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Thursday, August 09, 2007

"Moral Views of Market Society"

Dr. Interest of the blog Journal of Interest notes this paper by sociologists Marion Fourcade and Kieran Healy:

Moral Views of Market Society, by Dr. Interest: A good paper on market morality - here is an excerpt from the introduction:

In 1982, a soft-spoken economist with a self-diagnosed propensity for subversion (and self-subversion) published a short article on a big topic (Hirschman 1982): How have intellectual elites understood and judged market society throughout history? Somewhat contrary to his expectations, Albert Hirschman found that the market was initially seen as a civilizing force (Hirschman 1977). For most of the eighteenth century, the doux commerce thesis held that market relations made people more cordial and less inclined to fight one another. By the late nineteenth century, however, this harmonious vision faced a challenge. Marx, among others, argued that capitalist society tended to undermine its own moral foundations, to the point where it would ultimately self-destruct. In response to this gloomy prediction, the doux commerce thesis was transformed. The market was still an essentially good force, its defenders thought, but a feeble one. According to this “feudal shackles” thesis, the persistence of cultural and institutional legacies from the past hampered the market’s beneficial effects. Conversely, the absence of such a heritage in the U.S. case was seen as a blessing, and a critical element in explaining that country’s moral character and economic success.

The authors instead suggest:

Despite the value of Hirschman’s framework, we also seek to go beyond it. In his scheme, the causal relationship between the market and the moral order is straightforward. Markets can exert a huge direct effect for good, or do tremendous damage. Alternatively, the arrow points the other way and fragile markets are overwhelmed by the moral order (or, much more rarely, nurtured by it). We shall argue that a body of important work, most of it quite recent, rejects this clean division between the moral order and the market. Instead, research on the classification of exchange relations, on the performativity of economics, and on the regulation of countries and corporations in the international economy is united by a view of markets as intensely moralized, and moralizing, entities. We suggest that this new emphasis reflects not simply a shift in scholarly fashion, but also trends in the public justification of the contemporary economic order itself. More

Marion Fourcade, Kieran Healy (forthcoming). “Moral Views of Market Society”. Annual Review of Sociology 33 (2007).

    Posted by on Thursday, August 9, 2007 at 03:33 PM in Economics | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (7)

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