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Our Bodies, Whose Property?

Our Bodies, Whose Property?

Anne Phillips
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Our Bodies, Whose Property?
    Book Description:

    No one wants to be treated like an object, regarded as an item of property, or put up for sale. Yet many people frame personal autonomy in terms of self-ownership, representing themselves as property owners with the right to do as they wish with their bodies. Others do not use the language of property, but are similarly insistent on the rights of free individuals to decide for themselves whether to engage in commercial transactions for sex, reproduction, or organ sales. Drawing on analyses of rape, surrogacy, and markets in human organs,Our Bodies, Whose Property?challenges notions of freedom based on ownership of our bodies and argues against the normalization of markets in bodily services and parts. Anne Phillips explores the risks associated with metaphors of property and the reasons why the commodification of the body remains problematic.

    What, she asks, is wrong with thinking of oneself as the owner of one's body? What is wrong with making our bodies available for rent or sale? What, if anything, is the difference between markets in sex, reproduction, or human body parts, and the other markets we commonly applaud? Phillips contends that body markets occupy the outer edges of a continuum that is, in some way, a feature of all labor markets. But she also emphasizes that we all have bodies, and considers the implications of this otherwise banal fact for equality. Bodies remind us of shared vulnerability, alerting us to the common experience of living as embodied beings in the same world.

    Examining the complex issue of body exceptionalism,Our Bodies, Whose Property?demonstrates that treating the body as property makes human equality harder to comprehend.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4636-8
    Subjects: Philosophy, Law, Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-17)

    This is a book about markets, bodies, and property. It considers what, if anything, is the difference between markets in sex or reproduction or human body parts and the other markets we commonly applaud. What—if anything—makes the body special? People otherwise untroubled by the workings of market society often oppose commercial transactions in what we might call intimate bodily services or body products and parts. But can we justify what Nir Eyal terms “body exceptionalism”?¹ Or is thinking the body special a kind of sentimentalism that blocks clear thinking about matters such as prostitution, surrogate motherhood, and the...

  5. CHAPTER ONE What’s So Special about the Body?
    (pp. 18-41)

    No one thinks it a good idea to treat people as if they were objects. We do not defend this even when we distrust notions of personal autonomy, or tolerate blatantly hierarchical relationships, for on any understanding of what it is to be human, people are not things. We talk of objects as inanimate or immoveable, and the power we most commonly attribute to them is that of being able to block activity. We may, of course, love our things. As Henry James warns inThe Spoils of Poynton, we may come to feel more attached to the objects with...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Property Models of Rape
    (pp. 42-64)

    Claims about property in the body are often intended only as metaphorical and, as I have noted, many legal systems do not recognise bodies as the kind of “thing” that can be owned. Historically, rape appears the exception to this, for rape was long understood as an explicitly property crime. Not that it was conceived as stealing something from a woman. It was regarded, rather, as the taking from a father or husband of the potentially valuable commodity of a woman of reproductive age, and the offence was often punished by the payment of compensation to the father or husband....

  7. CHAPTER THREE Bodies for Rent? The Case of Commercial Surrogacy
    (pp. 65-96)

    In my discussion of rape , I was concerned with the way a language of property can misrepresent the harm of rape, making it harder, rather than easier, to recognise shared vulnerability. In many cases, the misrepresentation also understates the harm, but I have not tried to argue either that explicit property models are dominant or that recourse to them directly affects the way police forces treat rape victims or courts process charges of rape. Nor have I argued that a property model has direct consequences as regards the marketing of bodily services or body parts. One could think of...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Spare Parts and Desperate Need
    (pp. 97-133)

    The previous chapter dealt with commercialised practices in which claims to the ownership of one’s body play surprisingly little part. Surrogates either stress the “gift” aspect of the activity, playing down the commercial exchange, or emphasise the economic necessity that drove them to engage in it, playing down those elements of choice and personal control usually associated with property claims. With body parts and tissues, we encounter further twists to the tale. There is growing pressure for countries to accept markets in bodily materials as a normal part of life, and some argue for this in the terms noted in...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE The Individualism of Property Claims
    (pp. 134-156)

    In Rousseau’s critique of property in land, he offers us three scenarios. Something belongs to all, it belongs to nobody, and/or people who have no more right to it than anyone else illegitimately claim it as their own. At first sight, none of the options works especially well with bodies. But the imposter laying claim to something that arguably belongs to all makes his reappearance in the shape of universities and biotechnology companies turning materials donated for general benefit to their own private profit. Despite disturbing connotations, something akin to the idea of bodies belonging to all also figures in...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 157-178)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 179-190)
  12. Index
    (pp. 191-202)