WINIR Workshop on

Repugnant Behaviours

24-25 February 2021

University of Montpellier, Montpellier, France

Organiser: Alain Marciano

Download the call for papers

Formally introduced in economics by Nobel laureate Alvin Roth, the concept of "repugnance" arises in the debate among philosophers (e.g., Elizabeth Anderson, Michael Sandel, Debra Satz) and other social scientists (e.g., Kristie Blevins, Amitai Etzioni, Kimberly Krawiec, Amartya Sen, Philip Tetlock) about how and why moral concerns, taboos and sacred values place, or ought to place, limits on market transactions. (A set of representative references is provided in the call for papers.)

One of the most important questions in this debate is how repugnant behaviours should be dealt with, regulated or limited. Some suggest that repugnant behaviours should be punished by using fines rather than fees, because the former register moral disapproval, whereas the latter are simply prices that imply no moral judgment. This suggests that repugnant behaviors offend our moral or ethical values. Yet examples often used to illustrate repugnant behaviours include selling babies (or other human beings) and organs, as well as prostitution and sometimes even pollution. Littering the Grand Canyon is also deemed to be repugnant. But can all these behaviours be put on the same footing? If not, how ought we distinguish between them? Is repugnance an absolute concept or a relative one? Does it change across cultures? Does this mean that the limits of markets differ from one culture to another? If so, are we really talking about repugnance? What alternative concepts might be useful?

These questions are important from a philosophical, institutional and legal perspective. Indeed, can we rely on the same mechanism to punish someone who sold their child and someone who threw a can into the Grand Canyon? Must we rely on law and formal institutions to punish repugnant behaviours? Which ones? When and how do we draw the limit between the behaviours that can be punished by formal rules and those that must be punished by informal rules (such as ostracism, shaming or even embarrassment)?

The purpose of the WINIR Workshop on Repugnant Behaviours was to bring together theoretical and applied papers from different disciplines, including economics, philosophy, law and political science, to discuss these and other related questions, thereby clarifying the concept of “repugnance” and improving our understanding of how to regulate repugnant behaviours. 

Keynote speaker:
Kimberly D. Krawiec (Duke Law School, USA)

This workshop was initially planned as an in-person event but took place online and was open to all.

Wednesday 24 February 2021

15:00-18:15 CET

15:00-15:15   Introduction, Alain Marciano (University of Montpellier, France)

15:15-17:10   Session 1

Élodie Bertrand (CNRS & University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, France), "Repugnance as moral externality"

Erwin Dekker (Erasmus University of Rotterdam, Netherlands), Julien Gradoz (ENS Cachan, France) & Carolina Dalla Chiesa (Erasmus University of Rotterdam, Netherlands), "Quality Signals on Markets for Repugnant Goods"

17:15-18:15   Keynote lecture

Kimberly D. Krawiec (Duke University, USA), "Regulating Repugnant Behaviors"


Thursday 25 February 2021

15:15-18:15 CET

15:15-18:15   Session 2

Massimiliano Vatiero (Università di Trento, Italy & Università della Svizzera Italiana, Swizerland), "Is the hierarchical nature of the firm repugnant?"

Péter Cserne (University of Aberdeen, UK), "Economic and legal accounts of moral repugnance"

Robert Miller (University of Iowa, USA), "Repugnance Across Different Moral and Legal Conceptual Schemes"

A selection of the papers presented at the workshop will be included in a special issue of the Journal of Institutional Economics currently being planned for publication in 2023 (see here).