Ethics and Economic Governance: Using Adam Smith to understand the global financial crisis, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Ethics and Economic Governance

Using Adam Smith to understand the global financial crisis, 1st Edition

By Chris Clarke


168 pages

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pub: 2015-11-09
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This book seeks to explore the ethical dimensions of economic governance through an engagement with Adam Smith and a critical analysis of economistic understandings of the Global Financial Crisis. It examines ethical and political dilemmas associated with key aspects of the financialisation of Anglo-American economy and society, including systems of asset-based welfare, modern risk management and debt.

In the wake of the financial crisis, recognition of the way in which everyday lives and life chances are tied into global finance is widespread. Yet few contributions in IPE explicitly tackle this issue as a question of ethics. By developing Adam Smith’s under-utilised account of how market-oriented behaviour is constituted through a process of ‘sympathy’, this book provides an innovative way of understanding contemporary issues of economic governance and the possibilities and limits for intervention within it. By taking Adam Smith’s moral philosophy seriously, it becomes evident that the ever-deeper enmeshing of finance in our everyday lives is a failed experiment.

Turning the common understanding of Smith on its head, we can also turn accepted wisdom about the recent financial crisis on its head and see the urgency of making better known the ethico-political contestation that lies at the heart of financial market relations. It will be of interest to students and scholars of IPE as well as those across the social sciences who wish to question the foundations of contemporary economy and society.


‘At a moment when political economists of global finance are largely preoccupied with, and frustrated by, the post-crisis regulatory response, Chris Clarke’s original intervention looks to Adam Smith to bring ethical relations and everyday politics to the centre of critical inquiry.' - Paul Langley, Durham University, UK

'Clarke’s original and important analysis shows how Adam Smith can help transcend the narrow economistic foundations of not just contemporary financial governance but also much IPE scholarship that overlooks the issues of ethics and moral philosophy that informed classical political economy.' - Eric Helleiner, University of Waterloo, Canada

'This major new study demonstrates the richness and complexity of Adam Smith’s thought and its relevance to understanding the current problems of our political economy.' - Andrew Gamble, University of Sheffield, UK

Table of Contents

Introduction. Global Finance in Crisis Adam Smith in Question Outline of the Book. Chapter 1: Engaging Adam Smith. Pragmatic Historiography. Skinnerian Mythologies about Adam Smith. Concluding Remarks. Chapter 2: Adam Smith’s Sympathetic Political Economy. Smith’s Context. Smith’s Intervention. Smith’s Sympathy. Concluding Remarks. Chapter 3: Sympathy and Economism in Anglo-American Finance. Sympathy and the Economism of Asset-Based Welfare. Mutual Sympathy and the Individualisation of Risk. The Sympathy Procedure and the Depoliticisation of Debt. Concluding Remarks. Chapter 4: The Regulatory Governance of Finance in Crisis. The Regulatory Governance of Asset-Based Welfare. The Regulatory Governance of Risk. The Regulatory Governance of Debt. Concluding Remarks. Chapter 5: The Everyday Politics of Finance in Crisis. The Everyday Politics of Asset-Based Welfare. The Everyday Politics of Risk. The Everyday Politics of Debt. Concluding Remarks. Conclusion. Occupy Adam Smith. Making Known Finance. Bibliography

About the Author

Chris Clarke is Assistant Professor in Political Economy in the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Warwick, UK

About the Series

RIPE Series in Global Political Economy

For almost two decades now, the RIPE Series published by Routledge has been an essential forum for cutting-edge scholarship in International Political Economy. The series brings together new and established scholars working in critical, cultural and constructivist political economy. Books in the RIPE Series typically combine an innovative contribution to theoretical debates with rigorous empirical analysis.

The RIPE Series seeks to cultivate:

  • Field-defining theoretical advances in International Political Economy
  • Novel treatments of key issue areas, both historical and contemporary, such as global finance, trade, and production
  • Analyses that explore the political economic dimensions of relatively neglected topics, such as the environment, gender relations, and migration
  • Accessible work that will inspire advanced undergraduates and graduate students in International Political Economy.

James Brassett – Warwick

Eleni Tsingou – Copenhagen Business School

Susanne Soederberg – Queen’s

Learn more…

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