A Note on the Ongoing Processes of Commodification: From the Audience Commodity to the Social Factory

  • Jernej Prodnik Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana
Keywords: Commodity-form, Commodification, Abstraction, Political economy of communication, Critique of political econ-omy, Social factory, Audience commodity, Internet, Communication capitalism, Capitalism.


Commodity-form played an important, if often overlooked role in the studies of capitalism. Processes of transforming literally anything into a privatized form of (fictitious) commodity that is exchanged in the circulation process are of fundamental importance for the rise and reproduction of capitalism. At the same time commodity, as the “cell-form of capitalism”, has played a crucial role throughout Marx’s oeuvre. The central aim of the paper is to demonstrate how commodity-form develops in his works (both as a part of his “global” argument and in the context of historical changes) and what role does it play in some of the key works of critical theory. Furthermore, it is analysed how this topic was approached in critical communication studies, especially in the political economy of communication. The latter is done especially through a reappraisal of the “blind spot debate” iniated by Dallas W. Smythe and the audience commodity thesis, which was raised in it. This long-lasting debate, which at least indirectly continues to this day, can be seen as an invaluable source for practices and ideas connected to both Marxian-inspired critical communication studies and to a serious analysis of the continuing commodification of different spheres of society and its increasing pervasiveness in contemporary life. In the last part of the text, these findings are connected to some of the recent neo-Marxist approaches, especially to the findings of the authors coming from the autonomist (post-operaist) movement. Insights of this intellectual strand can provide an understanding of the ongoing commodification processes, while also offering possibilities of convergence with Smythe’s approach.

Author Biography

Jernej Prodnik, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana

Researcher at the Social Communication Research Centre at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana.

Assistant to the teaching proces, Media Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana.

Marx is Back-The Importance of Marxist Theory and Research for Critical Comm. Studies Today, ed C. Fuchs & Vincent Mosco