Education as Fictitious Commodity: The Strange Non-Death of ICT

Graham Downes and Peter Jones

It is a common-place in Education Studies that education is increasingly subject to processes of marketization and commodification. This paper seeks to specify the nature of education as a commodity and explain how and why it both resists commodification and takes on, dialectically, a particular commodity form. Drawing on Marxist accounts of the commodity, neo-Marxist reappraisals of culture as commodity and Polanyian perspectives on fictitious commodities, the paper argues that current understandings of marketization produce a reification of education as fetishized educational commodity which obscures the social relations and production of value at moments of both discourse and practice. This argument is then used to explore the specific example of how discourses and practices of ICT produce particular commodity forms of education in the fictitious education market of school choice.