Rethinking Commodification

Cases and Readings in Law and Culture

466 pages

August, 2005

ISBN: 9780814722299

$30

Paper

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Subjects:

Law

Part of the Critical America series

Authors

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

All books by Martha Ertman

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.

All books by Joan C. Williams

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.

Reviews

  • "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

  • “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 magnificent collection. The subject is profound and complex, the text gripping, lively, and thoroughly enjoyable to read.”

    —Sylvia A. Law, NYU Law School

  • “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