24 Apr 2023 · 2.15 pm

Henning Trüper: Moral economy and historical axiology: The Case of Saving Lives from Shipwreck

Venue: Håndbiblioteket, 5th floor Niels Treschows hus, Niels Henrik Abels vei 36, 0313 Oslo, Norway

Lecture at the research group History of Capitalism at the Department of Archeology, Conservation and History of the University of Oslo

The talk revisits the concept of “moral economy,” as laid out in E. P. Thompson’s classical article. I will argue that the concept, which is notoriously strung out between the concretion of Thompson's historical topic—the history of corn riots in eighteenth-century England—and the high level of abstraction of the component terms, can be re-interpreted in terms of both its theoretical and historical underpinnings. I will propose to regard moral economies as sites on which social collectives process the meaning and theory of “value,” i.e. “axiology” in philosophical terminology. I will develop this perspective for another historical context, the emergence of humanitarian movements for saving lives from shipwreck in the early nineteenth century. From the vantage point of this context, I will seek to offer an account that also makes clear why axiology is, always, historical in a strong sense, as the site of a constant reworking of the triangulation of the moral, the political, and the economic, the nature of which also changes profoundly around 1800.

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The historian Henning Trüper is head of the program area History of Theory and of the project Archipelagic Imperatives. Shipwreck and Lifesaving in European Societies since 1800.