Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Politics and International Studies

Dr Jörg Wiegratz gives talk in Moscow on neoliberal capitalism and moral change

25 November 2014 |

Dr Jörg Wiegratz, lecturer in Political Economy of Global Development was in Russia earlier this month to give academic talks about moral change in capitalist society.

The invitation was received from the National Research University, Higher School of Economics (HSE), Department of Sociology.

During his visit to Moscow Dr Wiegratz, conducted a workshop with HSE undergraduate students titled 'The study of moral change in a capitalist society'. Dr Wiegratz also gave a presentation as part of the Sociology Department’s International Research Seminar Series Fall 2014 - 'Neoliberalism, power, and critical sociology'. The talk was entitled 'Follow the norm: the routinisation of fraud in neoliberal market societies'.

The collaboration with the HSE was a follow up activity from a workshop that Dr Wiegratz co-organised with Dr David Whyte (University of Liverpool) earlier this year at the University of Leeds. The topic of which was ‘Neoliberalism, fraud and moral economy'. One of the presenters at that workshop, Dr Christopher Swader, assistant professor of Sociology at the HSE, has initiated the invitation to Moscow in order to discuss future collaboration on moral economy matters.

Abstract from 'The study of moral change in a capitalist society'

The state of morals in societies shaped by the forces of neoliberal capitalism is an issue that is debated across the world. News about political corruption and economic fraud in the global economy are becoming routine, as are conversations about deceptive business practices. Making a livelihood in an honest way seems increasingly difficult for many people. This raises the question: Are local morals indeed changing?  Can a society’s moral structure be affected by, say, neoliberalism, the state, the 1%, the repercussions of economic and social policies, shifts in the structure of power in society, or the worsening of material conditions for many members of that society? Can the moral economies of money making and of earning a living be ‘neoliberalised’?  This interactive workshop takes these issues and questions at a starting point to discuss what a social science take on moral change in a capitalist society might look like, and why it is important in the first place.

Abstract from 'Follow the norm: the routinisation of fraud in neoliberal market societies'

The contemporary global economy is characterized by significant levels of political corruption and economic fraud across many business sectors. Related to that, discourses around moral crisis and the need for a moral revival are a feature of politics in many countries across the world. However, scholars have to-date paid insufficient attention to two core issues: first, fraud as a political-economic and moral-economic phenomenon; second, the empirical relationship between the neoliberal transformations of the last two decades and today’s age of fraud. More generally, there seems to be a deficit in explorations of neoliberalism’s impact on practice repertoires; e.g., honest and dishonest practice. Thus, we seem to be at a rather early stage regarding the analysis of the social (re-)production of specific bundles of practices in neoliberalised social formations, for instance practices related to deceiving and harming others in the process of earning a living. This presentation aims to make a contribution to advance the debate in this direction. It argues that the neoliberalization of a range of political-moral economies across economy, polity and society has contributed to the routinisation of fraud (and the corresponding harm) in many market societies. In this light, any talk of bringing about a civic, responsible capitalism seems rather premature, both at the level of analysis and policy. Amongst others, the proponents of this view often neither have nor engage with empirical data on a key issue of pre- and post-crash capitalism: the political economy of norms and practices in the economy. This situation is unlikely to change.

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