1st Edition

The Routledge Handbook of Commodification

Edited By Elodie Bertrand, Vida Panitch Copyright 2024

    Some goods are freely traded as commodities without question or controversy. For other goods, their commodification – their being made available in exchange for money, or their being subject to market valuation and exchange – is hotly contested. “Contested” commodities range from labour and land, to votes, healthcare, and education, to human organs, gametes, and intimate services, to parks and emissions. But in the context of a market economy, what distinguishes these goods as non-commodifiable, or what defines them as contestable commodities? And why should their status as such justify restricting the market choices of rationally consenting parties to otherwise voluntary exchanges?

    This volume draws together wide-ranging, interdisciplinary research on the legitimate scope of markets and the kinds of goods that should be exempt therefrom. In bringing diverse answers to this question together for the first time, it finally identifies commodification studies as a unique field of scholarly research in its own right. In so doing, it fosters interdisciplinary dialogue, advances scholarship, and enhances education in this controversial, important, and growing field of research. Contemporary theorists who examine this question do so from across the disciplinary spectrum and ground their answers in diverse scholarly literature and divergent methodological approaches. Their arguments will be of interest to scholars and students of philosophy, economics, law, political science, sociology, policy, feminist theory, and ecology, among others.

    The contributors to this volume take diverse and divergent positions on the benefits of markets in general and on the possible harms of specific contested markets in particular. While some favour free markets and others regulation or prohibition, and while some engage in more normative and others in more empirical analysis, the contributors all advance nuanced and thoughtful arguments that engage deeply with the complex set of moral and empirical questions at the heart of commodification studies. This volume collects their new and provocative work together for the first time.

    Preface by Margaret Jane Radin

    Introduction: Contested markets and commodification studies

    Vida Panitch and Elodie Bertrand

    Part 1: Commodification studies: Past and Present

    1. Commodification: The traditional pro-market arguments

    Marie Daou and Alain Marciano

    2. Classical anti-commodification arguments: Commodification and fictitious commodities – Polanyi’s decisive contribution

    Nicolas Postel and Richard Sobel

    3. Contemporary anti-commodification arguments: Market failures – Identifying contested markets without morals? An analysis of the externality argument for inalienability

    Elodie Bertrand

    4. Contemporary anti-commodification arguments: Corruption, inequality, and justice

    Vida Panitch

    5. Sociology of moral contestation of exchange institutions

    Philippe Steiner

    Part 2: A history of contested commodities

    6. Land: Land as commodity— A history of a problem

    Pierre Crétois

    7. Usury and simony: Trading for no price – Thomas Aquinas on money loans, sacraments and exchange

    Pierre Januard and André Lapidus

    8. Labour: From disguised servitude to limited servitude— A history of the social incorporation of the commodification of work

    François Vatin

    9. Gambling: Using the market to regulate practices

    Marie Trespeuch

    10. Insurance

    Emily Nacol

    Part 3: Contested commodities and the state

    11. Vote buying and campaign finance

    Jason Brennan and Christopher Freiman

    12. Health care

    L. Chad Horne

    13. Education: Commodification and schools

    Harry Brighouse

    14. Security and prisons

    Jonathan Peterson

    15. Cultural goods: Cultural commodification and cultural appropriation

    Michael Joel Kessler

    16. Care work: Revaluing care through partial decommodification— In praise of unpaid care from all

    Jennifer Nedelsky

    Part 4: The body and intimacy as contested commodities

    17. Human organs

    James Stacey Taylor

    18. Blood and plasma: Or, if you’re such an altruist, why don’t you sell your plasma?

    Peter M. Jaworski

    19. Gametes: Commodification and the fertility industry

    Kimberley D. Krawiec

    20. Contract sex

    Laurie J. Shrage

    21. Surrogacy: The ethics of paid surrogacy

    Stephen Wilkinson

    22. Adoption: A mosaic of market and non-market elements

    Martha M. Ertman

    Part 5: Non-human nature and environment as contested commodities

    23. Natural capital and biodiversity: Money, markets and offsets

    John O’Neill

    24. Emission trading: Commodification of pollution— From resistance to proliferation

    Nathalie Berta

    25. Ecosystems: Ecosystem services and the commodification of nature

    Julia Martin-Ortega, Paula Novo, Erik Gomez-Baggethun, Roldan Muradian, Ciaran Harte, and M. Azahara Mesa-Jurado

    26. Water: Distributive justice and the commodification of water

    Adrian Walsh

    27. Animals: Ending cruelty through markets

    Aksel Braanen Sterri

    28. Seed: Commodification, decommodification and commoning

    Fabien Girard, Christine Frison, and Christine Noiville

    29. Parks and forests: The question of the commons

    Catherine Larrère




    Elodie Bertrand is Associate Research Professor in economics at the French National Centre for Scientific Research, ISJPS (University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne and CNRS, UMR 8103). She co-edited the Elgar Companion to Ronald Coase (2016), and The Limits of the Market: Commodification of Nature and Body (2020).

    Vida Panitch is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Director of Ethics and Public Affairs at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. Her research focuses on questions of commodification, exploitation, and distributive justice. She co-edited Exploitation: from Theory to Practice (2017).

    "In an era when the commodifying tendencies of capitalism are speeding up and the market extends its reach into multiple areas previously considered outside its domain, this much needed Routledge Handbook of Commodification provides invaluable insight into a hotly contested terrain." 

    Anne Phillips, author of Unconditional Equals, Professor Emerita, LSE