DOI: 10.1515/krt-2023-0003 ISSN:

A Liberal Theory of Commodification

Carl David Mildenberger


Judging on the basis of standard accounts of commodification, one might reasonably suggest that liberalism intrinsically lacks an adequate theory of commodification. Liberalism, with its commitment to individual choice and to neutrality as regards competing evaluation practices, seems conceptually incapable of identifying or abolishing many significant forms of commodification. This essay aims to refute this claim. It employs a strategy of appealing to the harm principle as grounds for a liberal anti-commodification theory. I claim that we are harmed when we are denied ways to meaningfully engage in certain evaluative practices, ways that depend on evaluations shared with others with whom we stand in meaningful social relationships. Markets can crowd out these shared evaluations, and to this extent cause us psychological harm; this in turn supplies grounds for restrictions on certain markets within a liberal state.

More from our Archive