Commodification, corruption, and human interests
Julian Koplin (Monash University Centre for Human Bioethics)

November 4, 2016, 10:00am - 11:30am
Philosophy & Bioethics Departments, Monash University

E561, Menzies, 5th Floor
Monash University
Clayton 3800


Abstract: Corruption objections to commodification hold that some forms of trade are morally problematic because treating certain goods as commodities can violate, degrade, or corrupt the social meaning of these goods. Corruption objections are often controversial, and many commentators reject them outright. One common criticism holds that the social meaning of particular goods is a contingent, socially-constructed fact that should be left open to revision. Whether or not markets ‘degrade’ or ‘corrupt’ particular goods is seen as morally irrelevant; what matters is how the commodification of these goods would affect human interests.

This paper has three aims. First, I offer an account of corruption objections that emphasises the relationship between the social meaning of particular goods and the promotion of certain kinds of human interests. In doing so, I hope to show why the above criticism of corruption objections is largely misdirected. Second, I attempt to outline the appropriate role of corruption objections in debates about commodification. Third, I describe some possible applications of corruption objections to public policy debates beyond those that are commonly discussed in the philosophical literature on the moral limits of markets.

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