Books on Moral Economy
Moral Economy is the central characteristic of economic
activity in a tribal society. Rather than economic exchanges being motivated by
self-interest, greed or profit, exchanges are driven by moral obligations created by
kinship relations, gift giving, and rituals.
In a moral economy, a hunter or food gatherer may by
obliged to give much of the food to a network of relations, thus accounting for the
distribution of food within the community.
It was the final collapse of moral economy, economic
exchange as moral obligation that Karl Marx bemoaned when he described the cash
nexus that has become the central medium and motivator of exchange in a capitalist
The moral economy embodies norms regarding the
responsibilities and rights of individuals and institutions with respect to others and
regarding the nature and qualities of goods, services and environment. These norms shape
both the formal and informal, including household, economies. While the norms may be
considered part of a moral order, they are invariably influenced by networks of power and
considerations of cost; indeed many such norms are compromised by, or are rationalisations
of, the effects of economic power. The story of capitalism and modernity is often told as
one of the replacement of moral economy by a political economy, in which the fate of
actors comes to depend on the outcomes of anonymous contending market forces, the
positioning of people as consumers turns moral judgements concerning the social good into
matters of private preference, and their fortunes become heavily dependent on luck, as
even market advocates such as Hayek, acknowledge. Polanyi's critique of the
commodification of labour-power is directed at a major instance of this de-moralization.
The Moral Economy of the Mexican Miner -
Adrian Bantjes, University of Wyoming.
Paper seeks to explain the isolated, conservative political role played by mineworkers
during the radical presidency of Lazaro Cardenas (1934 1940), using the Sonoran miners as
a case study. The moral economy of the Mexican miner was not accepted by the State, which
imposed cooperativism, mass unionism, and de-skilling on this "labor
aristocratic" sector of the workforce. The relative freedom and independence of the
Mexican miner would soon be a thing of the past.
The Moral Economy of the Peasant - Rebellion and
Subsistence in Southeast Asia - James C. Scott - yalepress.yale.edu - Scott draws
from the history of agrarian society in lower Burma and Vietnam to show how the
transformations of the colonial era systematically violated the peasants moral
economy and created a situation of potential rebellion and revolution.
The Moral Economy - John P. Powelson is Professor of Economics Emeritus,
University of Colorado - press.umich.edu. The Moral Economy proposes a desirable world
that is historically possible, if certain trends of the past millennium are continued into
the next, and if world power becomes more diffuse. As we enter the twenty-first century,
it looks to the horizon to suggest what a distant future might bring. Shows how a moral
economya balance between interventionism and libertarianismand economic
prosperity are mutually reinforcing.
Abstract of The Moral Economy
Adam Smith's classic liberal economy works well only when economic and political power is
well distributed. The distribution of power in the twenty-first century depends on which
of three paths we take: interventionism, libertarianism, or the middle path proposed in
This path is called "the moral economy." It seeks balance of power among social
groupings, in which socially desirable behavior is imposed sidewise-by group acting upon
group-rather than downward, through government regulation. Environmental and other social
goals are sought by nongovernment agencies as much removed from politics as possible,
while social assistance is administered by private agencies financed in part by cash or
voucher grants supplied by government, or by a negative income tax.
After two introductory chapters, Part One describes seven current, major problems, showing
how, if new institutions (ways of behavior) are formed, these problems can be resolved
with discipline from the market and minimal government intervention. They are: poverty,
population, environment, ethnic bias, welfare, social security; and health care.
The new institutions are discussed in Part Two: accountability for the management and use
of resources, trust, property, money and inflation, law, containment of corruption, taxes,
education, religion, morality, and values. These institutions are shaped by the
interaction of social groupings with relative balance of power, rather than by government
mandate. The final chapter describes the moral economy, using the solutions to the
problems cited in Part One and the institutions proposed in Part Two. It also outlines the
path by which the moral economy might be approached.