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Markets & Morality (MANCEPT Workshops in Political Theory)

September 10, 2018 - September 12, 2018

Mancept workshops

Convenors: Matias Petersen (King’s College London) and Kaveh Pourvand (London School of Economics)

The morality of markets and their ethical limits continue to generate significant debate within political theory. Are there things that should not be for sale?

Debra Satz and other scholars answer affirmatively. On their view, certain goods are simply not appropriate objects of commodification and market exchange. Moreover, the over-reach of markets can crowd-out other valuable modes of human interaction.

Jason Brennan and Peter Jaworski, meanwhile, have argued for fewer limits. Any good that can be gifted legitimately can likewise also be sold, on their view. The question of what limits there should be to market exchange and how these may be demarcated is the central one to be addressed in our workshop.

This is a broad question, however, one that raises other inter-related issues. Some of these questions are:

  • What does experimental/behavioural economics say about the crowding-in and crowding-out effects of marketisation, and what are the normative implications of that body of research?
  • Can the free-market be a site of deliberative discourse? Critics of markets fear that at most they meet the bare preferences of people as consumers rather than encourage them to gain informed or considered preferences through democratic deliberation. Defenders of markets, meanwhile, argue that they can be a source of moral progress in creating scope for Millian experiments in living and co-ordinating dispersed information, while suggesting that deliberation about common goods in large-scale political communities faces insurmountable coordination and knowledge problems.
  • To what extent can the moral questions raised by various social relationships be addressed by the notion of consent? Libertarians sometimes suggest that as long as social relations are consensual in the relevant sense, they need not create any other moral concerns, even if, for example, there are substantial asymmetries of power between parties. On the other hand, critics of markets wish to forbid all manner of human activities even if they are subject to the consent of informed and willing parties. What kind of moral theory is required for advancing the thesis that consent is not enough for justifying a contractual relationship?
  • What is the best normative justification of markets? A standard answer is that markets allow people with differing ends to peaceably and productively cooperate without mandating agreement. These are “subjectivist” justifications insofar as they are concerned with individual preference satisfaction without comment on the nature of those preferences. But can we justify markets on more objective or substantive grounds, that they promote the virtues for instance? Are there good deontological and/or natural rights justifications of markets?

Application Details

To apply please send a 500 word abstract to marketsmoralitymancept@gmail.com. Please include in your email your name, institutional affiliation, paper title and abstract. The application deadline is Friday 18th May. Please attach your abstract as a separate, anonymous document suitable for blind review. Notices for acceptance will be sent by 15 June, enabling those who are eligible to apply for bursaries (see below.)

Registration details

Please note that as a presenter at this workshop you will need to register for the MANCEPT workshops. The registration fees are £230.00 for academics and £135.00 for graduate students and retirees. Registration will open in May. Graduate students, early-career researchers, and retirees whose papers have been accepted may apply for bursaries. The deadline for this is Saturday 23rd June and successful applicants will be notified by Monday 25th June. Further information will be published on the MANCEPT website closer to the date.


September 10, 2018
September 12, 2018
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Manchester Centre for Political Theory


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