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Our Bodies, Whose Property?
Anne Phillips

Hardcover | 2013 | $29.95 | £24.95 | ISBN: 9780691150864
216 pp. | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
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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.


"[B]oth those who are aware of what is happening around these issues and those who have not reflected on recent developments around markets, bodies and properties would do well to read Phillips' timely, intelligent overview of the challenges of early 21st-century global body politics. . . . [A] rich feast of considered reflections on some of the most pressing issues of our times."--Maureen McNeil, Times Higher Education

"Ultimately, although she may not have intended it to be overtly so, Phillips' book reads as a beautiful piece of Marxist work, and it is in this way specifically that her work is incredibly valuable in the face of the increasing commodification and marketization of practically every aspect of our existence. . . . Her book is . . . valuable not just from a feminist perspective concerned with women's equality in the face of corporeal exploitation, but to those interested in issues of political, economic, and social justice as well."--Linda Roland Danil, Marx & Philosophy Review of Books

"Phillips examines the public policy ramifications of using property rights language about the body and its parts. . . . This is a valuable and balanced survey of the various positions on issues that evolving social views and medical technology are making important, if not vital."--Choice

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Table of Contents:

Acknowledgements vii
Introduction 1
Chapter One What's So Special about the Body? 18
Chapter Two Property Models of Rape 42
Chapter Three Bodies for Rent? The Case of Commercial Surrogacy 65
Chapter Four Spare Parts and Desperate Need 97
Chapter Five The Individualism of Property Claims 134
Notes 157
Bibliography 179
Index 191

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