The concept of a moral economy might see its future utility in the field of welfare, civil society, and the non-profit sector if moral concerns and economic resources coincide. What was called “looting” of food shops was not for consumption, but for destruction—punishing and humiliating the profiteers and hoarders. While the timing of such a ‘saddle period’ in European nations other than Germany is debatable, it is heuristically applicable in the case of the term moral economy, which did not gain currency in Great Britain and France until the middle of the eighteenth century. However, Thompson did not refer to Polanyi, and it is unclear what he might have derived from studying him (Burke 2005, 69). As evidence of the political undercurrent of the crowds, Thompson notes that violent actions against millers rarely looted supplies: sometimes they reset the price of purchase, other times the actions were wholly punitive against profiteering, so there’s a disciplining effect at work that’s far more lasting than the fleeting action itself. It thus distinguishes between the moral values that are the context of economic activity and those that arise from the activity itself.
More abstractly its meaning also encompassed administration, leadership, arrangement, and order. The idea of moral economy has been increasingly popular in the social sciences over the past decade, given a confusing variety of meanings and sometimes invoked as an empty symbol. “It is exactly against such universalist dogma (the ‘free market’) that I have been arguing” (303). But these grievances operated within a popular consensus as to what were legitimate and illegitimate practices in marketing, milling, baking, etc. Thus, ‘moral economy’ for her was the structure of feeling or a mental map (‘a balanced system of emotional forces, with equilibrium points and constraints’).
The concept derives from Thompson's treatment of bread riots in eighteenth century Britain. However, while Thompson's view was a sceptical one, modernisation theory was optimistic. The compound may have been used for the first time in a sermon preached before the University of Cambridge in 1729 with reference to the ‘the moral Œconomy of Things’ that mirrored the creator (Leeke 1730, 36).2 In the Athenian letters (1792, 459), privately circulated in 1741 and 1743 and first published in 1792, the term moral economy was used in a letter purportedly written by the Persian King Smerdis corresponding with his agent in Athens at the time of the Peloponnesian War: ‘After creation commenced the moral œconomy of the Deity, which, according to the same rule of truth, will find an exact recompence for the virtuous, and a suitable vengeance for the wicked.’ Some years later, in Socrates, a Dramatic Poem, Amyas Bushe (1762, 76–77) designated one of his chorales ‘The moral oeconomy’. ‘Moral economy’: its conceptual history .... E. P. Thompson's ‘moral economy’ vs. classical political economy, Conclusions: ‘Moral economy’ as a key concept of civil society research, http://www.theiu.org/network-moral-economy, Medicine, Dentistry, Nursing & Allied Health. It served as an umbrella term for obsolete customary titles and ways of life prior to the great leap from traditional society to the modern market system. Thompson is on my prelim reading list (and Scott is a personal favorite, though I have not yet read the work cited here). It is followed by a theoretical suggestion to deploy moral economy as a concept to illuminate such key features of economic allocation as are motivated by ideational, rather than material expectations of personal gain. First, he might agree that ordinary people in 18th century Britain would not come equipped with a strong conceptual distinction between economy and society. Scott puts his central perspective in these terms: Scott's book represents his effort to understand the dynamic material circumstances of peasant life in colonial Southeast Asia (Vietnam and Burma); to postulate some central normative assumptions of the "subsistence ethic" that he believes characterizes these peasant societies; and then to explain the variations in political behavior of peasants in these societies based on the moments of inconsistency between material conditions and aspects of the subsistence ethic. A third suggested that the grace of God was a significant field of moral economy (Tieftrunk 1794, 188). By continuing to browse Logged in users: ▶ Can comment on articles and discussions Does it matter? Thompson suggested that the paternalists' moral economy legitimised social order, whereas that of the crowd sought an entitlement for their subsistence. In his view, while traditional society relied on a moral economy of consumption, modern society was founded on a moral economy of labour – one that was institutionalised in the welfare state and particularly in cross-generational transfer arrangements tied to the life career (see also Kohli 1987, 1989, 536–537). Daston and Galison 2010 , 39–42; Boddice 2012, 2).
Thanks for breaking this essay down ..I found your summary and questions raised extremely helpful! In his 1991 review article he cited Charles Tilly's suggestion of a general definition of moral economy, with which Thompson inclined to acquiesce: The term ‘moral economy’ makes sense when claimants to a commodity can invoke non-monetary rights to that commodity, and third parties will act to support these claims – when, for example, community membership supersedes price as a basis of entitlement. Instead it is viewed as a concept capable of representing the workings of modern civil society.