Nonhuman Animals as Fictitious Commodities: Exploitation and Consequences in Industrial Agriculture

In: Society & Animals
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  • 1 Sustainable Communities Program and School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability, Northern Arizona UniversityFlagstaff, Arizona
  • | 2 Department of Sociology & Gerontology, Miami UniversityOxford, Ohio
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This article examines how nonhuman animals, along with land and labor, represent fictitious commodities as described by Karl Polanyi. Animals in agriculture are examined as an extreme example of animal commodification whose use resembles the exploitation of land and labor. Conceptual frameworks developed from Marxist theory, including the subsumption of nature, the second contradiction of capitalism, and alienation, are applied to illustrate how the negative impacts to animals, the environment, and public health associated with animal agriculture are caused by attempts to overcome the incomplete commodification of animals. This article illustrates how social theory can be extended to apply to animals, especially animals who are deeply embedded in human society. The inclusion of animals in social analyses also serves to strengthen our overall understanding of exploitation and oppression under capitalism.

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