Economic analyses of repugnant market transactions: a modest typology

Peter Cserne* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Economic accounts of repugnance concern two broad questions: the rationalisation of sentiments of repugnance (do emotional and visceral reactions of repugnance track valid reasons for not engaging in or condemning certain (trans)actions?) and institutional design (how to institute, regulate or restrict markets in response to reasonable objections). If repugnance expresses valid practical reasons for regulating or limiting markets, our institutions should acknowledge and express these. If attitudes of repugnance are not rationalizable in the sense of instrumental or moral values, we should disregard or eventually
counteract or reduce them. Focusing on a special case of repugnance, when commodification, i.e., the sale of goods or services for money meets societal disapproval, this paper identifies three characteristic ways to combine conceptual, empirical, and normative arguments and map repugnance into a disciplinary “epistemic frame” of economics: repugnance as taste; repugnance as proxy for market failures or moral reasons; repugnance as hypocrisy or
contingent cultural fact. Correspondingly, economists advise to (1) work around; (2) make sense of; and (3) explain away people’s sentiments of repugnance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)930-943
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Institutional Economics
Issue number6
Early online date3 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Open Access via the CUP Agreement


  • Repugnance
  • Commodification
  • Institutional design
  • Moral externalities
  • Cultural semiotics
  • performativity


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