Author Archives: Joel Isaac

About Joel Isaac

Joel Isaac is associate professor in the John U. Nef Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. He is the author of Working Knowledge: Making the Human Sciences from Parsons to Kuhn (Harvard, 2012) and the editor of three books, including (with Gary Gerstle) States of Exception in American History (Chicago, 2020). Working Knowledge was awarded the Gladstone Prize of the Royal Historical Society. His current book project explores ideas of fairness, reciprocity, and rationality in the twentieth-century social sciences.

Moral Economy in Its Place: The Contribution of James C. Scott

Abstract: Despite appearances, James Scott doesn’t have much to tell us about the concept of moral economy. When he invoked the idea in his famous book The Moral Economy of the Peasant, Scott used it as a label of convenience, and he found it easy to drop in later work. Scott wanted a theory of peasant behavior that tracked actual peasant beliefs about fairness, reciprocity, and legitimacy. Only a genuine attempt to interpret peasant beliefs about their situation could hope to explain peasants’ acceptance or Continue reading → Continue reading →