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Market and Morals

Taking the idea of “economic crisis” as a springboard, this course examines the notion of the market critically. Global events such as (and not only) the 2008 Wall Street brought the notion of the market and its failure under increased scrutiny. However, what failed was not the ‘market’ as such - a shorthand often taken for granted, or rendered almost meaningless by its diffuse uses – but a certain model of knowledge and technology that produced particular financial instruments.
Combining classic theoretical texts (texts (Polanyi, Marx, Weber, Mauss, Smith) with contemporary ethnography, this course turns to anthropology to restore the market to the concrete, that is, to its embedded place within matrices that produce certain forms of value and are shaped by distinct cultural and political processes. Exploring moral values that govern market activities, we ask how ideas of private interest relate to notions of common good in different societies. In doing so, we view the market not just as a site where activities such as buying, selling, pricing and placement of goods takes place, but also as a dense ethnographic trope that reveals the cultural and calculative dimension of fundamental human concepts – both material and moral – such as exchange, credit, debt, value, fairness and freedom.

Study at Ashoka

Study at Ashoka