Rowman and Littlefield International
Neoliberal Moral Economy

Neoliberal Moral Economy

Capitalism, Socio-Cultural Change and Fraud in Uganda

By Jörg Wiegratz

Publication Date: Nov 2016

Pages 375

Hardback 9781783488537
£95.00 €133.00 $142.00
Paperback 9781783488544
£31.95 €44.95 $47.00
Ebook - EPUB 9781783488551
£31.99 €44.99 $46.99
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.
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?
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
Neoliberal Moral Economy is a rich, fieldwork-based analysis of the changing features of the ‘moral economy’ in Uganda during its ‘neoliberal era’ (post-1986). Through a meticulous analysis of the prevalence and changing characteristics of fraud and malpractice, Jörg Wiegratz seeks to explain how neoliberalism has shaped a moral-economic transformation in the country.
Review of African Political Economy
The book makes an important contribution to the literature on post-1986 Uganda and provides important insights into contemporary perceptions and experiences of social life and the moral and economic dynamics that have unfolded under the current regime. It unmasks the dangers and absurdities of neoliberalism and raises important questions – not just for scholars of Uganda – about the state of morality under contemporary capitalism.
Forum for Development Studies
The book is ambitious in scope and stimulating as a set of arguments. It is densely written and detailed in observation… Neoliberal Moral Economy is a rare and imaginative piece of work. It brings together a new way of seeing Uganda with a moral way of thinking about the broad transformations that have taken place in the developing world and elsewhere over the past thirty years.
The European Journal Of Development Research
At the core of this book is the question: What explains the prevalence of fraud in contemporary capitalist societies? This question seeks to respond not to a single event but to a “socio-cultural” shift. The author’s question is based on the observation that fraud (theft, corruption, trickery etc.) has become wide spread in contemporary capitalist societies in most businesses and other forms of interactions. In Uganda it has spread to that point that artistes and dramatists use the subject of fraud in their creative work highlighting its rather normalized status.
Jörg Wiegratz’s Neoliberal Moral Economy presents a thoughtful and critical challenge to previous, somewhat hagiographical, evaluations of Uganda’s IFI-recommended reform programmes of the 1990s […]. [...] The theoretical framework developed is innovative and makes an important contribution to conceptualisations of the role of fraud in moral and political economies. [...] Neoliberal Moral Economy […] represents an engaging and intelligent unpacking and conceptualisation of the relationship between neoliberal thinking and the moral economy of fraud. It also uncovers and presents in unprecedented depth the socio-economic perspectives and experiences of traders and farmers in contemporary Uganda.
Journal of Modern African Studies, 56/2

The author’s impressive study helps us unpick these processes [of refiguring normative structures in Ugandan society], showing how neoliberalism has implanted itself deep into the psychological body-politic of the continent.

Progress in Political Economy, 10 June 2018

[…] a ground-breaking book […] Jorg Wiegratz ably uses the case study of coffee and cotton sectors in Bugisu sub-region to illuminate a bigger picture of the moral-economic transformation engineered by an extreme brand of neoliberal economics. It is a book very much worth reading.

The Observer, 23 May 2018
The material from years of fieldwork tells a heart-breaking story of economic and social self-reliance, and pride, being systematically undermined. From fieldwork in Uganda’s Bugisu region in the east and Kampala, Wiegratz focuses on coffee and cotton farming and trading. He charts the collapse of a former morality of life and economy – to a new world, and its corresponding new morality. […] The book shows, more powerfully than anything I have recently read, how these [World Bank] reforms were oblivious to aspects of ‘criminality’.
Capital & Class
Jörg Wiegratz is Lecturer in Political Economy of Global Development at the University of Leeds. 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 author of Uganda's Human Resource Challenge: Training, Business Culture and Economic Development (Fountain Publishers) and co-editor of Neoliberalism and the Moral Economy of Fraud (Routledge, forthcoming). He has also published articles in New Political Economy and Review of African Political Economy (ROAPE). He is a ROAPE editor, and coordinates the blog series on Economic trickery, fraud and crime in Africa, and Capitalism in Africa.

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