On the possibility of organ markets and the performativity of economics

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    Callon’s ‘performativity thesis’ encourages us to explore how the boundaries of the economy are negotiated. This paper explores one such discussion: the contributions of economics to the debates over the introduction of markets for transplant organs. The paper pays particular attention to the normative aspects of economic valuation. It considers the philosophical antecedents of economic contributions to the debate, notes the rhetorical and linguistic power of economic calculation and then focuses on three distinct sets of calculations concerning the value of a transplant kidney: a contingent valuation calculation, a risk-premia based calculation, and a cost-efficiency simulation. In each case, it shows that economic facts, once created, may travel freely through normative debates and claim moral force. The technical process of economic modelling is therefore seen to be a crucial aspect of the economisation of this area, and of economic performativity more generally.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)386-401
    JournalJournal of Cultural Economy
    Issue number4
    Early online date25 Mar 2013
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


    • Performativity
    • Organ markets
    • Bioethics
    • Transplant organs
    • Valuation
    • Contingent valuation method


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