This post is part of a feature on “How Capitalists Think,” moderated and edited by Patrick Neveling (University of Bergen) and Tijo Salverda (University of Cologne).
This contribution looks at the implications of how capitalists think about corporate ethics and moral obligations in monoindustrial towns. I present the cases of two mining towns in Estonia and Kazakhstan that share the history of honoring labor dynasties. In both settings, during the Soviet period, labor dynasties had a special place in company histories and grandfather-father-son working together were celebrated through stories in newspapers, awards on miners’ professional holiday, and photos on the mine’s noticeboard. Ideologically, dynasties represented a “labor aristocracy” that was to replace the prerevolutionary hereditary aristocracy, and such workers were to serve as examples to others (Tkach 2003).
The workshop “Geographies of Markets”—hosted over three days in mid-June 2017 by the Karl Polanyi Institute of Political Economy at Concordia University, Montréal—gave scholars from a wide range of countries and disciplines an opportunity to assess the continued relevance of the Polanyian critique of “market society.” Even if this critique lacks the formal rigor of neoclassical economics, even if Polanyi’s concept of market exchange fails to capture the institutional intricacies of contemporary markets, and even if the man himself was very much a European intellectual of his age, his approach still appears to provide the best scientific foundation on which to build global political and normative alternatives to neoliberal hegemony. Today, however, his geographic binary between East and West, like his ideal types of redistribution and market exchange, all need careful reappraisal.