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Contested Commodities

Contested Commodities

Margaret Jane Radin

ISBN 9780674007161

Publication date: 11/05/2001

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 inequality.


  • Radin's book is both complex in structure and highly nuanced in argument. Essentially it is a critique of existing theories of commodification that develops a distinctive approach to understanding commodification...Radin, like liberal political theorists, seeks a middle way between universalized commodification and universalized noncommodification, instead of a thesis of compartmentalized commodification she offers a thesis of 'incomplete commodification'...[An] insightful and rewarding book.

    —Deryck Beyleveld, Journal of Law and Society


  • Margaret Jane Radin is Professor of Law at Stanford University.

Book Details

  • 296 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press