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On Commodification and Self-Ownership

31 Pages Posted: 12 Dec 2009  

Peter Halewood

Albany Law School

Date Written: 2008


This Article explores the ongoing jurisprudential dispute over whether commodification of the human body, including gendered commodification as produced by biotechnology, conflicts with a desirable exercise of self-ownership rights. Contrary to the prevailing view, it argues that the commodification of the human body caused by biotechnology, including reproductive technologies, does not necessarily undermine the discourse of emancipatory Lockean self-ownership, or feminist and critical revisions of the Lockean paradigm. Commodification of the body by biothechnology, precisely because this technology is universal and indiscriminate, may extend self-ownership to subjugated groups historically denied it. The commodification so feared in emerging biotechnology finds precedent in earlier anti-slavery and emancipator conceptions of self-ownership, thus undermining many of the central objections to commodification. The Article concludes that there is a real peril that market forces and discrimination may nonetheless disproportionately impact members of subjugated groups and jeopardize the benefits of this newly robust self-ownership.

Suggested Citation

Halewood, Peter, On Commodification and Self-Ownership (2008). Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities, Vol. 20, p. 131, 2008. Available at SSRN:

Peter Halewood (Contact Author)

Albany Law School ( email )

80 New Scotland Avenue
Albany, NY 12208
United States
518-472-5841 (Phone)


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