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Forms of Ethics, Shapes of Finance

Oljeinnstallasjon i havet. Illustrasjon.

Photo: DreamPictures.

About the project

Recent years have seen a range of efforts to act upon institutions and consumers to transform the broader economy. Many of these efforts are ethical endeavours that appeal to 'the common good' or invoke moral notions to facilitate societies, futures, and worlds of particular kinds. At the same time, these efforts echo and extend from economic discourses regarding 'the public good' or 'the public interest', which point to a broader articulation between ethics and the economy.

This project explores how ethical forms shape finance to create new iterations of the economy, and how financial forms entail ethical concerns. Its case of study is the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global - better known as the oil-fund - which currently is the world's largest sovereign wealth fund.

Objectives

The project combines ethnographic fieldwork with document analysis and archival research in order to investigate the limits that different actors impose on the oil-fund to shape its financial flows. The project consists of four components. The first sub-project explores the limits that the agreement of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change ('the Paris agreement') impose on the oil-fund. The second sub-project researches the limits imposed by the fund's Council on Ethics. The third project investigates the role of ethical frameworks for the work of Norges Bank on monetary policy, and the fourth project analyses the role of the Council on Ethics in the global Responsible Investment Industry. 

The primary objective is to provide empirical insights into how finance and the economy are constituted through processes where ethical forms play constitutive roles. A secondary objective is to provide an analytical and methodological framework that can handle, study, and reconceptualize the relationship between ethics and the economy. In addition, the project aims to facilitate, foster, and participate in a public debate regarding the political challenges and ethical opportunities pertaining to the existence and practices of the fund.

Outcomes

The project will provide empirical and methodological insights into the diversity of agents and relations that different efforts to delimit the fund involve, and the ways in which they constitute finance and the economy in specific ways. It also aims to contribute to broader debates regarding the legitimacy of profitmaking and the ways in which this can recast the market as an ethical landscape. 

Sub-projects

  • The Government Pension Fund Global and the Paris Agreement
  • The Council of Ethics and the Government Pension Fund Global
  • Ethics and the Public Interest
  • The Global Role of the Council of Ethics

Financing

The project is financed by the SAMKUL-programme of the Research Council of Norway.

Cooperation

The project involves researchers based at the Museum of Cultural History, State University of New York Binghamton, and Stockholm University, who cooperate with researchers based at the University of Oslo, the University College of Oslo and Akershus, and the University of Toronto.

Publications

  • Knut Christian Myhre (2017). Forms of Ethics, Shapes of Finance: Ethnographic Explorations of the Limits of Contemporary Capital.
  • Ainur Begim (2017). How to Retire Like a Soviet Person: Informality, Household Finances, and Kinship in Financialized Kazakhstan.
  • Ainur Begim (2017). Household Finances, Offshore Money, and Bonds of Kinship in Financialized Central Asia.
  • Knut Christian Myhre & Svein H. Gullbekk (2017). Oljefondet og kriseberedskap. Dagens næringsliv.  ISSN 0803-9372.  s 26- 26

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Published June 1, 2017 4:28 PM - Last modified Oct. 16, 2017 2:01 PM