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 society.
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.
The paper first examines traditional studies of
mineworkers based on the outdated "isolated mass" hypothesis postulated by Kerr
and Siegel in 1954. Despite severe criticism, this structuralist approach, which explains
the miners' perceived militancy in t erms of their existence as an homogeneous isolated
mass in foreign controlled enclave settings, continues to influence the field of Latin
American labor history. Mineworkers are still considered "archetypal
proletarians" who have played a key role in rev olutionary struggles throughout Latin
America, including the Mexican Revolution.
Books on Moral Economy:
The Moral Economy of the Peasant: Rebellion and Subsistence in Southeast Asia Professor James C. Scott - Review: By Faruk Ekmekci - In his The Moral Economy of the Peasant: Rebellion and Subsistence in Southeast Asia, Scott sets out to solve the puzzle why some types of exploitative relations give way to grassroots revolutions and others not. Scott's analysis of the moral economy of the peasants in Asia portrays that the underdevelopment and poverty of today's less developed countries is not simply a result of their failure to develop; yet it is an active process of impoverishment and social destruction which results from "the way in which they are joined to the international system."
Islam and the Moral Economy: The Challenge of Capitalism Charles Tripp "Surprisingly, despite the importance of the topic, little has been published concerning the specifically Islamic responses to capitalism as a social and conomic phenomenon. Charles Tripp's Islam and the Moral Economy: The Challenges of Capitalism fills this significant gap in the literature. In one sense, it is a lively and well thought out survey of what dozens of major Muslim thinkers have thought about capitalism." - Robert Looney, Middle East Journal
Darker than Blue: On the Moral Economies of Black Atlantic Culture (The W. E. B. Du Bois Lectures) Paul Gilroy Review: Paul Gilroy's most important gift to cultural criticism is the deft manner in which he finds novel ways to explicate his great concern: the interweaving of ethics and aesthetics, through the example of the African American tradition. In Darker than Blue, Gilroy brilliantly examines some basic tensions within African American culturein particular the changing relation, over the past half-century especially, between expressions of group consciousness and atomistic individualism. Gilroy is delightfully curious and rigorously analytical, making this book a pleasure to read and to argue with. It reaffirms his position as one of the leading cultural critics of our time. --Henry Louis Gates Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University (20100514) If the moral force of Baldwin's writing was fuelled by the solidarity of the Civil Rights movement, Gilroy's book is a warning of moral bankruptcy creeping into contemporary U.S. black culture. According to Gilroy, commodities have replaced community, and the spirit of the freedom marches has been overtaken by the roar of accessorized Hummers. This is not simply a curmudgeonly critique of contemporary culture, and Gilroy teases out the reasons why the moral energy that galvanized the Civil Rights movement has been diluted by corporate American life in three penetrating and exhilarating chapters. --Douglas Field (Times Literary Supplement )
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.
Abstract of The Moral Economy