Article | Administrative Science Quarterly | December 2010

Markets, Morals, and Practices of Trade: Jurisdictional Disputes in the U.S. Commerce in Cadavers

by Michel Anteby


This study examines the U.S. commerce in human cadavers for medical education and research to explore variation in legitimacy in trades involving similar goods. It draws on archival, interview, and observational data mainly from New York state to analyze market participants' efforts to legitimize commerce and resolve a jurisdictional dispute. Building on literature on professions, the study shows that how goods are traded, not only what is traded, proves integral to constructing legitimacy, thus suggesting a practice-based view of moral markets. The professionals, including a group of "gatekeepers," construct a narrative distinction between their own commerce and an implicitly less moral alternative and geographically insulate their trades from the broader commerce, creating in effect two circuits. Yet the professionals also promote specific practices of trade within their circuit to help them distinguish their own pursuit from an alternative course of action. The study's findings shed light on the micro-foundations of market legitimization and on the role of morals in sustaining professional jurisdictions.

Keywords: Education; Goods and Commodities; Trade; Lawfulness; Moral Sensibility; Market Participation; Management Practices and Processes; New York (state, US);


Anteby, Michel. "Markets, Morals, and Practices of Trade: Jurisdictional Disputes in the U.S. Commerce in Cadavers." Administrative Science Quarterly 55, no. 4 (December 2010): 606–638.