This panel explores how and why people may turn to a language of morality to imagine ways the economy and their position in it seem fraught with ought. It examines comparatively how talk of ethics may relate to other registers for imagining norms at play in (dis)ordering people's economic lives.
As promises about what the economic future may herald seem for many to have unraveled over recent decades, people have sought imaginatively to fathom the economic situation they're in and what should be done. One striking empirical phenomenon (with intriguing historical parallels) has been the strongly moralising terms in which people have reckoned with such economic change, whether on global, national, or more personal economic scales. From greedy traders to careless regulators, feckless markets and reckless states, the value-laden language people have drawn on to articulate how economic life ought and ought not to be organised has often turned to "the moral" or "the ethical". Frequently, this has occurred in a complex relationship with other registers for imagining normativity, ranging from rational-technical efficiency, legal rights, and political justice, to the religious and the occult. This panel seeks to explore how and why people may turn to a language of morality as they imagine ways the economy and their position in it seem fraught with ought. Are there particular historical or ethnographic contexts we can identify comparatively where a turn to ethics becomes more (or less) compelling for people seeking to reckon with socioeconomic change? What may be empirically at stake in such settings, when distinct vocabularies associated with morality or ethics become critical loci for imagining the conjunction and disjunction between technical, legal, political, and religious norms also at play in (dis)ordering people's economic lives?