The Coming of Post-reflexive Society: Commodification and Language in Digital Capitalism

Graham, Philip W. & Hearn, Gregory (2001) The Coming of Post-reflexive Society: Commodification and Language in Digital Capitalism. Media International Australia: Culture and Policy, pp. 79-90.


Language is a unique aspect of human communication because it can be used to discuss itself in its own terms. For this reason, human societies potentially have superior capacities of co-ordination, reflexive self-correction, and innovation than other animal, physical or cybernetic systems. However, this analysis also reveals that language is interconnected with the economically and technologically mediated social sphere and hence is vulnerable to abstraction, objectification, reification, and therefore ideology – all of which are antithetical to its reflexive function, whilst paradoxically being a fundamental part of it. In particular, in capitalism, language is increasingly commodified within the social domains created and affected by ubiquitous communication technologies. The advent of the so-called ‘knowledge economy’ implicates exchangeable forms of thought (language) as the fundamental commodities of this emerging system. The historical point at which a ‘knowledge economy’ emerges, then, is the critical point at which thought itself becomes a commodified ‘thing’, and language becomes its “objective” means of exchange. However, the processes by which such commodification and objectification occurs obscures the unique social relations within which these language commodities are produced. The latest economic phase of capitalism – the knowledge economy – and the obfuscating trajectory which accompanies it, we argue, is destroying the reflexive capacity of language particularly through the process of commodification. This can be seen in that the language practices that have emerged in conjunction with digital technologies are increasingly non-reflexive and therefore less capable of self-critical, conscious change.

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ID Code: 23511
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
ISSN: 1329-878X
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Deposited On: 17 Jun 2009 13:57
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2010 13:47

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