Realising Eurasia: Civilization and Moral Economy in the 21st Century

Looking ahead

We have an important and exciting agenda ahead of us. We plan to carry out a lot of field research, to combine quantitative with qualitative data, and to arrive at robust generalisations beyond anecdotal vignettes. This will be a comparative project in the substantivist tradition, but we shall remain alert to the contributions of other perspectives and look forward to lively debates concerning their explanatory power. For example, if religious elements appear to distort a pure Taylorist, short-term profit-maximising by entrepreneurs, a “new institutionalist” might explain such patterns in terms of a latent function to sustain a moral and social order. A Marxist might go along with part of this explanation, while seeking to demonstrate that the moral economy, with or without its religious inflections, is really serving a different logic, that of extracting surplus value and capitalist accumulation.

Highly secularised urban labor forces cannot be catapulted back into the moral economies of the preindustrial era. REALEURASIA researchers will nonetheless explore the possibility that the extent of secularisation has been often exaggerated, and that some of the changes underway at present are indicative of a substantive, long-term return of “public religion”, not only in legitimating power holders but as a kind of social glue in the embedding of the economy.

Our project is constructed in such a way as to emphasise the plurality of civilisational traditions in Eurasia over several millennia. We shall pay close attention to the ways in which each of these traditions constructs and valorises its own heritage, in opposition to the norms of a globalised “market society”. But the deepest hypothesis of the project is nonetheless one which posits commonalities: in their different ways and styles, each one of these civilisations was founded on moral principles opposed to an ethic of short-term market maximization, of organizing society in terms of “commodities all the way down” (Fraser 2014). That is why, if the relentless rise (or, better, “race to the bottom”) of global neoliberalism is to be averted, we can do no better than look to the civilisations of Eurasia to find ways to keep “the market” in its place (Hann 2014b).

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