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It's my body and I'll do what I like with it: bodies as objects and property

Phillips, Anne (2011) It's my body and I'll do what I like with it: bodies as objects and property. Political Theory, 39 (6). pp. 724-748. ISSN 0090-5917

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Identification Number: 10.1177/0090591711419322


What, if any, is the problem with treating bodies as objects or property? Is there a defensible basis for seeing bodies as different from "other" material resources? Or is thinking the body special a kind of sentimentalism that blocks clear thinking about matters such as prostitution, surrogate motherhood, and the sale of spare kidneys? I argue that the language we use does matter, and that thinking of the body as property encourages a self/body dualism that obscures the power relations involved in all contracts that cedes authority over the body. Recognising the self as embodied, however, also makes it harder to insist on sharp distinctions between activities that involve the body and those that "just" involve the mind, hence harder to justify refusing payment for explicitly body services while condoning it for those to which the body is more incidental. I therefore provide a modest defence of monetary compensation for those who "donate" bodily products or services. Compensation does not, however, mean markets for there is at least one sense in which the body is special. This is that more so, and more intrinsically than other markets, markets in body parts or bodily services depend on inequality. I use this to make a case against such markets.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2011 SAGE Publications
Divisions: Gender Studies
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
Q Science > QM Human anatomy
JEL classification: J - Labor and Demographic Economics > J2 - Time Allocation, Work Behavior, and Employment Determination and Creation; Human Capital; Retirement > J24 - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
Date Deposited: 08 Dec 2011 15:13
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 01:53

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