This text examines the socio-cultural and especially moral repercussions of embedding neoliberalism in Africa, using the case of Uganda.


This book offers a fresh take on a major question of global debate: what explains the rise in economic fraud in so many societies around the world? The author argues that the current age of fraud is an outcome of not only political-economic but also moral transformations that have taken place in societies reshaped by neoliberalism.Using the case of Uganda, the book traces these socio-cultural and especially moral repercussions of embedding neoliberalism. Uganda offers an important case of investigation for three reasons: the high level of foreign intervention by donors, aid agencies, international organisations, NGOs and corporations that have tried to produce the first fully-fledged market society in Africa there; the country’s reputation as having adopted neoliberal reforms most extensively, and the intensification of fraud in many sectors of the economy since the early 2000s. The book explores the rise and operation of the neoliberal moral economy and its world of hard and fraudulent practices. It analyses especially the moral-economic character of agricultural produce markets in eastern Uganda. It shows that neoliberal moral restructuring is a highly political, contested and conflict-ridden process, predominantly works via recalibrating the political-economic structure of a country, and deeply affects how people think and go about earning a living and treat others with whom they do business. The book offers an in-depth, data-based analysis of the moral climate of a market society in motion and in so doing offers insights and lessons for elsewhere in the Global South and North.


Neoliberalism promised a better economic world, it delivered economic wrong-doing on an industrial scale. In Neoliberal Moral Economy, Jörg Wiegratz provides a telling analysis of why. Focused on Uganda but ranging around the world, he shows how stressing markets full of self-regarding actors ends up encouraging values that justify both this self-regard and the harm it can cause others. James G Carrier, Professor, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Oxford Brookes University and Indiana University

Have you ever wondered what the world would look like if we were to treat economic fraud as something rather more than an anomaly within otherwise pristine market conditions? Jörg Wiegratz reveals all in this wonderfully readable book about market practices in neoliberal Uganda. He lifts the lid on the many different ways in which fraudulent activities have become integral to the functioning of the economic system, acting as cues from which market participants learn what to expect from one another. Whilst Wiegratz’s analysis benefits handsomely from the extended time he has spent in Uganda, his headline conclusions are rather more than a comment on the particularities of that one country. He asks us to contemplate how the assumptions of market ideology might obscure the extent to which most market environments facilitate pockets of ostensibly anti-market fraudulent activities. We are therefore encouraged to treat economic fraud as a potentially universal cultural norm that might apply wherever market ideology takes hold. These are brand new and fascinating arguments, showing us in hugely important ways how the modern moral economy of fraud now works. Matthew Watson, Professor of Political Economy, University of Warwick, UK Economic and Social Research Council Professorial Fellow

Across disciplines, ‘fraud’ is either relatively absent, treated as an aberration, or cast as something that happens ‘over there’ – read ‘Global South’. Neoliberal Moral Economy moves it centre stage as it skilfully charts how forging a market society is not simply a political-economic but also a socio-cultural transformation. This trans-disciplinary, empirically rich, and theoretically sophisticated analysis lays bare the complex dynamics of moral restructuring towards economies characterised by fraud – and how these might be resisted. Steve Tombs, Professor of Criminology, the Open University

Focusing on the normalisation of fraud as a destructive outcome of neoliberal restructuring in Uganda, Jörg Wiegratz opens up a creative space for rethinking the dynamic relationship between actors, norms and political economy. This innovative book is a must-read for anyone who seeks to understand the complex role morality plays in the reproduction of neoliberal market economies. Steve Hall, Professor of Criminology, Teesside University

This scholarly work on the contradictory changes of socio-cultural moral decadence is timely for understanding the current dynamics of Uganda after the neo-liberal capitalist reforms. Jörg Wiegratz unravels fraud and corruption as adverse contradictions which have permeated Uganda’s political-economy fabric thus leading to a moral crisis. This is a premier book that fills gaps in Uganda’s post-1986 literature on subjects of neoliberalism, capitalism, development and poverty, and is thus highly commendable. Godfrey B. Asiimwe, Associate Professor and Chair of Development Studies, Makerere University

An interesting and novel contribution to understanding the relationship between political economy and moral economy, developed both theoretically and through an empirical study of the impact of neoliberal reforms in Uganda. Andrew Sayer, Professor of Social Theory and Political Economy, Lancaster University

Table of Contents

Introduction : Rethinking moral economy: capitalism and the question of morals / 1. : Market-society-making: neoliberalism as a cultural programme / 2. Introducing Uganda: conflict, change and the neoliberal reforms / 3. The making of a neoliberal moral economy: tracing the moral contours of the new Uganda / 4. Neoliberalised markets and the intensification of fraud / 5. Neoliberal morals as weapons of the strong - the moral economy of power / 6. Neoliberalised worlds of business - the moral power of money / 7. Exploiting vulnerability: The moral economy of business with the squeezed bottom / 8. Seeing the neoliberal state: public-private partnerships of fraud / 9. The struggle for de-neoliberalisation: cultural resistance, moral turn-arounds, and the politics of moral economy / 10. Conclusion: Locking-in the moral order of capitalism: market society forever?

Author Bio

Jörg Wiegratz is Lecturer in Political Economy of Global Development at the University of Leeds. He researches the political economy and moral economy of neoliberalism in Africa and elsewhere, with a focus on the topics of moral restructuring, economic fraud, anti-fraud measures and populism. In the past he has researched global value chains and industrial development, predominantly with an empirical focus on Uganda. He previously worked as a researcher and consultant in Uganda for the UN Industrial Development Organization, the Government of Uganda's Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Industry and the German Agency for Technical Cooperation, and a Visiting Scholar at the Economic Policy Research Centre, Kampala. He is a member of the editorial working group of Review of African Political Economy; here, he coordinates the project on Economic trickery, fraud and crime in Africa. He is the author of Uganda's Human Resource Challenge: Training, Business Culture and Economic Development (Fountain Publishers, 2009) and co-editor of Neoliberalism and the Moral Economy of Fraud (Routledge, 2016, with David Whyte) and Neoliberal Uganda (Zed, 2017, with Giuliano Martiniello and Elisa Greco). He has also published articles in New Political Economy and Review of African Political Economy.