Can’t Buy Me Love

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Critics of commodification often claim that the buying and selling of some good communicates disrespect or some other inappropriate attitude. Such semiotic critiques have been leveled against markets in sex, pornography, kidneys, surrogacy, blood, and many other things. Brennan and Jaworski (2015a) have recently argued that all such objections fail. They claim that the meaning of a market transaction is a highly contingent, socially constructed fact. If allowing a market for one of these goods can improve the supply, access or quality of the good, then instead of banning the market on semiotic grounds, they urge that we should revise our semiotics. In this reply, I isolate a part of the meaning of a market transaction that is not socially constructed: our market exchanges always express preferences. I then show how cogent semiotic critiques of some markets can be constructed on the basis of this fact.
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First archival date: 2017-04-27
Latest version: 1 (2017-05-21)
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