Why Some Things Should Not Be for Sale: The Moral Limits of Markets

Oxford University Press
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What's wrong with markets in everything? Markets today are widely recognized as the most efficient way in general to organize production and distribution in a complex economy. And with the collapse of communism and rise of globalization, it's no surprise that markets and the political theories supporting them have seen a considerable resurgence. For many, markets are an all-purpose remedy for the deadening effects of bureaucracy and state control. But what about those markets we might label noxious-markets in addictive drugs, say, or in sex, weapons, child labor, or human organs? Such markets arouse widespread discomfort and often revulsion. In Why Some Things Should Not Be for Sale, philosopher Debra Satz takes a penetrating look at those commodity exchanges that strike most of us as problematic. What considerations, she asks, ought to guide the debates about such markets? What is it about a market involving prostitution or the sale of kidneys that makes it morally objectionable? How is a market in weapons or pollution different than a market in soybeans or automobiles? Are laws and social policies banning the more noxious markets necessarily the best responses to them? Satz contends that categories previously used by philosophers and economists are of limited utility in addressing such questions because they have assumed markets to be homogenous. Accordingly, she offers a broader and more nuanced view of markets-one that goes beyond the usual discussions of efficiency and distributional equality--to show how markets shape our culture, foster or thwart human development, and create and support structures of power. An accessibly written work that will engage not only philosophers but also political scientists, economists, legal scholars, and public policy experts, this book is a significant contribution to ongoing discussions about the place of markets in a democratic society.
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About the author

Debra Satz is Marta Sutton Weeks Professor of Ethics in Society at Stanford and directs the Bowen H McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society. She teaches courses in ethics, social and political philosophy, and philosophy of the social sciences. Within these fields, her research has focused on the ethical limits of markets, theories of rational choice, democratic theory, feminist philosophy, and issues of international justice. Her articles have appeared in Ethics, Philosophy and Public Affairs, the Journal of Philosophy and the World Bank Economic Review.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Oxford University Press
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Published on
Jun 10, 2010
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Pages
264
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ISBN
9780199718573
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Business Ethics
Philosophy / Ethics & Moral Philosophy
Philosophy / History & Surveys / Modern
Philosophy / Political
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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The late Susan Moller Okin was a leading political theorist whose scholarship integrated political philosophy and issues of gender, the family, and culture. Okin argued that liberalism, properly understood as a theory opposed to social hierarchies and supportive of individual freedom and equality, provided the tools for criticizing the substantial and systematic inequalities between men and women. Her thought was deeply informed by a feminist view that theories of justice must apply equally to women as men, and she was deeply engaged in showing how many past and present political theories failed to do this. She sought to rehabilitate political theories--particularly that of liberal egalitarianism, in such a way as to accommodate the equality of the sexes, and with an eye toward improving the condition of women and families in a world of massive gender inequalities. In her lifetime Okin was widely respected as a scholar whose engagement went well beyond the world of theory, and her premature death in 2004 was considered by many a major blow to progressive political thought and women's interests around the world. This volume stems from a conference on Okin, and contains articles by some of the top feminist and political philosophers working today. They are organized around a set of themes central to Okin's work, namely liberal theory, gender and the family, feminist and cultural differences, and global justice. Included are major figures such as Joshua Cohen, David Miller, Cass Sunstein, Alison Jaggar, and Iris Marion Young, among others. Their aim is not to celebrate Okin's work, but to constructively engage with it and further its goals.
No one wants to be treated like an object, regarded as an item of property, or put up for sale. Yet many people frame personal autonomy in terms of self-ownership, representing themselves as property owners with the right to do as they wish with their bodies. Others do not use the language of property, but are similarly insistent on the rights of free individuals to decide for themselves whether to engage in commercial transactions for sex, reproduction, or organ sales. Drawing on analyses of rape, surrogacy, and markets in human organs, Our Bodies, Whose Property? challenges notions of freedom based on ownership of our bodies and argues against the normalization of markets in bodily services and parts. Anne Phillips explores the risks associated with metaphors of property and the reasons why the commodification of the body remains problematic.

What, she asks, is wrong with thinking of oneself as the owner of one's body? What is wrong with making our bodies available for rent or sale? What, if anything, is the difference between markets in sex, reproduction, or human body parts, and the other markets we commonly applaud? Phillips contends that body markets occupy the outer edges of a continuum that is, in some way, a feature of all labor markets. But she also emphasizes that we all have bodies, and considers the implications of this otherwise banal fact for equality. Bodies remind us of shared vulnerability, alerting us to the common experience of living as embodied beings in the same world.


Examining the complex issue of body exceptionalism, Our Bodies, Whose Property? demonstrates that treating the body as property makes human equality harder to comprehend.

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