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Accepted Paper:

The ‘moral’ in economy: Financial refractions of ‘morality’ as ethnographic category in neoclassical economics  
Alice Pearson (European University Institute)

Paper short abstract:

This paper interrogates ‘morality’ as ethnographic category in economics. Based on ethnography of elite economics education, it traces how the ‘moral’ circulates amongst economists and refracts in governance of financial capitalism, to ask what is at stake in anthropological analyses of ‘morality’.

Paper long abstract:

This paper interrogates how ‘morality’ is conceived ethnographically within neoclassical economics. Based on 18 months’ ethnography of undergraduate economics education at an elite university in Western Europe in 2016-17, it tracks the ‘moral’ as an ethnographic category that circulates and coalesces amongst economists. While often treated as an amoral discipline by practitioners and critics alike, neoclassical economics has a repressed repertoire of ‘morality’ that both implicitly inflects and is explicitly inscribed in economic models. Yet, its uses remain ambiguous, partial and even contradictory, operating through an oscillation of the term as located both internal and external to the discipline. These categories are deployed by economists particularly at moments of financial crisis, and have formatted both financial governance and austerity policies. The uneven contours of its application in economists’ projects of governance generate divergent regimes of constraint and abundance that serve to stratify workers and extenuate inequalities in labour regimes of contemporary financial capitalism, including being refracted in the working lives of undergraduate economics alumni in financial industries. By treating the ‘moral’ as an ethnographic category, this paper examines what is produced in the spaces between conceptions of ‘morality’ in anthropology and economics, to ask what is at stake in emerging anthropological analyses of ‘morality’ in financialised capitalism.

Panel P001a
Economic Moralities: Value claims on the future I
  Session 1 Tuesday 26 July, 2022, -