By Dædalus Editorial
Capitalist democracy needs rethinking and renewal. Our current political economic framework is fixated on GDP, individual achievement, and short-term profit, all the while heightening barriers to widespread prosperity. Faced with mounting climate crises and systemic discrimination, how can we reconfigure our systems to secure economic well-being for all? What steps must we take to ensure our new approaches are (and will remain) sustainable?
The Winter 2023 issue of Dædalus on “Creating a New Moral Political Economy,” guest edited by Margaret Levi and Henry Farrell, offers a range of ideas to combat unequal footing across the polity, marketplace, and workplace. Across eleven main essays and twenty-two responses, the contributors ask us to rethink the collective goals of a society and its means of gauging success. In dialogue with each other, the authors spark a new discourse that places the health and well-being of the people on par with the wealth of nations.
To achieve this new vision of the economy, the contributors suggest various collaborative actions. As Margaret Levi and Zachary Ugolnik write in their introduction, “All [the essays] in this volume evoke some form of sociality and cooperation as linchpins of their arguments . . . The starting place of a moral political economy is the twofold assumption that, first, humans are social animals albeit intentional, boundedly rational, and individuated, and, second, they benefit from reciprocity and cooperation.” This focus on collaboration is evident in both the content itself and the synergy inherent in the call and response between the main essays and those written in reply.
Among these calls, Jenna Bednar suggests we need to shift our attention from metrics such as GDP to the material benefits of human flourishing. A similar perspective comes from Alison Gopnik, who describes a revamped approach to considering and compensating various forms of care. Natasha Iskander and Nichola Lowe argue for “biophilic institutions” that address the need for sustainable business practices that protect both employees and the planet. Grieve Chelwa, Darrick Hamilton, and Avi Green call for more expansive economic policies that include racial justice alongside class consciousness.
On meaningful work and the workplace, John S. Ahlquist says we need to retire subjective rhetoric about “good jobs” in favor of that of “decent jobs.” Richard M. Locke, Ben Armstrong, Samantha Schaab-Rozbicki, and Geordie Young compare the ethics and outcomes of two meat-packing corporations’ approaches to retaining employees during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rebecca Henderson argues that firms have a responsibility to their employees, shareholders, and society to adopt moral and sustainable business practices; she identifies several opportunities for intervention.
Exploring democratic governance, regulation, and what we owe the future, Debra Satz considers the ways unregulated markets have affected democratic culture and institutions. Henry Farrell and Marion Fourcade suggest algorithms have had a large hand in shaping digital marketplaces, drawing lessons from modernism to devise ways to protect users from the onslaught of surveillance and the misapplication of algorithmic and AI decision-making. Closing the volume, Federica Carugati and Nathan Schneider pull from older epistemologies to expand our connection to knowledge as both descendants and ancestors.
Patterns emphasizing ongoing connections recur throughout the volume, reinforcing the need to commit to supportive social movements that prioritize collective, equitable, and respectful responsibility for care of the earth and its people. Together, the authors meet the challenge set by Levi and Ugolnik: “the establishment of a political economic framework that offers a revised form of capitalist democracy, one that ensures the flourishing of all, whose morality truly represents commonly held and cherished values, and yet recognizes and respects difference.”
The Winter 2023 issue of Dædalus on “Creating a New Moral Political Economy” features the following essays:
Mobilizing in the Interest of Others
Margaret Levi & Zachary Ugolnik
Foundations of an Expanded Community of Fate
Samuel Bowles & Wendy Carlin
Reimagining Political Economy Without “Yanking on a Thread before It’s Ready”
Governance for Human Social Flourishing
All (Cautiously) Hail—and Scale—Community!
Power to Pursue Happiness
Joseph Kennedy III
Caregiving in Philosophy, Biology & Political Economy
Care Is a Relationship
Steven M. Teles
Biophilic Institutions: Building New Solidarities between the Economy & Nature
Natasha Iskander & Nichola Lowe
Eric D. Beinhocker
Biophilia & Military Degrowth
Making Decent Jobs
John S. Ahlquist
Mutual Aid as Spiritual Sustenance
Supply Chains & Working Conditions During the Long Pandemic: Lessons for a New Moral Political Economy?
Richard M. Locke, Ben Armstrong, Samantha Schaab-Rozbicki & Geordie Young
Doing Well by Doing Right
R. Alta Charo
Identity Group Stratification, Political Economy & Inclusive Economic Rights
Grieve Chelwa, Darrick Hamilton & Avi Green
Reducing the Transactional Value of Identity & Race
Henry Farrell & Margaret Levi
Democracy & “Noxious” Markets
Is There a Proper Scope for Markets?
Are Moral Firms Committed Firms?
Can Firms Act Morally?
The Moral Economy of High-Tech Modernism
Henry Farrell & Marion Fourcade
The Structuring Work of Algorithms
High-Tech Modernism: Limits & Extensions
William H. Janeway
Governance Archaeology: Research as Ancestry
Federica Carugati & Nathan Schneider
In Search of Ontologies of Entanglement
Ann Pendleton-Jullian & John Seely Brown
“Creating a New Moral Political Economy” is available on the Academy’s website. Dædalus is an open access publication.