Moral economy and cultural work

Banks, Mark (2006). Moral economy and cultural work. Sociology, 40(3) pp. 455–472.



While the ‘culturalization’ of the economy has led some to welcome the ‘turn to life’ (Heelas, 2002) and anticipate the remoralization of economic activity, others argue the cultural turn is conducive only to consolidating neo-liberalism's characteristic demoralization of economic relations.The cultural industries, as a leading sector of the culturalized economy, are seen to be particularly culpable in this respect, offering the illusion of freedom, but actually eroding the ethical basis of work through tendencies for individuation and exploitation. Building on the recent renewal of interest in ‘moral economy’, this article argues that claims for the demoralization of cultural industries may be premature. Empirical evidence is presented from interviews with cultural entrepreneurs in Manchester, UK, to reveal how social and political values are biographically important and made evident in the routine context of work. The conclusion offers that individualization may provide some opportunity to re-establish (non-economic) moral and ethical values at work

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