Saving semiotic objections to commodification from deflation: a response to Brennan and Jaworski
Miesen, L. van der
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In ‘’Markets Without Symbolic Limits’’, Brennan and Jaworski claim to have deflated all semiotic objections to commodification to a mere case of minding your manners. Since meaning is contingent and malleable, anti-commodification theorists cannot invoke any supposed a priori meanings of either goods or the market that could validate a claim against the commodification of a good. Doing so amounts to a dangerous conventionalism that may prevent the existence of markets which could benefit society at large. We contend with Brennan and Jaworksi that meaning is contingent and malleable, but that this does not completely invalidate semiotic objections to commodification. Brennan and Jaworski mischaracterise those objections when they say that they do not bear on negative consequences of commodification. Markets in certain forms do seem to imply some minimal meaning and have the potential to rob people of their ability to engage meaningfully with their goods. If we want to protect this capability so essential for human interests, we must leave room for the intrinsic valuation of people and their goods in markets. Whether people or goods are treated as mere means rather than as something intrinsically valued, is always an empirical question best answered by using the capability approach.