Moral economy and development economics: introduction.

Lyon, Fergus ORCID logoORCID:, Olsen, Wendy and Sanghera, Balihar (2009) Moral economy and development economics: introduction. Cambridge Journal of Economics, 33 (5) . pp. 871-873. ISSN 0309-166X [Article] (doi:10.1093/cje/bep053)


‘Moral economy’ is a form of inquiry that examines how ordinary economic practices and relationships embody or affect moral dispositions, evaluations, rules, values, customs and norms. Although ethical concerns, responsibilities and encounters pervade our daily life,
often political economists reduce them to personal tastes, fixed preferences, vested interests, social conventions or political ideologies, as if everyday practices were an
unreflexive process (Sayer, 2000). The following three papers on moral economy challenge orthodox economics and are critical of disciplinary boundaries. We discuss what moral questions arise from the expansion and the structure of the commercial economy, and what counts as human well-being and development.
The three papers on development economics and moral economy were presented at a conference on Perspectives on Moral Economy organised by Andrew Sayer at Lancaster University in 2005. The conference explored moral economy from different disciplinary and transdisciplinary points of view. Normativity is implicit in social sciences but requires better understanding and theorising, and we attempt this by undertaking a broad analytical and empirical inquiry into social practices and relationships in
developing countries.
The first paper by Olsen (2009) studies overlaps and linkages between schools of thought within economics. Olsen covers four main schools of thought ranging from neoclassical to feminist. She shows that all four have normative orientations, but that these vary from highly hidden to very explicit. Then she moves to looking at the reasoning strategies used for making normative judgements. Her work on Indian rural contexts suggests that rural
transformation has been judged not only for its emancipatory content, or its growth impact, but also in terms other impacts on human well-being.
In the paper, Olsen surveys land tenure in rural India to compare the moral reasoning strategies that are used there. The paper concludes that reasoning tends to imply value
judgements even if it is attempting to be value neutral at a cognitive level. Orthodox economics make numerous broad value judgements, while heterodox economics make more explicit value judgements, and tend to weave into their work an appreciation of different standpoints. Most economists are interested in discussions about their normative orientations, whether or not they agree that their research could be normative in itself. In moral economy, the expectation is that the author of research is a normative agent and that economics has a role to play in spelling out the complexities of a moral scene (Ray and
Sayer, 1999).

Item Type: Article
Research Areas: A. > Business School
ISI Impact: 1
Item ID: 7080
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Depositing User: Mrs Susan Engelbert
Date Deposited: 16 Feb 2011 11:18
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2016 14:22

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