City Research Online

COVID, Commodification and the Market

Seymour, D. ORCID: 0000-0001-6736-937X (2022). COVID, Commodification and the Market (City Law School Research Paper 2022/06). London, UK: City Law School, City, University of London.


Presented as a keynote talk at the Critical Theory Conference in Rome 2022 and included as CLS Working Paper 2020/14. This version is a thoroughly updated version of a previously uploaded paper.

Here, I discuss the connection between state responses to coronavirus and the emergence of conspiracy theories.

The first section of this paper argues that the dominant response to society’s confrontation with coronavirus was by integrating it within political economy’s framework of social and legal relations that reduces ‘nature’ to a commodity; that is, a species of private property freely exchangeable with its market competitors and so articulated through the language of private rights. The paper moves on to discuss the connection between commodification and conspiracism in which the concept of (individual and collective) sacrifice takes centre stage. However, unlike other instances of commodification, where social survival rests on humanity adapting to this commodification means that at stake here is nothing less that physical survival. It is the intense anxiety brought about by this shift that accounts for the equally intense outbursts of recent conspiracy thinking about the virus.

Publication Type: Monograph (Discussion Paper)
Additional Information: Copyright 2022 the authors
Publisher Keywords: COVID, Coronavirus, Critical Theory, Conspiracy theory, commodification, legal rights
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
K Law
Q Science > QR Microbiology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Departments: The City Law School > CLS Working Paper Series
The City Law School > Academic Programmes
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