Is the Market Perceived to be Civilizing or Destructive? Scientists’ Universalism Values and Their Attitudes Towards Patents

Journal of Business Ethics 170 (2):253-267 (2021)
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Abstract

Is the market civilizing or destructive? The increased salience of science commercialization is forcing scientists to address this question. Benefiting from the sociology of morality literature’s increased attention to specific kinds of morality and engaging with economic sociology’s moral markets literature, we generate competing hypotheses about scientists’ value-driven attitudes toward patenting. The Civilizing Market thesis suggests scientists who prioritize universalism will tend to support patenting. The Destructive Market thesis, by contrast, suggests universalism will be correlated with opposition to patenting. We analyze survey data from biologists and physicists nested within academic organizations, which are nested within the following regions: France, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Taiwan, Turkey, UK, and the USA. Employing multilevel analysis, we find correlational evidence to support the Destructive Market thesis. Universalism is associated with anti-patenting attitudes, suggesting scientists expect patenting to have deleterious effects on science and society. We end with a discussion of this article’s implications for the moral markets literature, sociology of morality and business ethics.

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