Harvard University Press 1996: 279 Pages.
How far should society go in permitting people to buy and sell goods and services? Should they be able to treat such things
as babies, body parts, sex, and companionship as commodities that can be traded in a free market? Should politics be
thought of as just economics by another name? Margaret Jane Radin addresses these controversial issues in a detailed
exploration of contested commodification.
Economists, lawyers, policy analysts and social theorists have been sharply divided between those who believe that
commodifying some goods naturally tends to devalue them and those who believe that almost everything is properly grist
for the market mill. In recent years, the free market position has been gaining strength. In this book, Radin provides a
nuanced response to its sweeping generalization.
Not only are there willing buyers for body parts or babies, Radin observes, but some
desperately poor people would be willing sellers, while better-off people find such trades
abhorrent. Radin observes that many such areas of contested commodification reflect a
persistent dilemma in liberal society: we value freedom of choice and simultaneously believe
that choices ought to be restricted to protect the integrity of what it means to be a person. She
views this tension as primarily the result of underlying social and economic inequality, which
need not reflect an irreconcilable conflict in the premises of liberal democracy.
As a philosophical pragmatist, the author therefore argues for a conception of incomplete
commodification, in which some contested things can be bought and sold, but only under
carefully regulated circumstances. Such a regulatory regime both symbolizes the importance of
nonmarket value to personhood and aspires to ameliorate the underlying conditions of
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University of Chicago Press 1993: 265 Pages.
Are some things so personal that they should not really be considered property
at all? Reinterpreting Property makes a major contribution toward redefining
and humanizing the way our society conceives of property and, ultimately, itself.
This collection of essays by one of the country's leading property theorists
revitalizes the liberal personality theory of property.
Departing from traditional libertarian and economic theories of property,
Margaret Jane Radin argues that the law should take into account non-monetary
personal value attached to property-and that some things, such as bodily integrity,
are so personal they should not be considered property at all. Gathered here are
pieces ranging from Radin's classic early essay on property and personhood to her
recent works on governmental "taking" of private property.
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