Accepted paper:

The morals in the models: southern Europe in historical perspective


Jaime Palomera (Universitat de Barcelona)
Theodora Vetta (Universitat de Barcelona)

Paper short abstract:

This presentation will explore the role that different schools of thought have historically accorded to moral economies in their analyses of political-economic developments in southern Europe. Moreover, it will highlight the moral frameworks that emerge in different models and political projects.

Paper long abstract:

Mainstream economic theories analyzing Southern Europe have generally presented forms of family solidarity, reciprocity and patronage as backward cultural norms. The assumption is that these forms of organization, allegedly specific to the south, are sustained by moral values preventing them from fully 'converging' with the European countries of the core. Interestingly, during the 1990s, a more positive attitude emerged following a dominant cultural turn in economic policy that celebrated the 'social capital' of regional economies. Yet more recently, essentialist elements of modernization theories have been resurrected and popularized through the moral fable on the euro-crisis. According to this tale, the economies of the south crashed and fell into massive public debt partly because of the transhistorical 'cultural' traits of their peoples. In this paper we will attempt to historically expose the models and political projects behind all the above reasonings. We argue that attaching moral arguments when analyzing the south obscures the fact that moral obligations and social embeddedness are actually a fundamental part of how economies work everywhere. Our aim is not only to deconstruct cultural essentialisms but also to show how such southern "particularities" are indeed historical and emerge in a dialectic articulation with structural processes and shifts in the global political economy. To sum up, we hypothesize that moral arguments around provisioning pervade and simultaneously articulate economic models, forms of regulation and everyday practices of livelihood-and vice versa.

panel P65
Linking the moral and the political economy in the European periphery