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Rethinking the commercialization of everyday life: a “whole economy” perspective

Colin C. Williams (Professor of Public Policy, in the Management School, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK)
Sara Nadin (Lecturer in Human Resource Management, in the Management School, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK)


ISSN: 1463-6689

Article publication date: 17 October 2010




A dominant belief is that the continuing encroachment of the market economy into everyday life is inevitable, unstoppable and irreversible. Over the past decade, however, a small stream of thought has started to question this commercialization thesis. This paper seeks to contribute to this emergent body of thought by developing a “whole economy” approach for capturing the multifarious economic practices in community economies and then applying this to an English locality.


A survey conducted of the economic practices used by 120 households in a North Nottinghamshire locality in the UK is reported here, comprising face‐to‐face interviews in an affluent, middle‐ranking and deprived neighborhood.


This reveals the limited commercialization of everyday life and the persistence of a multitude of economic practices in all neighborhood‐types. Participation rates in all economic practices (except one‐to‐one unpaid work and “off‐the‐radar” unpaid work) are higher in relatively affluent populations. Uneven development is marked by affluent populations that are “work busy”, engaging in a diverse spectrum of economic practices conducted more commonly out of choice, and disadvantaged populations that are more “work deprived”, conducting a narrower array of activities usually out of necessity.

Research limitations/implications

This snapshot survey only displays that commercialization is not hegemonic. It does not display whether there is a shift towards commercialization.

Social implications

Recognition of the limited encroachment of the market opens up the future to alternative possibilities beyond an inevitable commercialization of everyday life, intimating that the future will be characterized by the continuing persistence of multifarious economic practices rather than market hegemony.


The paper provides evidence from a western nation of the limited commercialization of daily life.



Williams, C.C. and Nadin, S. (2010), "Rethinking the commercialization of everyday life: a “whole economy” perspective", Foresight, Vol. 12 No. 6, pp. 55-68.



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Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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