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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.


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.


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. 


  • 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


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


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.


  • Knut Christian Myhre (2020). Deep Pragmatism, In Giovanni Da Col & Stephan Palmié (ed.),  The Mythology in Our Language: Remarks on Frazer's Golden Bough by Ludwig Wittgenstein.  University of Chicago Press.  ISBN 9780990505068.  5.  s 95 - 113
  • Knut Christian Myhre (2020). Financialization and the Norwegian State: Constraints, Contestations, and Custodial Finance in the World's Largest Sovereign Wealth Fund, In Donatus Pius Kalb & Chris Hann (ed.),  Financialization - Relational Approaches.  Berghahn Books.  ISBN 978-1-78920-751-4.  6.  s 157 - 176
  • Knut Christian Myhre (2020). COVID-19, Dugnad, and Productive Incompleteness: Volunteer Labour and Crisis Loans in Norway. Social Anthropology.  ISSN 0964-0282.  28, s 326- 327
  • Maximillian Julius Chuhila; Veena Das; Alex Pillen & Knut Christian Myhre (2019). First book symposium.. Social Analysis: The International Journal of Anthropology.  ISSN 0155-977X.  63, s 117- 122
  • Ainur Begim (2018). Am I Muslim or Just Kazakh? Politics of Care in Postsocialist Kazakhstan, In Nefissa Naguib & Marcia C. Inhorn (ed.),  Reconceiving Muslim Men: Love and Marriage, Family and Care in Precarious times.  Berghahn Books.  ISBN 978-1-78533-882-3.  Chapter 8.  s 156 - 181
  • Ainur Begim (2018). How to retire like a Soviet person: informality, household finances, and kinship in financialized Kazakhstan. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute.  ISSN 1359-0987.  24, s 767- 785

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  • Knut Christian Myhre (2020). From Ethics to Sustainability: Reflections from the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global.
  • Knut Christian Myhre (2020). Sovereign wealth and custodial finance in Norway. Anthropology News.  ISSN 1541-6151.
  • Knut Christian Myhre (2020). Om tillit og Tangen-debatten.. Dagens næringsliv.  ISSN 0803-9372.  s 38- 38
  • Knut Christian Myhre (2020). Fattigslig finans.. Dagens næringsliv.  ISSN 0803-9372.  s 79- 79
  • Knut Christian Myhre (2019). Reforming Welfare: Expectations, Communication, and Ownership in Norway's Oil-Fund.
  • Knut Christian Myhre (2019). Reframing Welfare: Expectations, Communication, and Ownership at the World's Largest Sovereign Wealth Fund.
  • Knut Christian Myhre (2019). Reframing Welfare: Expectations, Collaboration, and Ownership at the World's Largest Sovereign Wealth Fund.
  •  (2019). Trenger ikke kunne finans for å ha en mening om Oljefondet.
  • Knut Christian Myhre (2019). Oljefondets subtile forventninger. Dagens næringsliv.  ISSN 0803-9372.  s 34- 34
  • Knut Christian Myhre (2018). The Norwegian oil fund and the contemporary social contract.
  • Knut Christian Myhre (2018). Financialisation and the welfare state: The case of the Norwegian oil fund.
  • 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 (2017). Drømmen om impact.
  • Knut Christian Myhre (2017). The Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global and Its Public.
  • Knut Christian Myhre (2017). Enactments of Transparency.
  • 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 Mar. 27, 2020 1:33 PM