“I Am No Longer Answerable for Its Actions”: E. P. Thompson After Moral Economy

Abstract: E. P. Thompson’s classic 1971 article “The Moral Economy of the English Crowd” turned a forgotten locution into a cottage industry. But Thompson was surprisingly ambivalent about this academic success story. As discussion of “moral economy” burgeoned within the humanities, he watched grimly as talk of the “market economy” flourished in the wider world. His language had survived, but he took little consolation in the popularity of a concept that, stripped of its context, threatened to become a catchphrase.

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About Timothy Shenk

Timothy Shenk is a fellow at New America and editor at Dissent. His first book, Maurice Dobb: Political Economist (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), examines the life of the British economist, historian, and communist Maurice Dobb. He is currently at work on two books. Inventing the American Economy, an intellectual biography of the American economy, is under contract with Princeton University Press. Democracy’s Revenge: The People, The Powerful, and the American Political Tradition, an intellectual history of the American political elite from the writing of the Constitution down to the present, is under contract with Farrar, Straus & Giroux.