The past few years have revealed widespread economic wrong-doing, especially in the financial sector but also elsewhere. Often this was explained in terms of rotten apples, aberrant, amoral individuals. This panel considers that economic activity in terms of approaches familiar in the discipline.
The conference theme invites us to approach emerging events in terms of our discipline's intellectual legacy. Papers in this panel will look at such events in the economic realm. The financial crisis of 2007 revealed substantial economic activity that appears suspect, even fraudulent. This is different from corruption, which has attracted scholarly attention, not least because it was especially visible in the financial sector rather than in government, though it was hardly limited to that sector. That activity often is explained in terms of rotten apples, aberrant individuals who ignore the rules of honesty and fair dealing. However, the extent of that activity makes such an explanation implausible. This panel will encourage consideration of that activity in terms of ideas, long familiar in the discipline, that attend to the social settings and processes that facilitate or even encourage such economic activities. In doing so, it also will encourage consideration of how suited those ideas are for making sense of that activity. Although there are many such ideas, the most obvious are found in Marx's work on capitalism, Durkheim's work on anomie, Sahlins's work on structural tendencies in Melanesian exchange and E.P. Thompson's work on moral economy. This panel will consider how these and other ideas in our intellectual store can help us to make sense of recent, fairly widespread economic wrong-doing, and help us to understand why these activities are seen as wrong by many people and are carried out by many others.