The SASE 28th Annual Conference "Moral Economies, Economic Moralities"
von Sonja Jovicic
The SASE 28th Annual Conference ‘Moral Economies, Economic Moralities’ was organized by the Society for Advancement in Socio-Economics (SASE). During the three days of the conference that took place from 24-26 June 2016 at UC Berkeley in the US, more than 350 participants engaged in the discussions.
The conference theme is related to moral economies and economic moralities. Indeed, many of today's political conflicts may be understood in terms of the interruption between these two social forms. These "economic moralities," typically fashioned by the action of markets and states, interact more or less peacefully with people's "moral economies." The term "moral economy" explains feelings and obligations that orient workers, and make them see certain courses of action (such as riots) as legitimate or illegitimate. To the extent that individuals and institutions act on them, those judgments help constitute economic lines of action. Furthermore, economic instruments and technologies lay down moralized rules about what is expected of economic actors. All exchange systems embed implicit or explicit codes of moral worth in their specific designs and rules; all economic institutions make and remake kinds of moral beings by shifting their classificatory schemes or treatment algorithms.
Keynote speakers discussed various topics related to a wide range of disciplines in social sciences (economics, sociology, political science). Some of the most interesting ones were related to the new American exceptionalism, unstable work in Chinese manufacturing, dispossessed collectivism, or the moral economy of tech. However, the most interesting keynote speech was given by Emmanuel Saez, Professor of Economics at the UC Berkeley who also received the renowned John Bates Clark Medal in 2009. His presentation was focused on the top 0.1 % of the income and wealth distribution in the US. Wealth concentration has followed a U-shaped curve in the past 100 years. The recent rise of wealth inequality is driven exclusively by the rise of the 0.1% share. His policy recommendation in order to deal with this issue is to focus on taxation, and especially high and progressive taxation for the rich.
In parallel mini-conference sessions, a big range of up to date topics were covered: Inequality, Globalization and Socio-Economic Development, Markets, Firms and Institutions, Labor Markets, Education, and Human Resources, Rethinking the Welfare State, Knowledge, Technology, and Innovation etc. In the session on Inequality, emphasis was put on redistribution and its role in reducing inequality. Higher taxes, social spending, support for the poor and investment in education can have a positive influence on the degree of inequality. What is lacking is political will. All in all, it was a great chance to hear some remarkable presentations with very innovative methods, conclusions and policy recommendations. At the same time, plenary sessions offered a great platform to raise questions, open new debates and challenge standard macro-economics.
It was my pleasure to get a chance to present my paper titled ‘Wage Inequality and Intergenerational Mobility across OECD countries’ in the session “Reducing Inequality: Yes we Can.” My talk focused on the relationship between wage inequality and intergenerational mobility. Parental socio-economic background plays a role in explaining their children’s labor market outcomes. Furthermore, countries that have high inequality of outcome tend to have at the same time high inequality of opportunity and vice versa. I am sure that the feedback I got from the colleagues will help me improve my work and contribute to the higher quality of my PhD thesis.