Wednesday 24 March 2021
14.30 - 15.45
Current Research on Moral Economies
Norbert Götz :
The Moral Economy of Humanitarian Priorities: Bonds, Masses, and the Self
Norbert Götz, Nikos Potamianos
Since the turn of the nineteenth century, humanitarian efforts have combined moral pathos with economic commitment. Apart from referring to riots of the crowd, the term ‘moral economy’ may therefore be turned on its head and be used to address the paternalistic containment, contingent discretion, and calculating interests of the ... (Show more)
Since the turn of the nineteenth century, humanitarian efforts have combined moral pathos with economic commitment. Apart from referring to riots of the crowd, the term ‘moral economy’ may therefore be turned on its head and be used to address the paternalistic containment, contingent discretion, and calculating interests of the charitable elite. However, while the moral economy of the crowd has generally been embedded locally, that of the elite has not only been reciprocal to that, but frequently transgressed the borders of the nation state. At times this has caused conflicts of interest between the ‘home crowd’, on the one hand, and donors and their preferred beneficiaries abroad, on the other.
The paper outlines how nineteenth century ad hoc humanitarianism was superseded by the organised humanitarianism of the first seven decades of the twentieth century, and further by the expressive humanitarianism of the past half-century, and how this affected the moral rationale of material priorities in humanitarian efforts. Despite the prevalence of a universalistic humanitarian rhetoric already at the time, ad-hoc humanitarianism was in fact dominated by the moral implications of special relations, such as imperial, kinship, and religious affiliation. Organised humanitarianism tended to broaden its clientele beyond the confines of particular affinities, but established an effective altruism based on accessibility, economics of scale, and children as a malleable recipient group. The expressive humanitarianism of today maintains many features of its predecessors, but shifts the focus of humanitarianism towards donors, fundraising celebrities, and aid organisations as morally and materially involved agents who practice humanitarianism as part of their lifestyle or brand, or as witnesses of calamities or granters of rights to the distressed. (Show less)
James Kelly :
Food Protest in Ireland in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
Contrary to the claim famously articulated by E.P. Thompson that ‘food riots did not “work” in Ireland … because there was no political space (as in England) within which the plebs could exert pressure on their rulers’, an examination of the historical record permits the conclusion that Ireland sustained a ... (Show more)
Contrary to the claim famously articulated by E.P. Thompson that ‘food riots did not “work” in Ireland … because there was no political space (as in England) within which the plebs could exert pressure on their rulers’, an examination of the historical record permits the conclusion that Ireland sustained a vigorous tradition of food protest. The purpose of this presentation is to identify, and describe its main features, as follows:
Chronology and duration: Food protest assumed an identifiable form in Ireland in the early eighteenth century, later than in England, but it became an established feature during the eighteenth century and continued albeit in an attenuated form until c. 1860. It is first identified in the port towns and food distribution centres: Cork, Youghal, Clonmel, Dublin, Drogheda, later Belfast, Kilkenny, Wexford. It expanded inland thereafter, and in the early nineteenth century was largely concentrated in the western half of the country.
Early nineteenth century expression: Irish food protest intersected with established forms of agrarian protest in the early nineteenth century as the number of poor in Ireland increased, and the country experiences a major economic crisis. It also put down firmer rural roots.
Great Famine. The Great Famine witnessed an unprecedented surge in Food Protest, which was at its peak in 1846 and 1847. This presents a new perspective on the Famine that has not hitherto been traced, and that serves both to link the Great Famine to earlier moments of crises and to illuminate the response of the populace to this exceptional crisis.
Distinguishing features: (i) Food protest was prompted by the apprehension of scarcity, and the reality of high prices; (ii) It could be violent and destructive of property, but many incidents were essential expressions of protests, and involved seizing food for sale at an affordable price, or for distribution gratis. It was possessed of ritual elements: crowds marched behind a leader bearing a loaf of bread on a pole; sometimes food was seized and put in storehouses so it could be accessed by all. Ships were disabled so it could not be transported; canals were breached etc. These are all identifiable features of a moral economy
Response of the authorities: The authorities tended, but it was not invariable, to manifest understanding of food protest when it coincided, as a detailed reconstruction of its chronology attests, with food crises. There was thus a limited 'moral economy'. Its chronology suggests it is best seen as a response to the fear, or reality of high prices and its concomitant, hunger than as a protest against a commercial economy, or as an attempt to keep a customary, reciprocal economic relationship in place. (Show less)
Nikos Potamianos :
A Moral Economy inside and against the Capitalist Market: Competition, Profit and the Shopkeepers of Athens 1900-1940
The concept of moral economy has been originally defined by E. P. Thompson (1971) in relation to the popular reactions against the emergence of the capitalist free market and public policies driven by the liberal political economy. Thompson has also stressed the fact the market provided a social locus quite ... (Show more)
The concept of moral economy has been originally defined by E. P. Thompson (1971) in relation to the popular reactions against the emergence of the capitalist free market and public policies driven by the liberal political economy. Thompson has also stressed the fact the market provided a social locus quite suitable for the organization of the working people and their mobilization as “crowd”. But what happens when, in the case of the shopkeepers, the perspective is shifted from the people who “merely” suffer the consequences of the rise of the self-regulating market, to social actors who form an organic part of the capitalist market and most of them owe their very existence to the capitalist reorganization of production and distribution?
In this paper I will examine the associations and newspapers of the shopkeepers of Athens in the first decades of the 20th century and their attitudes towards some crucial aspects of the free market. As they were often accused of profiteering and faced (particularly from 1916 onwards) the intervention of the state in the formation of the prices of the “basic goods”, they had to define which profit is fair. They also adopted occasionally the discourse against “shameful profiteering”, turning it against wholesalers, industrialists or landlords.
Secondly, the notion of unfair competition, being legally ill-defined, was increasingly used by the shopkeepers (as well as the organizations of larger merchants) during and after the crisis of 1929. But which commercial practices constituted unfair competition was not self-evident, and there was a constant negotiation of the limits of “fairness” in the public debate.
Thirdly, it seems that the restriction of the competition was the most significant pursuit of the shopkeepers’ associations in the interwar years. Some trades succeed to restrict the access to their occupation, establishing what is today called a "closed profession". To what extent can we trace here a core of moral values concerning the entitlement someone has to secure the basic means of life, namely to ‘win her/his bread’, and the likely threat that competition from other small or big businesses may constitute for such an entitlement? In what ways these moral values are affected by and reassessed by the everyday experience of the market? To what extent the reference to the concept of unfair competition contributes to a unification of different experiences and values in the context of this rhetoric? (Show less)
Korinna Schönhärl :
Tax Morale: the Historiographical Examination of Norms on Tax Payment after Boom (1975-1985)
What role do morals play for economic behaviour? The term “tax morale” indicates that paying taxes is a field of economic behaviour where morals are especially meaningful. But although the growing interest of historians in the relationship between economics and morale, tax morale research until today is dominated by economists ... (Show more)
What role do morals play for economic behaviour? The term “tax morale” indicates that paying taxes is a field of economic behaviour where morals are especially meaningful. But although the growing interest of historians in the relationship between economics and morale, tax morale research until today is dominated by economists and sociologists, but rarely historians. But the discourse on (honest) tax payment behaviour reaches far into the past: E.g. at the end of the 1970s, media in the Federal Republic of Germany reported the continued decline in the tax morale of payers. Did norms and values concerning the payment of taxes indeed change in this time of increasing neoliberalism on the one hand, and growing social inequality on the other? The paper is based on an innovative definition of tax morale: in contrast to existing empirical social research approaches, tax morale is defined as set of norms that a certain group agrees upon to regulate the selfish tax payment behaviour of its members. This definition, inspired by Sociology of Morality and social psychological approaches, allows the historian to understand norms and values about paying taxes as result of the discourse on (honest) tax payment and to examine them using a discourse analytical approach. Thus historiographical tax morale research is an excellent field to examine the interrelations of economic behaviour and norms in society.
The paper therefore examines different newspapers and journals, debates in parliament and guidebooks on saving taxes. It identifies four narratives about tax payment behaviour at the end of the 1970s/beginning of the 1980s in the FRG: Tax morale was discussed by the media in terms of the scandalous tax evasion of celebrities; it was used as an argument in tax politics (by conservative, neoliberal and socialist speakers in very different ways); it was interpreted by the tax administration; and tax morale was also discussed in guidebooks on saving taxes that were printed in large numbers in the period under examination. The paper shows that the narratives differed strongly, either strengthening existing norms about paying taxes by demanding their protection through severe penalties or strict controls, or questioning these norms by legitimizing illegal practices, e.g. by pointing to the excessive tax burden. The paper argues that these latter narratives won influence in the time under examination due to the political power of their representatives and widespread dissemination of the relevant publications. The examination of the discourse on honest tax payment thus enables us to explain why and how tax morale changed in the “years after the boom”, and to understand how economic behaviour is connected with the norms a society agrees upon. (Show less)