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Applied Anthropology

Moral Sources of Competitiveness: Revisiting Moral Economy from an Organizational Perspective

Marietta L. Baba

This essay explores the intersection of morality and economy, not only within pre-capialist or market-based economies, but across the entire spectrum of human experience, in evolutionary as well as historical and comparative terms. for this broader investigation, a more dynamic conception of moral economy is required, with these constructs on equal terms, more or less, as two related domains of human experience. A historical perspective in particular may enhance our understanding of the moral economy dynamic more generally, especially as it sheds light on Thompson's (1971) notion of a moral consensus, rooted in past notions of legitimacy. In some circumstances, my argument goes, such as Meiji Japan, a past moral consensus may be re-contextualized and reconstituted following the transition from feudalism to capitalism, and may continue to have influence, albeit in a modified form, after this period. Cooperation is then encouraged, and/or compliance, across diverse social groups, leading to economic outcomes that are, over the long term, beneficial for large sectors of the population. This essay also explores relationships among the economic and moral principles upon which are grounded the conditions for global competitiveness. The moral sources of competitiveness discussed in this essay are those that are situated historically and specific to a particular moral-economy dynamics in this case, those created within the institutional framework of the Toyota Motor Corporation.

The Applied Anthropologist, No. 1, Vol. 28, 2008, pp 3 - 39

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