Time is money and money is time, but why is money the metaphorical ruler of our world? The answer is simple, and we have covered it extensively in our lectures and readings, and that is the beautiful beast that is commodification. While it is kind of obvious to us that everything can be bought, sold, and traded about, if we travel way back to Medieval Europe, we would find a very different world, where goods are created to be used by their creator, and that is about it. Back before what we might call the ‘Commodification Revolution,’ producing goods for selling and trading was a foreign concept, each person depended only on themselves and possibly their family members, but they did not have to rely on the fellow down the street for their everyday essentials. All things had an intrinsic value directly related to their usability to the individual. This took a turn when commodification sunk its teeth into the products of people across the European continent.
In its most basic sense, commodification transforms an item from being something an individual creates and uses for himself to something an individual creates and then takes to the market to either earn money or trade for other items created by different individuals. Commodification introduced an entirely different economic system to Europeans, where anything they produced could be sold or exchanged to further their wealth. Also, as often restated in lectures, this new commodification of everyday life resulted in more trust being put into one’s neighbors, putting oneself at the whims of strangers seems greatly intimidating and almost idiotic, but this was the equivalent ‘Big Bang’ of the economy we have today.
As discussed in both the lectures and Artifice, time itself became a commodity with the arrival of the first of the three industrial revolutions. Previously, time was not a large component in the lives of laborers and citizens alike, but with the arrival of the Industrial Revolution and the standardized concept of time, time became something valuable.This commodification of time manifested in many different ways, from creating more efficient technology to save time, to hourly wages of laborers and rates of interest tracked by bankers. Wasting time is something we are all familiar with today, especially as college students who often tend to procrastinate our assignments by ‘wasting our time.’ While commodification of other things such as the military played out on a relatively smaller scale, time took a while to actually become a commodity. With mechanical clocks being cranked out in the 1200s, one could think of this as the beginning of the commodification of time. However, time did not become a true commodity until the first industrial revolution, when efficiency was the goal.This commodification of time was a great driving force of the cascade of innovations found in Europe, as the faster something could be done, the better.
An obvious commodification of something that I interact with often is music. Music has been a commodified item for quite a while now, but there are certain media that we experience today that really highlight the ways in which commodification has affected music and those who listen to it. Music has always been something that has been sold to those willing to listen, but the method of sale and the actual medium of the sale has changed over time. First there were records, then CDS, and then mobile downloads. Royalties are also a very common concept in today’s world of music, requiring those who use certain music to pay set fees. With the increasing popularity of YouTube and streaming sites such as Twitch, copyright music has come to play a large part in how individuals listen to music. Much like how written text became a commodity to be sold upon the invention of the printing press and the following print revolution, music has done much the same. Both writing and creating music involve the ideas of the artist being infused into their work, creating something entirely their own, though not so much in today’s world, as typically publication houses and music labels tend to ultimately control the creations of the artists.Music also has a sort of duality as well though, as one can enjoy music without the commodification of it, since you can simply treat it as a hobby. Music I think is a very interesting commodity, since, theoretically, anyone could make their own music. This music may not necessarily sound good, but it would be their own, charge free music.
The whole idea of commodification has overtaken much of the world today, with almost everything under the sun having some sort of exchange or monetary value. Today’s world is filled to the brim with commodities that make our entire world spin ‘round, and without which we would likely still be in the self-sufficient age of pre-commodification Europe. As when guessing the effects of the past on the present, we can never be entirely sure of the true influence of past events, but we can speculate. Upon speculating, without the commodification of various things, from the written word to each individuals’ time, many innovation cascades may not have been possible, as there would be different needs for society. Perhaps without commodification, sufficiency would have been enough for us for a much longer time, or perhaps not. One will never truly know, but speculation is always a fun past-time.