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Accepted Paper:

(Re)negotiating morals: corporations/investors in agriculture and their critics as countermovement  
Tijo Salverda (University of Vienna)

Paper short abstract:

To better understand the potential and limits of the interactions between corporations/investors (active in agriculture in Africa) and their critics, such as local communities and NGOs, I will discuss linkages between the moral economies concept and Polanyi’s countermovement.

Paper long abstract:

As part of my research on foreign corporations/investors active in agriculture in Africa, I spoke to many such actors in Zambia, visited projects, and attended (investment) forums in Cape Town and Rome. What became evident during these encounters is that many worry about the moral and ethical issues critics raise. In response to this 'countermovement' of NGOs, local communities, journalists, etc., corporations/investors have to balance their economic interests with concerns about the negative consequences of their practices (regarding 'land grabbing', unequal distribution of gains, environmental damage).

To better understand the potential and limits of the interactions between corporations/investors and critics, I will broaden the discussion on the moral economies concept by linking it to Polanyi's (2001) countermovement and to macro-level realities of the global economy - this resonating with thoughts of Edelman (2005) and Fassin (2009). In many instances, from agriculture investments in Zambia to mining and even global finance, morals and ethics are lurking around the corner, if only because of the regulation by laws. Moral 'agreements' with (parts of) the societies in which corporations operate appear to be constantly renegotiated. Certainly, corporations are interested in making a profit, but not necessarily at all costs: the homo economicus version of the corporate person, who only acts to maximise profits, an image which is often reproduced by the critics (Welker 2014), does not necessarily reflect everyday realities. However, substantial limitations remain regarding the embracing by corporations of the concerns critics raise - and the perpetuation of negative consequences of global economic practices.

Panel P058
Rethinking the concept of moral economy: anthropological perspectives
  Session 1