Friday, 5 December 2008

CE and conductors as commodities

A useful conceptual tool

Andrew Sutton (no relation) is an ‘oil expert’ was recently interviewed by Olivia Sohr for yesteray's issue of science ezine Scitizen. If you’d like to see a macro-economic trend projectable on to the conductor market, try substituting one expensive raw commodity (oil) for another expensive human commodity (conductors) in the following extracts from that interview.

He argues that the markets are “selling the news” of a huge fall-off, and he invites us to watch closely how the energy demand of emerging economies develop.…

‘…There is this perception that there is going to be a huge fall off in demand that we actually haven’t seen yet. It seems like, to one extent, the markets are 'selling the news, but in all reality I don’t think that all that news has happened yet. In the US, we’ve seen a pretty significant slowdown, but everybody I talk to says: ‘There’s just as many cars on the road as there ever were‘. There is a little bit of a disconnect in terms of what is going on and what people think is going on.

‘What I’m really concerned and looking at in particular now are the BRIC countries [Brazil, Russia, India and China] to see how they continue to hold up, in terms of their energy demand. They have been the ones that have really been pushing forward, the Chinese and Indian economies in particular. They have been growing at very fast rates, and that consumes a lot of energy. If they can continue to maintain that growth, we’ll see demand overall not really change that much.’

In other words

First, perhaps what Conductive World has been doing is ’selling the news of a fall off in CE in advance’. No harm in that surely...

Secondly and more specifically, as far as the commodity markets go (oil or conductors), the overall level might remain the same. It is those who are buying the commodity that will change.

So good news for some.

Commodification. Commodification

CE, conductors as commodities? Hang on, isn't that a bit offensive?

No, just using well-exercised terms of economic and cultural analysis, like many such others not explicitly used so far in considering the workings and development of Conductive Education around the world.

A commodity. Something to which a value has been assigned, including knowledge, skills and services, and can be then bought and sold. Examples in this sector are the labour of conductors and provision of a CE program.

Commodification. Long-standing Marxist term for the process of assigning economic value to something not previously considered in economic terms, leading to expansion of market trade to previously non-market areas If this rings a bell when you look at what has happened in Conductive Education over the last twenty-five years, in Hungary as much as elsewhere, then you can extend the analysis of CE and conductors on into commodity fetishism and alienation.

Commodicisation. More modern business term for transformation of a market from a monopoly position to one of competition, often leading to a fall in price. Branded products’ may suffer but customers may benefit. This may ring a bell in CE, particularly in respect to the risk to customers of not being able to see the difference between different brands or versions of the apparent commodity, different qualities, fakes etc. You might find this a useful way of thinking the apparent market commodity of ‘Conductive Education’ and ‘conductors’, as perceived by would-be users such as parents, by existeing professions and services, and by officials and policy- makers. Researchers too have fallen victim to this process, in their droves.

Cultural commodification. A very modern term, referring to how some outward forms of a previously vigorous social movement (Socialism, Black Power, for example), may be appropriated as fashion statements, with no feeling for their original purpose, thereby denying their previous force for change. One might find this too a useful way of regarding commodified fragments of conductive practice adopted into contexts in which their transformative powered altogether diffused.


Sohr, O. (2008) A huge fall off in demand? ‘We actually haven’t seen it yet’ Scitizen, 4 December

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