Capitalism's Moral Economy

How have people historically sought to make economic markets fairer?

From business and its social responsibilities to how moral ideas change business organization, my research probes the moral economy of capitalism. 

Exploring how historical actors sought to make business fairer and more socially responsible suggests possibilities for the present

The History of Business and its Social Responsibilities

My research on the history of business and its social responsibilities reconstructs public expectations of corporate conduct from the early modern period to the present day. How have these responsibilities changed over time and why? 

My publications develop a model to understand this dynamic and the "social life" of the corporation, for example, in a recent article, The Hudson's Bay Company, Social Legitimacy, and the Political Economy of Eighteenth-Century Empire


These questions are also explored in a volume of essays by leading business historians that I have co-edited with William Pettigrew, A History of Socially Responsible Business, c.1600–1950 (Palgrave MacMillan, 2017).

I am now exploring the twentieth-century history of corporate social responsibility (CSR) from both the perspective of its critics like Milton Friedman and its early pioneers, such as Howard Bowen. 


Market Morality and its History

Ideas of market morality and fairness can have real effect on policies and the law. My research questions how people think about fairness in the market over time. Should all market actors play by the same rules? If so, what are the rules? How are they interpreted and enforced?


A new article is forthcoming in the journal Enterprise and Society that links ideas of "fair trade" with organizational development in England and the emergence of the modern corporation with limited liability in 1855.


© copyright 2020 David Chan Smith