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date: 21 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Roughly coinciding with the onset of the commodity price boom of the 2000s was an influx of financial investment in commodity derivatives. This ‘financialization’ has given rise to debates regarding the potential influence of investors on commodity prices. This chapter examines these debates and places them within the context of the wider scholarship on financialization. It argues that critiques of financialization are problematic in several important respects. They are underpinned by long-standing suspicions and misconceptions of derivatives trading as a socially unproductive or harmful activity; they tend to conflate the participation of financial investors with ‘speculation’. The chapter finds that the term ‘financialization’ is ultimately misleading for in its characterization of the new institutional realities of the commodity price formation process. Rather than attempting to demarcate ‘purely’ financial investment in commodities from commercial trading, ‘financialization’ should refer to the growth of ‘hyper’ or short-term trading that occurs in commodity markets.

Keywords: commodities, financialization, speculation, derivatives, super-cycle

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