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Moral Economy

Although anthropologists and historians have often reserved the term moral economy for pre- or non-capitalist societies, there is a strong case for applying it to all societies, for economic practices always involve social relations that are structured by norms regarding what people are allowed or required to do, whether in terms of what they contribute or what they receive. These historically specific norms are constitutive of economic institutions and may sometimes be enshrined in law, as in the case of capitalist property rights. They may be contested, as those of usury have been and still are in some societies, though once they become established, they tend to be regarded as natural in popular thought. Second, actors' moral sentiments and commitments influence their economic behavior; thus, ...

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