Nonhuman animals as fictitious commodities: Exploitation and consequences in industrial agriculture

Diana Stuart, Ryan Gunderson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)291-310
Number of pages20
JournalSociety and Animals
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2020


  • Agriculture
  • Alienation
  • Animals
  • Commodification
  • Marx
  • Polanyi

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Veterinary
  • Sociology and Political Science


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