset. Think about that.
**Full disclaimer: This is just my opinion, I’m sure I still have a lot to learn and welcome any thoughts or corrections**