A Semiotic Ontology of the Commodity

The commodity is analyzed from a semiotic stance. Rather than systematically unfold a subject-object dichotomy (via Hegel's history as dialectic), it systematically deploys a sign-object-interpretant trichotomy (via Peirce's logic as semiotic). Rather than conflate economic value and linguistic meaning through the lens of Saussure's semiology, it uses Peirce's semiotic to provide a theory of meaning that is general enough to include commodities and utterances as distinct species. Rather than relegate utility and measure to the work of history (as per the opening pages of Marx's Capital), these are treated as essential aspects of political economy. And rather than focus on canonical 19th-century commodities (such as cotton, iron, and cloth), the analysis is designed to capture salient features of modern immaterial commodities (such as affect, speech acts, and social relations).