Moral economy

The critical study of the ethical character of economic activities and relationships, and of how this shapes and is shaped by other dimensions of social and political life.

'Moral economy' can also refer to the object of this inquiry. Insofar as all economic activities and relationships depend on moral norms and ethical dispositions.

All economies can be understood as moral economies, both market and non-market, capitalist and non-capitalist, modern and pre-modern, state and state-less, gift and household.

The study of moral economy draws on a wide range of disciplinary perspectives, including classical political economy, social anthropology, philosophy, sociology, political theory and institutional economics.

The Network for Moral Economy brings together researchers from different theoretical and methodological traditions into an interdisciplinary network. In order to promote the understanding and evaluation of economic practices and institutions, past, present and future.


Our network aims to describe, explain and evaluate:

  • the norms that structure economic practices and institutions, including rights, responsibilities and conceptions of fairness; and
  • the motivations, character and ethical dispositions of economic actors, including the goods they pursue and the moral sentiments they express.

As well as organising seminars and workshops and facilitating other forms of scholarly exchange and discussion, we will develop a website as a research and teaching resource providing access to both classical and contemporary work in a moral economy.

Further information

For more information about our work in this area contact Professor John O'Neill: john.f.o'