Civilisation and Moral Economy in the 21st Century
Field research pictures
Women selling dry fish at a market in Palghar, Maharashtra, India.
Anne Erita Venåsen Berta
Where the fish comes from: fish transport in Denmark.
Rose pickers in Isparta, Turkey.
Shoemaker in his workshop in Konya, Turkey.
Believers pray in a procession of the 'Our lady of the Snow' monastery in Szeged, Hungary.
Annual Thadingyut festival at a Pagoda in Pathein, Myanmar.
Cleaning the church in Holy Trinity St.Sergius Lavra, Russia
Workers in a family owned sport clothing factory in Shishi, China.
Small shop for sewing supplies in Halle, Germany.
Incense at Sensōji, Tokyo.
Old Zastava’s industrial complex, Kragujevac.
Secession Architecture at the Main Square in Kiskunhalas.
The project “Realising Eurasia: civilisation and moral economy in the 21st century” (REALEURASIA) was launched on 1st July 2014 and ended in July 2020. Seven Ph.D. students spent the academic year 2015-6 carrying out field research in various cities across Eurasia. Three post-doctoral researchers, the project coordinator and project leader have also carried out field research. As of July 2020 five dissertations have been submitted.
Eurasia is understood in the classical sense of global historians as the super-continent which embraces the whole of Europe and the whole of Asia. The project is primarily rooted in the theories and methods of economic anthropology, but it also sets out to renew links to historical sociology and adjacent fields. The framework is "civilisation" in the universal spirit of Marcel Mauss, with Eurasia-specific inflections drawn primarily from Max Weber’s work on the “world religions”. The research team adapts the concepts of moral economy (Thompson) and Wirtschaftsethik (Weber) and operationalizes both at multiple levels within the civilisational frame. The project thus combines detailed ethnographic investigations of family businesses, in towns selected to ensure structural comparability, with attention to the embeddedness of economy in religion, polity, and society as they have evolved together in the longue durée of the Eurasian past.
The project was constructed so as to contribute to various sub-fields of anthropology, while also engaging with long-running debates about modernity and global history. Our investigations of contemporary economic behaviour revealed common dilemmas, rather than any clear divide between the European settings and the countries investigated in Asia. This suggests we do better to follow Jack Goody and approach “Christian Europe” as an important macro-region of the Eurasian landmass, rather than a distinct continent. Europe continues to share many features with the other civilizations of this landmass, which have common origins dating back to the Bronze Age. Goody’s perspective on three millennia of Eurasian history can be productively combined with Karl Polanyi’s analysis of the transformations of the last three centuries (Hann 2018a). The project has exemplified how such macro-level interpretations can be productively combined with ethnographic research. Critical of over-simplified usage of “moral economy”, Hann has drawn on his own long-term research in Hungary (extended within the frame of this project) to highlight the salience of human labour (work) for grasping the moral dimension (2018b). Little direct evidence was found to support the links postulated by Weber between religion and economic performance, but all team members collected abundant materials showing that economic action is profoundly influenced by evolved values.
A final report on this project will be posted here early in 2021.