Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Necroeconomics: Power, Ethics, and the Political Economy of Human-Animal Relations

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posted on 2021-11-10, 09:52 authored by Dutkiewicz, Jan

This paper is an innovative addition to the ongoing debate about human-animal relations. It approaches the topic from the perspective of political economy rather than moral philosophy and seeks to provide an explanatory framework combining commodification of animals and death in the global economy. While acknowledging the importance of the ongoing debate about animal rights, it seeks to shift the focus of analysis of industries which create value through the killing of animals toward one based on the Foucauldian notions of power as biopolitics and governance. In order to reconceptualise the relations of power which exist between human business interests and animal life, it introduces the notion that animals killed for meat, by-products, or research purposes are treated as necrocommodities; that is, commodities whose value is created as a direct result of death. By challenging the prevalent notions of speciesist hierarchisation and property rights, it seeks to cast a new light on the tangible power relations which exist between humans and animal species which are hunted or fished for profit. In doing so, this paper challenges the notion that the economy is amoral. Instead, it presents a preliminary picture of an economy rooted in inter-species power relations which is necessarily subject to a moral critique. The case study of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and ongoing "scientific" whaling is used to elucidate and introduce the concept of necroeconomics, but the main goal is to present an analytical framework that has a bearing on wider moral and structural issues in the international animal and animal product industry. Moreover, it situates animal-human relations within broader problems of modernity, thereby broadening its scope and calling for more academic focus on the place of animals in the modern political economy and its attendant circuits of power.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

International Relations

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of International Relations

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations


Thirkell-White, Ben