Rethinking Commodification: Cases and Readings in Law and Culture / Edition 1

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What is the price of a limb? A child? Ethnicity? Love? In a world that is often ruled by buyers and sellers, those things that are often considered priceless become objects to be marketed and from which to earn a profit. Ranging from black market babies to exploitative sex trade operations to the marketing of race and culture, Rethinking Commodification presents an interdisciplinary collection of writings, including legal theory, case law, and original essays to reexamine the traditional legal question: ?To commodify or not to commodify?”

In this pathbreaking course reader, Martha M. Ertman and Joan C. Williams present the legal cases and theories that laid the groundwork for traditional critiques of commodification, which tend to view the process as dehumanizing because it reduces all human interactions to economic transactions. This “canonical” section is followed by a selection of original essays that present alternative views of commodification based on the concept that commodification can have diverse meanings in a variety of social contexts. When viewed in this way, the commodification debate moves beyond whether or not commodification is good or bad, and is assessed instead on the quality of the social relationships and wider context that is involved in the transaction. Rethinking Commodification contains an excellent array of contemporary issues, including intellectual property, reparations for slavery, organ transplants, and sex work; and an equally stellar array of contributors, including Richard Posner, Margaret Jane Radin, Regina Austin, and many others.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“A magnificent collection. The subject is profound and complex, the text gripping, lively, and thoroughly enjoyable to read.”
-Sylvia A. Law,NYU Law School

“As someone who helped to draw attention to the subject of commodification more than two decades ago, I believe that commodification is, if anything, more important today than it has ever been. We must ask ourselves: Are there some things that money can't buy? Who is advantaged and who disadvantaged by desperate market exchanges? This indispensable collection of old and new thoughts on commodification will help us as we struggle towards answering these questions.”
-Margaret Jane Radin,Stanford Law School

Rethinking Commodification includes several classic texts of commodification theory that familiarize readers with the traditional debate. The work then offers new insights into the issue, with two dozen articles, appellate court opinions, and essays. Taken together, this book comprises an intellecutal mosaic that moves the discussion beyond the early, on-off question of whether or not to commodify.”
-Metapsychology Online

"A superb collection of classic and contemporary readings on commodification theory, including the latest, most advanced theorizing on this subject. It is a must-read."-Elizabeth Anderson,Philosophy, University of Michigan

“Commodification is on net a great source for good in the world. But the seminal essays in Rethinking Commodification show that the serious questions about alienability are much more than concerns about hypothetical contracts for babies or self-indenture.”
-Ian Ayres,author of Insincere Promises

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814722299
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 8/1/2005
  • Series: Critical America Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 466
  • Sales rank: 1,247,158
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Joan C. Williams is
Distinguished Professor and Director of the Center for WorkLife Law at the
University of California, Hastings College of Law. Her books include Unbending
Gender: Why Work and Family Conflict and What to Do About It
and Reshaping the Work-Family Debate: Why Men and Class Matter.

Martha M. Ertman is professor at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law.

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Table of Contents

Preface : freedom, equality, and the many futures of commodification 1
Introduction : the subject and object of commodification 8
Pt. I Classic texts of commodification theory
A Definitions : commodity and commodification
Commodities and the politics of value 34
B Contested commodities : babies/parental rights and obligations
The economics of the baby shortage 46
In the matter of baby M 58
In search of Pharaoh's daughter 68
Johnson v. Calvert 71
C Defaulting to freedom or to equality : treating some things as inalienable
Property rules, liability rules, and inalienability : one view of the cathedral 78
Contested commodities 81
Moore v. the regents of the University of California 96
D Distinguishing between exchanges and gifts
The gift relationship : from human blood to social policy 108
Giving, trading, thieving, and trusting : how and why gifts become exchanges, and (more importantly) vice versa 114
E Commodification and community
What money can't buy : the moral limits of markets 122
Community and conscription 128
Pt. II New voices on commodification theory
A Commodifying intellectual and cultural property
Culture, commodification, and native American cultural patrimony 137
U.S. v. Corrow 156
Property in personhood 164
B Commodifying identities
Kwanzaa and the commodification of black culture 178
Eating the other : desire and resistance 191
Cities and queer space : staking a claim to global cosmopolitanism 199
Selling out : the gay and lesbian movement goes to market 213
C Commodifying intimacies
1 Commodifying sex
"Sex in the [foreign] city" : commodification and the female sex tourist 222
Taking money for bodily services 243
The currency of sex : prostitution, law, and commodification 248
2 Commodifying care
Fore love nor money : the commodification of care 271
Unbending gender : why family and work conflict and what to do about it 291
Minnesota v. Bachmann 293
Commodification and women's household labor 297
3 Commodifying family relations
What's wrong with a parenthood market? : a new and improved theory of commodification 303
Home economics : what is the difference between a family and a corporation? 324
Hard bargains : the politics of sex 345
4 Commodifying bodies and body parts
A framework for reparations claims 348
National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA) 354
Increasing the supply of transplant organs : the virtues of an options market 355
Future markets in everything 357
D Retheorizing commodification
To commodify or not to commodity : that is not the question 362
The multivalent commodity : on the supplementarity of value and values 383
Afterword : whither commodification? 402
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