The Commodification of Living Beings in the Fur Trade: The Intersection of Cheap Raw Materials and Cheap Labor
The Capitalist Commodification of Animals
ISBN: 978-1-83982-681-8, eISBN: 978-1-83982-680-1
Publication date: 30 November 2020
The eighteenth- and nineteenth-century fur trade in the United States and Canada that sent hundreds of thousands of furs to Europe and China relied on “Cheap Labor” and the abundance of “Cheap Raw Materials,” that is to say, living beings such as sea otter, land otter, beaver, and seals. Native American labor, procured by and paid through trade goods in a kind of “putting out” piece-rate system, was cheap partially because their lives were maintained/reproduced through traditional agricultural or hunting and gathering economies. The commodification of fur-bearing animals led to their sharp decline and in some cases near extinction. Cheap labor and cheap living beings interacted dynamically in unison to enable capital accumulation under mercantile capitalism. At the very end of the nineteenth century, fur farming as a petty capitalist enterprise became common in Canada and the United States, and more recently has expanded greatly in China.
Wilson, T.D. (2020), "The Commodification of Living Beings in the Fur Trade: The Intersection of Cheap Raw Materials and Cheap Labor", Clark, B. and Wilson, T.D. (Ed.) The Capitalist Commodification of Animals (Research in Political Economy, Vol. 35), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 125-136. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0161-723020200000035006
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