The Stories Markets Tell: Affordances for Ethical Behavior in Free Exchange
MORAL MARKETS: THE CRITICAL ROLE OF VALUES IN THE ECONOMY, Paul J. Zak, ed., Princeton University Press, 2007
20 Pages Posted: 27 Sep 2006
Economic systems anchored in free exchange have been given an unfair shake in the popular imagination. "Cartoon" versions of the immorality of markets prosper because they make good stories, not necessarily because they are consistent with the findings of our best sciences. Recent advances in our understanding of the cognitive mechanisms that make exchange possible give credence to a narrative about free markets that emphasizes the opportunities they offer to exercise and develop our moral potential. Markets tell many stories; a very important one emphasizes the affordances for ethical behavior that free exchange enables. This chapter thus consists of three sections. Section One discusses a basic theory of story - the Freytag triangle - which is used to structure an analysis of the major cartoon versions of free exchange: the "selfish," the "exploitative," and the "unhelpful" cartoons (the Gordon Gekko, Karl Marx and Luddite stories, respectively). Section Two uses the Aristotelian model of ethos, logos and pathos to analyze why these cartoons flourish in the story competition. By way of a discussion of J.J. Gibson's notion of affordances, Section Three briefly surveys the empirical evidence in favor of an alternate, roughly virtue-theoretic, story: moral markets for ethical exercise.
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