The Social Legitimacy of Financial Profits.
The Cultural Foundations of the Institutional Regulation of Financial Markets from a Historical-Comparative Perspective

Project management:
Prof. Dr. Sascha Münnich
Project assistance:
Dipl.-Volksw. Heide Haas, Katharina Legantke, M.A.
Project term: October 1, 2015 – September 30, 2018

The project examines the public debates on the moral legitimacy of the financial economy, which have intensified throughout all European societies over the crisis, in order to analyze the relation of legitimatory discourses and the institutional regulation of financial markets in a cultural, comparative, historical study. From this sociological perspective legitimacy is understood as an important aspect of market institutions that is grounded in historically grown culturally divergent discursive patterns of the »good economy« and boundaries drawn between »deserved« and »undeserved« profits. The aim of the project is to understand the historical origins of these discourses as well as their relation to the evolution of financial market institutions.

In order to empirically analyze market legitimacy it is necessary to follow the discursive practices of political, economic and social actors on four levels: Expert discourses, parliamentary debates, press content and discursive protest issued by social movements. The project consists of three parts.

First, a historical-institutionalist project which compares financial market regulation and the accompanying legitimatory debates in press, parliaments and expert networks about »legitimate« and »illegitimate« profits between the 19th century and the 2000s in Germany and the United Kingdom. Second, a macro-oriented project which develops a quantitative-statistical tool for extracting semantic constructions of legitimacy aims at a multivariate analyses of profit discourse structures in different sectors, as well as institutional and socio-economic contexts of different European countries. Third, an interpretative interview-based study of the moral economy injected by social protest movements such as ATTAC and Occupy in Germany, United Kingdom, France and Spain, which will also contain a comparison of their legitimatory principles to the ideologies of historical anti-finance movements.

Gefördert vom Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung
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