The Market as Moral Project

Marion Fourcade and Crooked Timber’s Kieran Healy, who offered us yesterday a funny spoof of one of my favorite DeLong segments, the morning coffee, have an interesting paper on markets.

What kind of moral order does capitalism rest upon? Conversely, does the market give rise to a distinctive set of beliefs, habits, and social bonds? These questions are certainly as old as social science itself. In this review, we evaluate how today’s scholarship approaches the relationship between markets and the moral order. We begin with Albert Hirschman’s characterization of the three rival views of the market as civilizing, destructive or feeble in its e&ects on society. We review recent work at the intersection of sociology, economics and political economy and show that these views persist both as theories ofmarket society and moral arguments about it. We then argue that a fourth view, which we call “moralized markets,” has become increasingly prominent in economic sociology. This work sees markets as cultural phenomena and moral projects in their own right, and seeks to study the mechanisms and techniques by which such projects are realized in practice.