work in progress in social theory and cultural sociology


09.01.2011 · Posted in Uncategorized

The problem with definitions is that they are either too narrow or too wide – and they always fall short of pinning down the concept. One example I came across recently is Adam Arvidsen’s (2010: 4) definition of the “ethical economy” as one

‘creating the values and norms that keep a particular web of social relations together. Ethics is about producing however transitory forms of communion’ (Arvidsen 2010: 4)

If that is so, all consumer culture is part of an ethical economy, and has been so for a long time. In his 1911 essay ‘Die Mode’ (English translation 1957) Georg Simmel pointed out how fashion strikes a balance between individualism and collectivism by creating precisely this: transitory forms of aesthetic communion. So the ‘ethical economy’ is neither nothing new (and hence not very interesting) – or ill defined.

Arvidsen, Adam (2010): ‘Is an Ethical Economy Possible: New Forms of Value in the Information Society?’, Working Paper 04/2010, Dipartimento di Stui Sociali e Politici, Università degli Studi di Milano

Simmel, Georg (1957): ‘Fashion’, in: American Journal of Sociology, Vol.62, No,6, pp.541-58.

One Response to “definitions…”

  1. Could not agree more.

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