Accepted Paper:

From commodity to asset and back again. Property in the capitalism of varieties.  

Author:

Veit Braun (University Frankfurt)

Paper short abstract:

Products are never fully commodified and never fully assetisized. As the example of wheat varieties shows, a product is composed through a specific arrangement of commodity-shaped and asset-like valuation processes.

Paper long abstract:

The line between commodities and assets is a thin one. If we conceptualize commodities as those goods that do not require long-term social obligations for their acquisition because they are exhausted in the transaction and assets as those who involve continuing relationships because they cannot be exhausted, then when does a product cease to be one or the other? Taking the marketing process of wheat varieties as an example, I will discuss the multiple nature of products that are never fully commodified and never fully assetisized. Rather, as the practice of wheat breeding shows, a product is composed through a specific arrangement of commodity-shaped and asset-like exchange processes. To a considerable part, wheat varieties depend on breeding work done outside the breeding companies that produce them, are sold like a traditional mass-produced commodity by private enterprises, but form the basis for novel variety development by third parties. The European intellectual property regime for varieties accounts for the multiple nature of plant varieties by granting peculiar property titles that allow for forms of both commodified and assetisized marketing. Recent attempts to turn varieties into a more asset-like good by redrawing their legal and material boundaries might however have far-ranging implications for this framework.

Panel T005
Turning Things into Assets