MORALS AND MARKETS

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29 Νοε 2013 (πριν από 3 χρόνια και 10 μήνες)

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MORALS AND MARKETS

Steven Lukes


I want her
e to address a theme that is at once

perennial, since ancient times

subject to various traditions of commentary and debate, and actual, vividly
present in our minds as we face the forthcoming election. It can be summed up in
the question: what harms do markets do? When

is the buying and selling of goods
and services
for p
rofit

trading with enforceable contracts that is, unlike gift
-
giving, conditional upon payment

out of place and, more importantly, why?
What exactly is the harm that is done? From

the
biblical story of

the money
-
changers in the Temple through the endless m
edieval discussion
s

of usury to
Thomas Carlyle’s denunciation of ‘callous cash payment’ taken up by Marx and
Engels in the
Communist Manifesto

to the abundant literat
ures on
commodification
,

stemming from Luká
cs
,

and the ‘colonization of the life
-
world
,

from the Frankfurt School, to
Karl Polanyi’s account of the Great Transformation,
unraveling social bonds by disembedding the economy, to
critiques of the
‘acquisitive society’ by Christian socialists such as R. H. Tawney, of anomie by
Durkheim
, of omnip
resent calculation by Simmel, of rationalization by Weber and

of consumerism by Veblen the question remains alive and insistent
. It
has very
recently been raised once more in two books:
What Money Cannot Buy
by
Michael Sandel and
Why Some Things Should Not

Be for Sale

by Debra Satz
, on
which I shall focus
. Interestin
gly, neither takes any interest in the other but, as we
shall see, they offer different answers that represent two alternative classical
approaches to the question. I shall here outline and asse
ss the
se and end by
suggesting that there is a third kind of answer that is worth our attention.

First, a few preliminaries to indicate how I want the question to be understood.
To begin with I shall largely bypass economic
s
(though I shall return to it in

the
concluding section)
because economists generally deal with the question I am
posing by avoiding it. Economists deal in trade
-
offs, not taboos and, so far as
markets go, are concerned with market failure

with sub
-
optimality, not
harmfulness. Markets fa
il when reality fails to live up to theoretical requirements.
They fail by failing to exhibit the idealized conditions under which they would
otherwise succeed. One central reason
that t
hey typically fail is because of
negative externalities

costs imposed
on uninvolved third parties. As Elizabeth
Anderson has remarked, ‘the theory of market failure is not a theory of what is
wrong with markets, but of what goes wrong when markets are not available.’
Moreover, when economists apply their theory to real worl
d markets, it soon
becomes evident that the typical causes of market failure
--
asymmetric
information, natural monopolies and monopoly power in general, non
-
zero
transaction costs, economies of scale, outright coercion and social norms
incompatible with eff
iciency
--
are not merely familiar but widely prevalent. My
question rather concerns the
consequences of market success.

Secondly, the question is: what damaging effects can be attributed to this form of
distribution and allocation, as distinct from the harm

or illegality attached to the
goods or services so distributed and allocated. Addictive drug markets or markets
in weapons or in diamonds that finance civil wars or in looted art may be bad but
not, or not only, because they are markets. Conversely, good
and even sacred
things, like bibles, can be marketed without causing trouble. The question is: what
harms result from marketing and from rendering marketable, or marketizing,
certain goods and services in specific contexts?

And

thirdly, the question is dis
tinct from the further, policy question of what
practically follows, of what is to be done. That depends entirely on the available
and feasible institutional alternatives. There may be none. Maybe the only
alternative to a given undesirable market is an ev
en more undesirable black
market. And if there are alternatives, these may range from various degrees and
kinds of regulation to prohibition. I want to focus only on the question in what
respects markets can be harmful, leaving open the question of what ca
n be done
about them.

The positive case for markets

I just cited Marx and Engels
taking up Carlyle’s denunciation of the cash nexus
that had ‘pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his
“natural superiors”, ‘ leaving nothing but ‘naked self
-
interest’ and drowning ‘the
most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervor
, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine
sentimentalism, in the icy waters of egoistic calculation.’ On the other hand, they
were well aware of the ‘wonders’ that the globalizing market was accomplishing,
showing ‘what man’s activity can bring about.’


Th
e advantages of markets are
extremely well known

both the classical case, which Marx
partially
shared with
the classical economists, and those developed in the nineteenth and twentieth
centuries. I am concerned with the question: what harms do markets do.
I ask this
question against the background of well
-
known and widely accepted benefits that
market exchange brings: dynamism, capacity for innovation, communication of
information unavailable by any other means, enhancement of choice and success
in promotin
g long
-
term economic growth. These features all appear to be
vindicated by the world
-
historical triumph of market over command economies
and over the latter’s various failed attempts to simulate the market. There are
also three basic respects in which mark
et exchange can, in theory, claim
superiority over all hitherto known alternative mechanisms. The first is Pareto
-
efficiency, leading to an equilibrium in which no
-
one can be better off without
someone else becoming worse off, or Kaldor
-
Hicks efficiency, w
here sufficient
gains are generated to the beneficiaries that they could hypothetically
compensate the losers and still have gains left over for themselves. ‘Efficiency’
here means responsiveness of the system to consumers’ revealed preferences
subject to
the limits of technology. But note that such efficiency, or optimality, is
only guaranteed under idealized conditions: notably, of perfect information and
of the existence of many markets, each of them being a market for a single
homogenous product. Where
these conditions do not obtain (for instance, where
there is asymmetric information between buyers and sellers), there is no
guarantee of efficiency. Negative externalities, imposing costs on others than
direct consumers, also generate suboptimal outcomes.

It is often claimed that
that these can be dealt with by market
-
based solutions, but
whether this
depends, among othr things, on the extent of
transaction costs
.

The second claim
for market superiority is the securing of liberty: markets ideally exhibit v
oluntary
exchange, revealing individuals’ preferences, expressing their consent and co
-
operation in the face of diverging values. The third respect in which markets are
held to be superior is that they promote certain kinds of equality: they enable
relatio
ns between strangers, and they dissolve hierarchies, with a formal right of
exit, thereby alleviating extreme inequalities.

The case against markets

So what is the negative case? It is already adumbrated in the foregoing quotations
from
The Communist Manif
esto

where the vaunted freedom of free trade is also
described as ‘naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation,’

while the critique of
the cash nexus is developed
in other Marx texts, notably the early manuscript on
money
and in the forceful critique of
equality in the
Critique of the Gotha
Programme.
In its general form the critique of the market

was most powerfully
stated in the twentieth century by Karl Polanyi in his great book
The Great
Transformation.

The great harm that what Polanyi called ‘the market system’ did
was to unravel social bonds. The great transformation consisted in the
disembedding of the economy, in the world
-
transforming project of building a
self
-
regulating market economy, in which th
e three factors of production

labor,
land and money

were treated as ordinary commodities and subjected to market
exchange. These were, Polanyi thought, ‘fictitious commodities’ and their
marketization led to the destruction of livelihoods, habitats and co
mmunities and
thus to counter
-
movements of social protection, leading, Polanyi thought, to
political stalemate and ultimately fascism and the Second World War. But the
problem was that Polanyi never explained what made these commodities
‘fictitious’

other
than that they were not produced for sale, but this hardly
shows what is socially destructive about marketizing them

besides which our
social and institutional life is riddled with legal and other fictions. And another
problem with Polanyi’s argument, as N
ancy Fraser has
recently
pointed out
, is
that (unlike Marx) he

romanticiz
ed

the social relations in which economic life had
hitherto been embedded, neglecting its repressive, hierarchical, gendered forms
of domination
.


An alternative and challenging inter
pretation of Polanyi is offered by Nancy
Fraser: that his talk of ‘fictitious commodities’ is a way of arguing that by
universalizing contract you undermine it, by destroying the non
-
contractual basis
on which it depends. In other words, ‘fictitious commod
ification’ is the attempt to
commodify the market’s conditions of possibility.’ (She finds the source of this
idea in Hegel; I find it in Durkheim). Human beings, providing labor power, nature
in the shape of land and purchasing power, as money
,

are
consti
tutive

of the very
fabric of social life and form the necessary background for commodity production
and exchange, so you can’t have ‘commodification all the way down.’ Consider
the following passage from Polanyi:

To allow the market mechanism to be the sol
e director of the fate of
human beings and their natural environment….would result in the
demolition of society. For the alleged commodity ‘labor power’ cannot be
shoved about, used indiscriminately, or even left unused without affecting
the human being wh
o happens to be its bearer. …In disposing of a man’s
labor power the system would, incidentally, dispose of the physical,
psychological, and moral entity ‘man’ attached to the tag. Robbed of the
protective covering of cultural institutions, human beings wo
uld perish
from the effects of social exposure and social dislocation. ..Nature would be
reduced to its elements, neighbourhoods and landscapes defiled….the
power to produce food and raw materials destroyed. Finally, the market
administration of purchasin
g power would periodically liquidate business
enterprise, for shortages and surfeits of money would prove disastrous to
business as floods and droughts were in primitive society.

The idea here is that

market relations and processes corrode
and thus eventu
ally
destroy
certain valuable, indeed essential
activities, practices or relationships
. But
what is missing is
twofold:
an account of what exactly it is about buying and
selling that might corrode the underpinnings of the market system
; and an
account of w
hat gets corroded: of the activities, practices and relationships that
buying and selling put at risk
.

This leads us to consider the first of the two classical
answers to our question referred to above, on which Michael Sandel’s book
focuses, namely that m
arkets
corrupt.

Now Polanyi’s thought is generalized and
applied to whatever activities, practices and relationships are seen

as
constitutive
of a
good

society and thus
especially valuable and

as vulnerable to the corruption
that
markets are held to
threaten.

Thus Sandel writes that
in order to describe
‘what’s troubling about a world in which market thinking and market relationships
invade every human activity…we need the moral vocabulary of corruption

and
degradation. And to speak of corruption and
degradation is to appeal, implicitly at
least, to conceptions of the good life.’

(187)

The Corruption Argument

Sandel’s book is full of examples intended to support this claim concerning
corruption: to ‘corrupt a good or a social practice is to degrade it,

to treat
it
according to a lower mode of valuation than is appropriate to it’ (34). Thus,

[i]mplicit in any charge of corruption is a conception of the purposes and ends an
institution …proper
ly pursues
’ (35)

and we ‘corrupt a good, an activity or a soci
al
practice when we treat it according to a lower norm than is appropriate to it.’ (46)
The key question is to ask what the
meaning
of the good in question

is;

o
nce we
see that

markets and commerce change the character of the good they touch
, we
have to
ask where markets belong

and where they don’t. And we can’t
answer this question without deliberating about the meaning and purpose
of goods, and the values that sho
uld govern them. (202)

For example, Sandel argues,

[f]riendship and the social practices t
hat sustain it are constituted by
certain norms, attitudes and values. Commodifying these practices
displaces these norms

sympathy, generosity, thoughtfulness,
attentiveness

and replaces them with market values. (107)

And numerous other examples

are marsha
led to

illustrate the point: ways of
‘jumping the queue’ such as
afforded by ticket scalpers and concierge doctors;
paying cash for sterilization, bribing kids for good grades and adults to lose
weight, selling the right to immigrate, trading procreation p
ermits or pollution
permits or carbon offsets, paying to kill an endangered rhino, auctioning college
admissions, selling blood,

markets in life and death such as
so
-
called ‘janitors
i
nsurance’, internet death pools and

the terrorism futures market, skybo
xes at
baseball games and commercials in the classroom.


In order to assess this argument we need to look more closely at the notion of
commodification

what it is to commodify goods and practices

and at
how we
are to decide which goods and practices are a
t risk. So let us look first at the very
notion of commodification.

Margaret Radin has given us a useful breakdown of its component elements.
Goods or services are commodified when they exhibit the following features:
-

(1)

objectification

treating persons and things instrumentally, as manipulable
at will

(2)

fungibility

when they are fully interchangeable with no effect on their
value to the holder

(3)

commensurability

when their values can be arrayed as a function of one
co
ntinuous variable or can be linearly ranked

(4)

money equivalence

where the continuous variable in terms of which they
can be ranked is monetary value.

If these are the features which render goods or services commodified, the
question then arises: w
hat harm is held to flow from these features? The answer
to this is, I suggest, twofold. On the one hand, certain goods and services are said
to be debased or distorted by being commodified, that is, treated as marketable.
Call this
the corruption argument
. By ‘corruption’ I mean to adduce the general
idea of pathology: the thought that the impact of the market is to distort, impair
or degrade otherwise well
-
functioning and potentially flourishing activities or
relationships.

The general idea is this: that

among the goods that people value there are some
which have the value they do in part just because they are not up for sale and, if
they do start to be bought and sold, or are even seen as saleable, their value is
debased. And to this idea a second is oft
en adjoined: that, once this process
begins in respect of one such good, other such goods are infected and the
contamination spreads, across persons and across goods. Changing for a moment
the metaphor, this has been called the ‘domino effect’ by Margaret
Radin.
According to this argument (to change the metaphor yet again), there is

a slippery slope leading from any sales of something to an exclusive market
regime for that thing, and there is a further slippery slope from a market
regime from some things to

a market regime encompassing everything that
people value.

The idea here is that certain exchanges should, if possible, be blocked to prevent
the corruption that markets allegedly cause from spreading. Call this
the
contagion argument
.

How, then, are we
to recognize where corruption and contagion occur? And how
do the processes which commodification describes do their distinctive damage?
Which goods and services are at risk? Michael Walzer in his
Spheres of Justice

argues that the various items he lists a
s defining his spheres

notably security
and welfare, office, kinship and love, political power, and so on

are to be
protected from what he calls the tyranny of ‘market imperialism’

the dominance
of the sphere of money and commodities, because our ‘shared u
nderstandings’
require this. (‘The market is a zone of the ci
ty, not the whole of the city’
) So, for
instance, he argues that the meaning of healthcare requires its distribution
according to equal
medical need. Y
et that is far from a shared understanding in
the US today. Or, to take another example, to which I will return, the meanings of
love, marriage and sex are deeply contested, but Walzer wrote of ‘our shared
morality and sensibility’ and that ‘sex is for sal
e, but the sale does not make for “a
meaningful relationship”.’ Elizabeth Bernstein writes that the aim of the last
chapter of her book

Temporarily Yours: Intimacy, Authenticity and the Commerce
of Sex

is ‘to decode recent moral panics around sexuality

i
n particular
mobilizations around prostitution and trafficking

by redescribing them as
political and ethical disputes about what sexuality should mean.’ The problem is
that ‘we’ do not have a single, shared map. Our understandings of where these
boundarie
s should be are not sharply drawn and, worse, ‘we’ disagree about
where they lie. On the contrary: they are confused, inconsistent and contested.
Moreover, they reflect unequal power relations, in which some voices prevail and
others are silent. Walzer’s o
wn
social
-
democratic
idea of social justice requires
that commodities are exchanged through bargains, not commands or ultimatums,
that no such exchange be ‘desperate’, and that ‘the welfare state underwrites
the sphere of money when it guarantees that men

and women will never be
forced to bargain without resources for the very means of life.’ But such an
understanding of what is just is, in the present US context, far from shared and it
is wishful to suppose that it is.

The central thought behind the co
rruption and contagion arguments is that
certain goods and services are too morally important to be bought and sold: that
exchanging them for money is to display a distorted or corrupted understanding
of their meaning, of what gives them value. So Elizabet
h Anderson argues that
markets are suitable only for the allocation of ‘pure economic goods’

goods that
are ‘traded with equanimity for any other commodity at some price’ as opposed
to goods that are ‘higher, personal, or shared’

goods that are valued
int
rinsically. For Margaret Radin markets in what is essential to the flourishing of
our ‘personhood’ should be blocked or highly regulated. So she speculates that
full and open commodification of sexual services ‘would be reflected in
everyone’s discourse a
bout sex and in particular about women’s sexuality’ and
‘with this would come a change in everyone’s experience, because experience is
discourse
-
dependent.’ For Michael Sandel

(
in
an

earlier text) in
‘the cases of
surrogacy, baby selling and sperm selli
ng, the ideals at stake are bound up with
the meaning of motherhood, fatherhood and the nurturing of children.’ The idea
is that we deny or neglect the meaning of what is of higher value in our lives
when we treat them as objects, as exchangeable, as comm
ensurable and as
having prices.

Richard Titmuss argued similarly when he maintained that the giving of blood
exhibits the altruism that, he claimed, selling it extinguishes. For the ‘paid seller of
blood is confronted…with a personal conflict of interests…
Because he desires
money and is not seeking in this particular act to affirm a sense of belonging he
thinks primarily of his own freedom; he separates his freedom from other
people’s freedoms.’ His further claim was that selling blood crowds out altruism,

diminishing the scope for giving it and other worthwhile things in society.’ As he
famously wrote, private market systems in the US and other countries ’deprive
men of the freedom to choose to give or not to give;’ the commercialization of
blood has the e
ffect of ‘discouraging and downgrading the voluntary principle.
Both the sense of community and the expression of altruism are being silenced.’
And the same idea is at work in Georg Simmel’
s claim that
in prostitution ‘the
stake of the woman is infinitel
y more personal, more essential, encompassing
more of her ego than that of the man, and for which, therefore, a money
equivalent is most unsuitable and inadequate, the giving and taking of which
means the extreme abasement of the female personality.’

Ther
e are two main problems with these arguments. One, to which I have already
alluded, is the unsettled character of the ‘higher, personal or shared values,’ for
example the importance of belonging versus freedom, and indeed the very
meaning of any one of the
m. We don’t agree about what ‘belonging’ or ‘freedom’
or ‘equality’ mean.

The second problem is that it is often not clear just why paying
money for some good or service is such a threat. Must Titmuss’s ‘personal conflict
of interests’ always be resolved b
y suppressing one or the other? Do people not
endlessly contain contradictions and exhibit ambivalence? Are experience and
discourse so malleable and is experience so ‘discourse dependent’? And why
should there not be alternative, co
-
existing distributive

mechanisms for blood
without one driving out the other? Was Kenneth Arrow right to criticize Titmuss
for failing to provide either a theoretical analysis of why it should or any
convincing evidence that it does? Is it really true that viewing and treatin
g others
as means to individual ends, and seeing the world in impersonal and quantifiable
terms are incompatible with altruism, reciprocity and the realization of values
that are ‘higher, personal and shared’? Mary Douglas has persuasively argued that
good
s are to be seen as ‘ritual adjuncts’ and their consumption as a ‘ritual
activity,’ which ‘uses goods to make firm and visible a particular set of judgments
in the fluid process of classifying persons and events.’ In an individualist weak
-
grid, weak
-
group
modern capitalist society, market behaviour will, on this
account, be amenable to anthropological interpretation as a mode of ‘fixing
public meanings.’

Moreover, are there not indeed many contexts, especially in modern urban living,
in which instrumental

relationships, and seeing the world in anonymous and
commensurable terms, is much to be valued, indeed an essential precondition
for, and counterpoint to, mutual relationships in more intimate settings. You want
your doctor to have a bedside manner, but y
ou also want patients to have
hospital numbers and medical resources to be rationally allocated on objective
grounds, whatever these may be. Indeed, it is not even obvious that treating
people as objects and as a means to some end is always a bad idea. It
must
depend on the end and on who is doing what in pursuing it. According to his
biographer, Beethoven was ‘filled with a deep conviction as to the significance of
his work and his art’ and in 1801 referred to two of his friends as
‘merely…instruments on w
hich to play when I feel inclined…I value them merely
for what they do for me.’ As for commensurability and incommensurability, why
should we assume that we cannot both know the price of something and know
that it is priceless?
(Recall Viviana Zelizer’s b
ook
Pricing the Priceless Child
).

And
we make insurance decisions and pay medical administrators and policy makers
to allocate resources and plan the siting of airports on the basis that alternative
options involve the statistical certainty of deaths and i
njuries that we expect to be
costed on a rational and systematic basis that puts a (regularly up
-
dated and
commercially based) value on human lives.


In sum, the view that the cash nexus of buying and selling corrupts valued
practices and relationships and

contaminates others calls for a certain skepticism.
As Debra Satz writes, ‘there are rival views of the meaning of many particular
goods (and of human flourishing) and, more importantly, there is only a tenuous
connection in most cases between the meaning

we give to a good and its
distribution by a market.


Furthermore, it is often quite unclear whether buying
and selling damages such goods and, if so, how. On the other hand, there is
clearly something deeply and importantly true about this view, to which
I will
return.

The Inequality Argument

Sharing
this skepticism, Satz

takes a different tack. She thinks that ‘the major
problem with noxious markets is not that they represent inferior ways of valuing
goods…but that they undermine the conditions that people need if they are to
relate as equals.’

(94)

There are, first,
the
more straightforward cases where markets function in such a
way as to reproduce, reinforce or exacerbate pre
-
existing

material

0
inequalities,
in particular where the various market agents occupy different and uneq
ual
market positions, as for instance when
poor countries exchange toxic waste for
money. Ravi Kanbur has argued that extremity of outcomes, weakness of agency
and inequality in market relations spark

our instinctive reactions to markets in arms, drugs, toxic waste, body parts,
child labor, etc. Wh
en the scores on these criteria are sufficiently high, a
market may ‘tip’ into the obnoxious category.

More specifically, weak agency will exist where there is inadequate information
about the nature and/or consequences of a market (as with body parts), or

others
enter the market on one’s behalf (as with child labor);
some agents may be
particularly vulnerable, needing goods with limited suppliers or where the
participants have highly unequal needs for the goods supplied; or the outcomes
may be extreme, inv
olving harms to the basic welfare needs or agency interests of
individuals, or the harm may be to society, where a particular market promotes
‘servility and dependence, undermines democratic governance [and] undermines
other regarding motivations. (98)

Thi
s last point introduces Satz’s central concern about inequality and her main
argument. She proposes that noxious markets are those which ‘undermine the
conditions that people need if they are to relate as equals,’ that is ‘as individuals
with equal standin
g
.’

She illustrates this thought by citing the case of the sinking
Titanic in which there were only enough lifeboats for first class: steerage was
expected to go down with the ship. As
Thomas
Schelling
, who introduced this
analogy,

remarked, we no longer
tolerate this: ‘if some people cannot afford the
price of passage with lifeboats, and some people can, they should not travel on
the same ship’ This

undermining

can happen in two main ways. Either a given
market can produce extremely harmful outcomes, for
individuals or else for
society
,
by supporting relations of humiliating subordination or unaccountable
power. Or else, secondly, the underlying conditions of the market agents can be
highly unequal, as when some are seriously lacking in agency or knowledge

or else
some are significantly more vulnerable than others. Satz examines markets in
women’s reproductive labor, in women’s sexual labor, in child labor, in voluntary
slavery and in human kidneys in the light of these criteria.

She addresses the first tw
o of these markets in terms of what

she calls ‘contextual
reasons.
’ In other words,
contract pregnancy and prostitution are to be
considered in the light of, not in abstraction from, prevailing attitudes towards
(and self
-
conceptions of) women in our socie
ties. Thus it is ‘a mistake’

simply

to
focus
on ‘the meaning’ of these forms of labor,
on the idea that these practices
are ‘degrading’ as such; rather
than to realize that
‘the view that selling sexual or
reproductive services is “degrading” may reflect society’s attempts to control
women and their sexuality.’ (120).
They ‘become problematic only in a particular
political and social context.’ (116) Markets in women’s repr
oductive labor
‘reinforce gender hierarchies

unequal status between men and women

in a
way that other, accepted labor markets do not.’ (117)
Contract pregnancy ‘places
women’s bodies under the control of others and serves to perpetuate gender
inequality (1
33): the problem is ‘not that it degrades the special nature of
reproductive labor or alienates women from a core part of their identities, but
that it reinforces (to the extent that it does) a traditional gender
-
hierarchical
division of labor,’ (13)

Conc
erning prostitution she argues that, given currently prevailing beliefs and
attitudes, this market perpetuates status inequality between men and women.
Prostitution, she eloquently writes, ‘is a theater of inequality; it displays for us a
practice in which

women are seen as servants of men’s desires.’ It

shapes and
influences the ways in which women as a whole are seen.’ (147) Stigma
‘surrounds the practice,
shapes it an
d

is reinforced by it.’ (149)

In

a different
culture, she allows
, things could be other
wise but she
criticizes

feminists who
argue than prostitutes can function as sex therapists , fulfilling a legitimate social
need as well as providing a source of social experiment and alternative
conceptions of sexuality and gender
. Such f
eminists, she th
inks,

have minimized the cultural stereotypes that surround contemporary
prostitution and exaggerated their own power to shape the practice.
Prostitution, like pornography, is not easily separated from the larger
surrounding culture that marginalizes, ster
eotypes and stigmatizes women.
I think that we need to look carefully at what men and women actually
learn in prostitution; I doubt that ethnographic studies of prostitution
would support the claim that prostitution contributes to women’s dignity
or empowe
rment.

In short, the ‘powerful intuition’ that prostitution is intrinsically degrading is, she
thinks, ‘bound up with well entrenched views of male gender identity and
women’s sexual role in the context of that identity.’
(153) Her argument thus
connects
prostitution to stigma and unequal status and thus to injustice. It
operates ‘through beliefs and atti
tudes’ which however,

she conc
e
des,
‘might
someday be changed.’ (150)

It is

instructive to contrast this position with Radin’s approach, which, like
Sand
el’s
,
focuses on the intrinsic
meaning

of prostitution. She suggests that it is
scarcely worthwhile asking whether the marketing of sex, in general, absent any
other worrisome features, such as maldistribution and wrongful subordination,
would trouble us.
This issue, she thinks, is a ‘professor’s hypothetical’, since
commodification occurs in market societies in which inequality and subordination
are inherent: for that reason she suspects that ‘the hypothetical disconnection of
commodification from subordin
ation is not a fruitful line of inquiry.’ This is an
interesting line of thought and suggests that we can discern three distinct
positions on this matter. The first, deriving from the corruption argument and
already encountered i
n the quotation from Georg
Simmel
,

is

the essentialist view
that there is an essential link between sexuality and self, embodied in women
more than men and that inevitable damage occurs when one’s sexuality is
deployed for monetary gain. The second is Satz’s
: that an alternative, non
-
exploitative and non
-
gender
-
exploitative form of prostitution is imaginatively
conceivable but not

(and here she agrees with
Radin
)

on the historical agenda

not within practical reach, given existing cultural attitudes and gender

power
relations. And a third position
(that Radin denounces as a professor’s hypothetical
but Professor Satz entertains)
has been most lucidly expressed by
the radical
French feminist lawyer
Marcela Iacub in a famous

op ed in
Le Monde

entitled ‘The
Proper
ty of One’s Body and Prostitution.’
1

This argues for the principle,
established since the sexual revolution, that the permissibility of a sexual
relationship depends only on the consent of the partners. But,

she writes,

it is
argued, what about the lack of

consent apparent, above
all, in the case of
trafficking?

But why should one call the victims of organi
z
ed criminality
prostitutes? Should one label the American slaves farmworkers? A woman forced
into prostitution is a slave not a prostitute. We should di
stinguish the criminality
from the activity. And addressing the essentialist argument that in selling one’s
sexual services, one is selling one’s entire self, she observes that this, though an
entirely respectable conception of sexuality, is
only
one among

others that should
not be imposed on everyone. Why, she finally asks, given a morality of consent,
should one assume that it is illegitimate to consent to a sexual relation for
another reason than

irresistible desire or delicious pleasure (or, one might
add,
the
goal
of procreation)?

A
s for kidney transplantation,
t
he Titmuss argument might suggest that monetary
incentives would crowd out altruism. Assume that is not so, and ask: is kidney
selling as such wrong on egalitarian grounds? First,
Satz
observes

that the
vulnerability of the sellers and their weak agency, due to lack of information
about risks, are key considerations that would need to be addressed in any
proposed scheme, which would have to preclude ‘desperate exchanges’

though,
with regard to t
he undertaking of risks, she asks whether or not the potential
harms are worse than other sales that we currently permit. What, then about
‘equal status considerations’? Current black markets extending across the planet
are, obviously, massively unequal, t
ransferring organs from poor to rich, third
world to first world, female to male and non
-
white to white. Indeed this can be
put far more forcefully, as it has been by Nancy Scheper
-
Hughes, when she wrote



1

16 October 2006.

of ‘human trafficking, the recruitment of the wretch
ed of the earth

to provide a
so
-
called ‘spare’ kidney

to very sick and equally desperate buyers’ and ‘stealing
from the poor to supplement the bodies of the well
-
insured and well
-
advantaged.’ Satz
is unsure whether a legal, regulated market would counter
these trends, and indeed quotes Scheper
-
Hughes’s comment that ‘Perhaps we
should look for better ways of helping the destitute than dismantling them.’ Satz
even suggests that ‘kidney markets might actually worsen inequalities based on
class’, since ‘they
could expand inequality’s scope by including body parts in the
scope of things money gives a person access to.’ To counter this, she writes, the
government could use subsidies and insurance or become a single buyer of
organs, to equalize access of rich an
d poor to kidneys, but reasons that this
would, for various reasons, be difficult. But then Satz turns to a further issue
which she labels ‘integrity of the body,’ arguing that by permitting the general
practice of buying and selling this new kind of resou
rce

of body parts

you
change the general choice environment and affect motivations and create new
incentives. She cites a study by Laurence Cohen in areas of India where kidney
selling is common, according to which ‘operable women are vehicles for debt
col
lateral.’ Kidneys become potential collateral and creditors can put pressure on
debtors and poor people who don’t want to sell their kidneys can find it harder to
get loans. So people will find it harder to get reasonable loans without mortgaging
their or
gans. Which raises the question of whether we should view our internal,
bodily resources as analogous to other resources,

a conflation
which, Satz
correctly observes, lies behind the repugnance people f
eel towards kidney
markets.

W
e have examined the two main classical and contrasting ways of assessing the
harms that markets do as exemplified in the recent books by Sandel and Satz, the
former focusing on
the corruption or degradation of the
supposedly
intrinsic or
essential
meanings

of valued goods and practices when they are marketed or
marketized, the latter on the
inj
ustice

of
such markets especially where they
generate

social inequality that is independent of the way income and wealth are
distributed. I want to turn, finally, to
a quite different approach to the question
before us

an approach of which there are, indeed, traces or foreshadowings
in
both of these books.

Representation and Reality

The relevant section in Sandel’s book is entitled
‘Incentives and Moral
Entanglements.’

He observes that the language of incentives is a recent
development in economic thought, only entering economic discourse in the
twentieth century and becoming prominent only in the 1980s and 1990s. (The
usage of the
word ‘incentivize,’ dating from 1968,
has soared by 1,400 percent
since 1990 and in major newspapers risen from 48 appearances in the 1980s to
5885 in 2010
-
11). According to Greg Mankiw, author of the most influential
economics textbook today, the subject
-
matter of economics embraces human
int
eraction in general and the principles by which individuals make decisions
,

and
one of the most important of these is that ‘people respond to incentives.’ And
according to Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, authors of
Freakonomics.
‘incentives
a
re the

cornerstone of modern life’ and ‘economics is at root the study
of incentives.’

As for Satz, she refers at several points to the im
portant truth that markets do not
merely confront individuals with incentives but ‘shape’ those individuals in turn.
Thus sh
e writes that ‘some markets shape individuals and society in problematic
ways’ (6), of ‘the ways that certain markets shape us, our relationshi
ps with
others, and our society,’

(9), that
the classical political economists
, notably Adam
Smith, ‘
saw that ‘la
bor markets could function in ways that shaped their
participants as submissive inferiors and dominating superi
ors bent on exercising
their ar
bitrary power


(
5) and that ‘whereas contemporary economics sees the
preferences and capacities of agents in a mar
ket as givens, particular markets

think of media, education and caregiving

shape us. Moreover they may shape us
in ways that are in tension with a society of equals.’ (95)

To use the language of
Foucault (which she certainly does not), Satz is here
pointin
g to markets
contributing to the constitution of the subjectivities of market actors.

These observations, unremarkable in themselves
as they might seem, adumbrate
a much debated and increasingly influential

approach to the ‘anthropology of
economics’ advan
ced by the French economic sociologist Michel Callon under the
label of ‘
performativity
’ which explores the complexities of market devices and

the various

agencies involved in their constitution (Interestingly, like Sandel, he is
fond of the te
rm ‘entangle
ments’). Here I aim to do no more
than sketch one of
its central
claims and suggest that it has a bearing upon the topic of this paper.

The ‘performativity program’ is in part ‘designed to describe and analyze
[the] increasing involvement of economics in t
he conception and experimentation
of concrete markets.’ Economies, he provocatively suggests,
inverting Polanyi,
are embedded in economics.
For Callon the anthropology of the economy

and of
economics implies that
there is

not on the one hand a reality (c
oncrete markets) and, on the other,
discourses, analyses that account for this reality in a way that is true, or
scientific, to a greater or lesser degree.
The economy is a world that
includes economics as one of its components

in its own right.


The acto
rs engaged in the construction and functioning of concrete markets
include

firms, consumers and their organizations, researchers from private
enterprises or government labs

(natural or life sciences), technological
engineers, lawyers, accountants, civil se
rvants who draw up regulations,
consultancies, patent offices, etc.

and economists.

Economists, he suggests, and marketing specialists

who live in university departments are
stakeholders in the markets

they
study, simply because they are in networks connecting them to the CEO, to
the employees (sometimes!), to bankers, trade unions, social movements,
etc.

As for neoclassical economics, it has a central role in ‘this process of
configuration
-
reconfigurat
ion of concrete markets,’ acting on ‘the hypothesis that
any collective can be considered to be composed of individual actors with their

own preferences (or functions),

capable of calculating (in the broad sense) their
decisions and choices’ and seeing ‘an
y individual as an autonomous subject
capable of intentions

and a free will, responsible for his or her acts’ a view which
is ‘becoming pervasive.’



How then, one may ask, is this pervasive constitution of various markets to
be judged and criticized? Wha
t is the nature of ‘social critique’ on this account?
Callon’s approach appears
designed to
contest those we have considered
--
the
moralizing approach of Sandel and the egalitarian political theorizing of Satz

in
favor of a close, fine
-
grained anthropologic
al investigation of the forces and
c
ounter
-
forces at work. Thus
social scientist
s

(and
a fortiori
, I presume,
moral and
political

philosophers
) ‘have no particular legitimacy to say what the sense of
history is, who the dominated and dominant are, or which

points of view are
morally just.’ The challenge is ‘to enable all the differences to be deployed, and to
be attentive to the conditions allowing their comparison and evaluation’ by
‘identifying and revealing the forces that, in a more less articulated way
, challenge
the dominant models and their grip on real markets.’ It is an intriguing picture
that certainly marks an alternative to the other two answers to the question with
which this paper began
: that ‘[a]ll that remains are the power struggles between
agencies and the (possible( contribution of the social sciences, irrespective of
their field, to the (partial) shaping of those struggles.’