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    Commodification, Control and the Contractualisation of the Human Body

    Thiruvallore Thattai, Arvind and McMahon, Aisling (2020) Commodification, Control and the Contractualisation of the Human Body. In: Market Limits The commodification of nature and the body. Mare & Martin, Paris. ISBN 978-2-84934-474-3

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    This chapter puts the philosophical debate on commodification in the context of the legal concept of commodities. In law, commodification is intrinsically connected with contractualisation, through which contract acquires a central role in structuring social relations. This link between contractualisation and commodification has two consequences. Firstly, it gives its objects a legal value, turning them into objects capable of being traded through market transactions and placing the focus on their commodity-value rather than social perceptions of their intrinsic worth. Secondly, in a commodified conception of contracts, the standing of people in their relations with each other is understood in terms of the characteristics of the contractual transactions linking them—their conformity with the parties’ agreement, their fitness for the purposes to which they are applied, etc. This excludes values and evaluative positions other than the contractual values of autonomy and self-ordering. Through an analysis of the impact of patent law on areas ranging from the patenting of isolated genes to access to medicines, we show that commodification affects more domains and has deeper effects than generally assumed. Commodification directs the legal system’s focus towards facilitating the creation of contractual frameworks of self-ordering, and towards insulating law from the broader dimensions of the value of human life, well-being, and different forms of human striving. We argue that the study of commodification must evolve beyond focusing on the limits of markets, and must also focus on the limits of contracts—which are generally modelled on an exchange framework as a way of conceiving relations and on private frameworks of regulation—their aetiology, and on devising ways of ameliorating such limitations.

    Item Type: Book Section
    Keywords: Commodification; Control; Contractualisation; Human Body;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Social Sciences > Law
    Item ID: 17479
    Depositing User: Aisling McMahon
    Date Deposited: 04 Sep 2023 13:18
    Publisher: Mare & Martin
    Refereed: Yes
      Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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