Ethics and Economics Conference 2017

Home / News and Events / Seminar Series / Ethics and Economics Conference 2017

Click here to register now!


The conference aims to be the first of a series of annual conferences on the issue of ethics and economics.

The two-way connection between ethics and economics has received renewed interest recently. Scholars have examined how ethics shape economic decisions, institutions, and systems, and conversely. This renewed interest appears in a historic period characterised by a widening and a deepening of market practices. A widening, because it is characterized by a diffusion of market ideologies and practices around the world following the fall of state socialism. A deepening, because our daily lives are increasingly entangled by market interactions. New markets are being created for goods and services such as human bodies, ecological waste, or gestation. The commodification of previously sanctuarised objects and activities has led to increased ethical concern on the permissibility of such transactions, as well as novel forms of political resistance.

Our interdisciplinary conference will go along a recent trend in research on ethics and economics. Researchers interested in this topic have overcome the traditional divide between economics, which tended to focus on value, and other social sciences, which examined values. Our ambition is to take this dialog between different scholarly disciplines further. We will invite scholars from economics, sociology, and philosophy, to share their views on the interplay between ethics and economics. Our hope is to get a better understanding of our common grounds and differences, and also to get an overview of the most cutting edge research debates in each discipline.

The questions we will ask include, but are not limited to:

  • How, when and why is an economic choice perceived as `good’ or `bad’? What are the theories of good implicit in decision theory?
  • How can foundational ethical principles such as equality, dignity and human rights be made compatible with economic theory? How do we deal with the multiplicity of norms and rules, and the choice of their hierarchy?
  • What can ethical theory gain from the formal tools of analysis in economic theory?
  • The human body has become a hotly contested domain of application of market principles (sale of organs, eggs or sperm, surrogacy, private health markets and insurances, price of medicine and life-saving devices, notably in developing countries, selection of transplant recipients in situations of scarcity…). What specific ethical problems are raised by such increasing marketability of the human body? What conceptual framework is required to understand, analyse and frame these issues?
  • Organised crime (mafias, drug trade, etc.) present an interesting paradox: while engaging in illegal and often unethical activities, such economic activities may also involve some form of community development (building hospitals, schools, arranging public services) in the regions where they thrive. How are we then to understand the relationship between ethics and such activities?
  • At an epistemological level, we are interested in understanding the best methodological approaches to analyse issues of morality. What kind of empirical evidence should a researcher focus on when analysing issues of morality?
  • At the level of individual agents, how can we analyse the underlying preferences in market behaviour? Does self-interest constitute the only norm of economic choices? What sort of empirical evidence is available on how economic institutions or socio-economic status affects moral behaviour? Can the design of institutions promote ethical behaviour, and if so, how?

Conference Schedule


Opening of the Conference by Prof. Lim Sun Sun, Head of HASS

9.30 am: Keynote: Prof. John Broome, Oxford
Efficiency and future generations
A choice between different economic policies often makes a difference to which particular people will exist in the future. This is the nonidentity effect. It makes it difficult to apply moral principles that depend on comparing the situation of a person in one option with the situation of the same person in another option; these are often called person-affecting principles. The Pareto criterion is a person-affecting principle; it says that one option A is better than another B if one person is better off in A than she is in B and no person is better off in B than she is in A. It cannot be successfully applied when there is a nonidentity effect. The standard notion of efficiency is defined in terms of the Pareto criterion: an outcome is efficient if and only if no other possible outcome is better according to the Pareto criterion. So the standard notion of efficiency breaks down when there is a nonidentity effect. Since much of economics is concerned with efficiency, this poses a serious problem for it. For example, it poses a serious problem for the economics of climate change. According to standard economics, externalities create inefficiency in the standard sense, which can be removed by internalizing the externality. The emission of greenhouse gas is an externality. But policies to deal with climate change have a nonidentity effect, so standard economics does not apply to this externality. I shall consider what useful notion of efficiency can be put in the place of the standard one. I aim to see how far the conclusions of standard economics can be preserved.

Bio: John Broome is Emeritus White’s Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Oxford. In earlier times he was Professor of Economics at the University of Bristol. He works on the ethics of climate change, and also on normativity, rationality and reasoning. His most recent books are “Climate Matters: Ethics in a Warming World”, 2012, and “Rationality Through Reasoning”, 2013.

11 am: The (In)compatibility of Norms

How to marry trade and non-trade rules, economic and non-economic objectives, at the international and the national level? How does e.g. WTO trade laws interact with other international bodies of law, such as international human rights law? Do international corporations have specific obligations?


  • Anthony Woodiwiss, Seoul National University
    It’s the Ethics, Stupid: Why Ditching the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership Will Be a Big Mistake.Bio: Anthony Woodiwiss lectured for many years at the University of Essex before becoming Dean of Social Sciences at City University London in 2004. Between 2008 and 2011 he was Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Seoul National University where he continues to be a Distinguished Visiting Professor. In 2011 he became an Emeritus Professor at City University. He has taught and carried out research in many Pacific Rim countries. He is the author of numerous articles and nine books, including: Rights v. Conspiracy: a Sociological Essay on the History of Labour Law in the United States (1990), Law, Labour and Society in Japan (1992), Globalization, Human Rights, and Labour Law in Pacific Asia (1998), Making Human Rights Work Globally (2003), and Human Rights (2005).
  • Christine Sim, National University of Singapore
    Tensions between International Economic Law and Human Rights Law: Clash of Substantive Principles and Procedural Solutions
    This discussion covers the general principles of law applied in relation to jurisdiction over human rights issues in international investment arbitration, and the procedural mechanisms available to incorporate human rights into international investment law. The discussion will focus on some case examples and illustrate ways in which States are drafting their new free trade and investment agreements to address policy space and human rights in international investment law.Bio: Christine Sim is a Research Associate and Practice Fellow at the Centre for International Law with a background in legal practice. She also assists international arbitrators with case management and research. Her research focuses on issues relating to public international law and international dispute resolution. In particular, her research is focussed on procedural mechanisms for appellate review and interim orders in arbitration proceedings, conciliation of international disputes, options for dispute resolution in maritime boundary disputes and the procedural aspects of compatibility between international economic law and human rights law.
  • Rhacel Parrenas, University of Southern California
    The Multiple Moralities of Sex Work
    The talk draws from ethnographic research conducted on migrant hostesses in Tokyo, a group identified as sex trafficking victims by the US Department of State. In the talk, I describe and situate the experiences of migrant hostesses in the moral standards of “prohibitionism” that undergird their identification as trafficked victims. I ask, how does this moral tax shape the experiences of hostesses? My discussion establishes the incompatibility, or moral clash, between the moral standards imposed by the US from above, and the moral views of sex work among hostesses from below, resulting in the limited labor market opportunities of migrant women workers.Bio: Rhacel Salazar Parrenas is Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies at University of Southern California. She is currently a Fulbright Research Fellow at McMaster University in Canada. A labor and migration scholar, her current research examines the intersections of human trafficking and labor migration and the constitution of gendered moralities in women’s migration. Her most recent publications are an edited special issue in Sexualities Journal on “Technologies of Intimate Labor” and a revised edition of Servants of Globalization: Migration and Domestic Work (2015).

Discussant: Christine Habbard, SUTD

2.30 pm: Public Policy: Rights, Equality, Fairness

What should be the guiding principles of public policy? In assessing economic outcomes, should fundamental political principles such as equality, fairness and human rights be a parameter?


  • Mark Findlay, Singapore Management University
    Property is Theft? Power asymmetries and global resistance.
    This paper adopts the context of dis-embedding markets in exchange economies to reveal the manner in which property relationships, exclusionist commodification and neo-liberal legal agency perpetuate deep power asymmetries and the economic inequality and social fragmentation which they foster. The world is experiencing different forms of resistance to the discriminatory consequences of globalization, and the paper critically evaluates how contesting collective consciences are challenging the exclusionist commodification of property, and are manifesting modes of resistance which, responsibly ordered, could lead to a radical return of property to the social, and law as a communal resource.Bio: Mark Findlay is a Professor of Law, Singapore Management University. Until recently he held the Chair in Criminal Justice, Law School University of Sydney, and has had research Chairs in Nottingham and in Leeds, UK. Mark has taught law and criminology in Asia, the South Pacific, Australia and in various European jurisdictions. He is the author of 25 monographs and over 120 refereed publications. Professor Findlay’s current research interests span global governance, regulating global crises, and international criminal justice. His most recent book, ‘Law’s Regulatory Relevance: Property, power and market economies’, is due to be published by Edward Elgar, early next year.
  • Ole Bjerg, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
    Macroeconomics Beyond Growth
    Contemporary mainstream macroeconomics are developed in a time in history, when economic growth was seen as both desirable and necessary for societal development, many economies today are perhaps best described as post-growth economies. Not only does much of the potential for economic growth seem to be exhausted due to limitations on natural and social resources. The very value of economic growth as a goal in itself is also becoming increasingly questioned. Do we really need more stuff? In this talk, I would like to reflect on the implications for macroeconomics if we accept the premise that we have moved into a state of post-growth economy. If the goal of macroeconomics is no longer to provide us with the policy tools to optimize economic growth then what is the purpose of macroeconomics?Bio: Ole Bjerg is an Associate Professor at the Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy, Copenhagen Business School. He is the author of Parallax of Growth – The Philosophy of Ecology and Economy (Polity Press 2016), Making Money – The Philosophy of Crisis Capitalism (Verso 2014), and Poker – The Parody of Capitalism (University of Michigan Press 2011) as well as a number of books in Danish. He teaches in the graduate and undergraduate program in Business Administration and Philosophy at Copenhagen Business School.
  • Olivier Godechot, CNRS / Institut d’Etudes Politiques, Paris
    Wages, Bonuses and Appropriation of Profit in the Financial IndustryThe present financial crisis has led the whole world to ask questions of the financial industry. Why are wages in the financial industry so high? Are bonuses responsible for the financial crisis? Where do bonuses come from? Politicians and others urged people to believe that the crisis was the price of Wall Street’s greed and blamed the ‘bonus culture’ prevalent in the financial industry. However, despite widespread condemnation and the threat of tighter regulation, bonuses in the industry have proven remarkably resilient. Wages, Bonuses and Appropriation of Profit in the Financial Industry provides an in-depth inquiry into the bonus system. Drawing on examples from France, the City and Wall Street, it explains how and why workers in the financial industry can receive such large bonuses. The book examines issues around incentives, morality and wealth-sharing among employees, including the rise of “the working rich” – those who have benefited the most from the high wages and large bonuses on offer to some employees. These people have earned exorbitant amounts through their work, aided by new forms of exploitation in our increasingly dematerialised economy. This book shows how the most mobile employees holding the most mobile assets can exploit the most immobile stakeholders. In a world where inequalities are rising sharply, Wages, Bonuses and Appropriation of Profit in the Financial Industry is therefore an important study of one of the key contemporary issues.

    Bio: Olivier Godechot is an economic sociologist interested in the study of labour markets, especially finance and academic labour markets, as a means to understand the development of unequal exchange relations at work and their impact on the dynamics of inequality. He has studied the division of labour and ordinary rationalities in a trading room and compensation mechanisms in the financial industry. Extending his interest in labour markets to academia, he has also examined university hiring, in particular the impact of networks on recruitment. He has published five books on finance, labour markets, and traders among which Wages, Bonuses and Appropriation of Profit in the Financial Industry published in 2016 by Routledge.

Discussant: Olivia Nicol, SUTD


9.30 am: Individual Actors: Rationality, Behaviour, Interests

What are the underlying preferences behind market behaviour? Can there be any departure from the standard assumptions about preferences and interests? Rationality and utility theory.

  • Hartmut Kliemt, Frankfurt School of Management and Finance
    On the nature and significance of moral science
    Economic accounts of social order in terms of fully rational case-by-case choice making in view of future causal consequences are unconvincing. Methodologically individualist explanations of the existence of social rules and order must rely on regularly occurring intentional rule following behavior as supported by Humean “opinions of right and of interest”. Since ethical codes of conduct that demand “deontological” neglect of causal consequences can be justified by the causal consequences of such institutionalized neglect traditional ethics can be developed as a technology within Robbins’ means to “given” ends framework of normative economics — though not in terms of full rationality.Bio: Graduating in both philosophy and management I have been a professor of philosophy and economics at the university of Duisburg-Essen and then the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management. I work(ed) on methodological and practical ethical issues of “practical science” at law, business and medical schools. I published on foundational issues of practical science as well as rational choice and game theory on the one hand, and applied topics like the economics and ethics of organ allocation and rationing in medicine on the other hand.
  • Amitai Etzioni, George Washington University (video)
    Happiness is the Wrong Metric
    Competing social science theories, the policies based on them, and public discourses about society and the ways in which it might be bettered draw on different meta-conceptions of human nature. To start with a simple example, if one assumes people are by nature brutish and boorish, we shall look for ways to control them, for a strong authority. If one assumes that they are benign beings, naturally at peace with each other, we shall look for ways to remove forces that distort their good nature. Other such meta-conceptions assume that people seek to maximize pleasure or—are inherently flawed but redeemable. This paper examines recently popular conceptions about human nature and suggests refocusing on a different one.Bio: Amitai Etzioni is a University Professor and Professor of International Relations at The George Washington University. He served as a Senior Advisor at the Carter White House and taught at Columbia University, Harvard Business School, and University of California at Berkeley. A study by Richard Posner ranked him among the top 100 American intellectuals. His most recent book, Foreign Policy: Thinking Outside the Box, was published by Routledge in 2016.
  • Dan Hausman, U. of Wisconsin
    Rationality, Self-Interest, and Welfare in Contemporary Economics
    Although it seems obvious that homo economicus is self-interested, when one looks more closely, it is not obvious which parts of mainstream economics (if any) imply that the agents economists talk about must be self-interested, nor indeed exactly what self-interest is. This talk explores the connections between self interest and (1) rationality, (2) positive economics, and (3) normative economics. It argues that rationality has no implications for self-interest and that positive economics implies only a weak, proximate self-interest. The most serious connection lies in normative economics.Bio: Daniel M. Hausman is the Herbert A. Simon and Hilldale Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A founding editor of the journal, Economics and Philosophy, his research has centered on epistemological, metaphysical, and ethical issues lying at the boundaries between economics and philosophy. His most recent books, are Preference, Value, Choice and Welfare (2012), Valuing Health: Well-Being, Freedom, and Suffering (2015), and Economic Analysis, Moral Philosophy, and Public Policy, 3rd ed. (co-authored with Michael McPherson and Debra Satz, 2017).
  • Alexander Vostroknutov, U. of Trento
    Social Norms, Cooperation and Preferences for Sharing
    The concept of homo economicus, a narrowly self-interested agent who strives to maximize its own well-being, was very successfully used in economic theories of markets and various market institutions. However, the rapidly growing evidence of inconsistencies between self-interested choice model and actual human behavior, collected by behavioral economists, makes many researchers doubt the selfish preferences assumption and forces them to look for alternative theoretical foundations for incentivized human choice. One startling case of the inability of the self-interested model to explain real life choices is the persistence of cooperation and (at least behaviorally revealed) preferences for helping others. The examples are numerous and range from successful management of common pool resources to charity donations (in the US, 2% of GDP in 2014). One promising way to incorporate these phenomena into economics is to look at social norms that might drive cooperative behavior and the preferences to follow them. In a series of studies my colleagues and I try to test the hypothesis that the proclivity for following social norms plays an important role in choices made in economic environments. We show experimentally that following social norms can reconcile many previously puzzling observations with behavioral theory.Bio: Alexander Vostroknutov is a Research Fellow at University of Trento (Center for Mind and Brain Sciences). He received his PhD in Economicsfrom University of Minnesota and had previously worked as an Assistant Professor of Economics at Maastricht University. His is interested in studying both strategic and non-strategic decision making using the framework of behavioral economics with the toolbox of experimental and neuro- economics. Alexander’s main research interest is social norms and their role in economic decision making. His recent work concentrated on the heterogeneity of propensities to follow social norms and their influence on the behavior in social dilemmas as well as the impact that the variety of psychological factors have on sharing choices.

Discussant: Zsombor Meder, SUTD

1 pm: Ethical Issues: The Human Body and Medical Products

Are there some things that money cannot or should buy? We take a look at the specificity of the human body and medical products, and issues such as the sale of organs, eggs or sperm, surrogacy, private health markets and insurances, price of medicine and life-saving devices, notably in developing countries, selection of transplant recipients in situations of scarcity…


  • Tommaso Bruni, King’s College, London
    Incentives and Priority Setting in Clinical Research
    Current biomedical technology does not effectively meet the healthcare needs of the global population. In particular, diagnostic and therapeutic interventions that are needed in underresourced settings are often not available because they have not been researched. Examples include vaccine for the Ebola virus disease, an effective treatment for visceral leishmaniasis, and new antibiotics that are required to cope with the emergence of antibiotic resistance. About USD 260 billion are spent each year in health research and development worldwide (Røttingen et al., Lancet 2013), and about 30% of this amount comes from public funds. However, health research and development is controlled by big pharmaceutical corporations that ultimately decide what is studied. Since these corporations must maximize the profit of their shareholders, interventions for which there is a sizable and lucrative market receive the lion’s share of scientists’ attention. However, these interventions are not necessarily those that the global population needs most. This situation leaves the healthcare needs of the inhabitants of low- and middle-income countries significantly unmet.In this paper, I argue that the current health research and development agenda ought to be altered on consequentialist grounds, and I examine the incentive structure driving the current practice of clinical research. In particular, patents and the corresponding exclusive intellectual property rights do not seem to be conducive to the establishment of a research agenda that efficiently tackles the global burden of disease. In the final section of the paper, I put forth that the introduction of publicly-funded prizes could provide humans with a better health research and development system than the status quo.

    Bio: Dr. Bruni is a Research Associate at King’s College London under the supervision of Dr. Annette Rid. He is working on a project concerning the ethics of clinical research during humanitarian emergencies. He was awarded his PhD in Bioethics at the University of Geneva, Switzerland and at the University of Milan, Italy (in co-tutorship) in March 2013. His research has been published on /Brain, American Journal of Bioethics, Neuroethics /(among others).

  • Roi Livne, U. of Michigan
    Morality in Economization: The Case of the U.S. Movement for End-of-Life
    This paper tackles the concept of “economization,” which has drawn the attention of both political theorists and economic sociologists (cf. Brown, 2015; Çalişkan and Callon 2009, 2010; Murphy, forthcoming). Focusing on the case study of end-of-life care in the U.S., I discuss economization as a two-dimensional process. First, economization involves the concentration of means of valuation, financial metrics, and tools of rational calculation in a certain life-domain. Second, economization involves a proliferation of ranking systems and valuation practices, which prompt people to reflect on their conduct in a rational calculative way. The case of U.S. end-of-life care is illustrative, in this respect. In the 1970s, advocates of hospice and palliative care began making financial arguments against the use of aggressive life-prolonging treatments in dying patients: they highlighted the high cost of treating the dying, contending that scaling down on life-prolonging care would be morally virtuous and economical. Monetary valuations of care in the last year of life proliferated, ultimately leading the first Reagan administration to fund hospice through Medicare. This effort to cap spending was accompanied by extensive and ever increasing efforts to encourage people to reflect on their “wishes” and “goals” concerning care at the end of life. Formal documents such as Do Not Resuscitate, Do Not Intubate, and Advance Directives urge people to reflect on what medical interventions they would and would not want to have if their condition declines, rank these preferences in order, and put them on record. These forms set an expectation that people would think and act rationally and have explicit, communicable, documentable, clearly ordered, consistent, and transitive sets of preferences. Economization, in this respect, is not only the expansion of monetarism and finance into previously non-economic domains. It also involves elaborate moral work, which informs human conduct in these domains and invests it with existential meanings.Bio: Roi Livne is an Assistant Professor in the department of sociology at the University of Michigan. His book manuscript in progress, Dying, Economized: Palliative Care and the U.S. Moral Economy of Death (under contract with Harvard University Press), is a historical and ethnographic examination of intersection between morality and economics in U.S. end-of-life care.
  • Voo Teck Chuan, NUS
    An Organizational Perspective on Altruism in Organ Donation and its Implications for Transplant Ethics Committee Evaluation
    Markets or financial incentives have long been proposed as means to address the chronic scarcity of transplant organs and the inefficiency of current donation systems. Market-based approaches have been resisted however because of the grip of ‘altruistic gifting’ as the only ethically acceptable way to procure and distribute transplant organs and other therapeutic bodily material. To support the acceptability of organ markets, the notion of ‘altruistic gifting’ has been subject to various criticisms. One criticism concerns the descriptive and normative distortions of insisting on ‘purity’ in altruism as a motivation in gifting: ‘pure altruism’ fashions an unnecessary or false dichotomy – gift versus sale – in the way people can ethically relate and help each other. Following this criticism, it has been argued that use of financial incentives can be compatible with preserving donation as altruistic albeit in a ‘non-pure’ sense. In short, ‘altruism’ and payment can ethically coexist as motivations for organ donation.The above criticism bases the moral meaning and value of altruism in discrete individual motivations and choices. In this presentation, I argue that altruism in the context of organ donation should be understood primarily from an ‘organizational’ perspective. What this means is that altruism cannot be evaluated as a stand-alone value but always in terms of supporting the central values of a health system, such as solidarity and social beneficence and justice. I draw some practical implications of this organizational perspective on altruism for transplant ethics committee evaluation of living organ donation, with focus on the issues of directed donation and reciprocal financial arrangements between donors and recipients.

    Bio: Voo Teck Chuan is Assistant Professor at the Centre for Biomedical Ethics (CBmE), National University of Singapore, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine. His scholarly interests lies in analysing and critiquing, from a legal and ethical perspective, concepts, principles, and frameworks used in regulating areas of bioethics concern, with focus on public health, research ethics, and organ transplantation. Recent publications include “Ethical Issues in Live Donor Reimbursement Programs” (Transplantation Proceedings 2016) “Altruism and Reward: Motivational Compatibility in Deceased Organ Donation” (Bioethics 2015) and “Organs as Inheritable Property?” (Journal of Medical Ethics 2014). Teck Chuan did his PhD in Bioethics and Medical Jurisprudence at The Centre for Social Ethics and Policy and The Institute of Science, Ethics and Innovation in the School of Law, University of Manchester, under a studentship funded by the Wellcome Strategic Programme on The Human Body, Its Scope, Limits and Future. He is Co-Director of CENTRES (Clinical Ethics Network and Research Ethics Support), an initiative of CBmE funded by the Singapore Ministry of Health which aims at capacity-building for hospital ethics committees, institutional review boards and transplant ethics committees in Singapore.

Discussant: Tara Dankel, SUTD

4 pm: The Paradox of Organised Crime

While engaging in illegal and often unethical activities, organised crime may also involve some form of community development (building hospitals, schools, arranging public services) in the regions where it thrives. How are we then to understand the relationship between ethics and such activities?


  • Nigel South, U. of Essex
    ‘Liquid ethics’, crimes and harms
    ‘Ethics’ as a term applied in relation to the administration of ‘criminal justice’ usually relates to expectations of probity and appropriate principles and practices. However when considered in relation to criminal activity or illegal enterprise, ideas like ‘ethics’, ‘moral principles’, ‘rules’, ‘values’ and ‘virtues’, become conceptually, linguistically, and practically, negotiable and fluid. For example, in a community that is highly dependent on patronage and informal economic transactions, where state authority, tax collection and public funding for infrastructure are weak, the local population might welcome financial and other contributions from illegal enterprise. The illegality and / or immorality of this arrangement will be understood but interpreted in terms of ‘techniques of neutralisation’ and routine acceptance. There are also inverse cases, where legal enterprises manipulate the language of public relations, CSR and philanthropy, to present an ‘ethical’ and ‘benevolent’ image while being responsible for activities harmful to indigenous peoples, disempowered communities and the environment. This presentation will explore examples such as these and consider them in terms of Baumann’s work on Liquid Modernity.Bio: Nigel South PhD is a Professor in the Department of Sociology and Director of the Centre for Criminology at the University of Essex, UK, and also a visiting Adjunct Professor in the School of Justice at Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences and in 2013 received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Criminology’s Division on Critical Criminology. He has published widely on green criminology, drugs and crime, and policing.
  • Sophie Lemière, EUI, Italy
    The Faith(s) Of Crime: Conceptualising the Ideologisation of Criminality
    Faith is generally seen as a “crime stopper” (Baron 2012): “more God, less crime”. The affirmation is rarely reversed as in “More God, more crime”: a way where God would become a purpose and justification for criminal activities. Religion, as a system of beliefs, values and laws, could be seen as a spiritual ideology; in the same sense that socialism is a political ideology encompassing a set of beliefs and norms,- not excluding the fact that religion may come as a support of a political ideology and vice versa. Hence, the anchoring of criminal action into a spiritual or political ideology would give it a sense of legitimacy and allow the rationalisation of all the forms it may take. In fact, this research shows clearly that the islamisation of criminal groups is the sign of the evolution of the ideological repertoire. The globalisation of radical Islam and the internationalisation of the “Jihadi cause” has propelled Islamism, in its most violent interpretation, as a ready-to-go ideology founded on clear-cut Manichean principles (believers Vs non-believers). The globalisation of the Islamist repertoire should eclipse the many folds of the ideologisation of criminality. In fact, the ideological choice, being purely opportunistic or philosophical, is connected to the local context –also, a local context may favour the adoption of a global ideology-. Hence, the problem of ideologisation of criminality must be seen beyond Islamism and beyond the frontiers of Europe. The conversion of criminality to spiritual or political ideologies is at the heart of this study. It analyses the unique association of politics, religion and crime from an original comparative perspective. More importantly, this research offers new keys to apprehend and respond to the phenomena of radicalisation.Bio: Currently, Max Weber Postdoctoral Fellow and research associate at the Middle-East Directions program of the European University Institute in Florence, Italy. Sophie is a former research associate at the Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) and then an affiliated Junior Researcher at the Asian Research Institute (ARI-NUS). She holds a PhD and an MA in Political Sciences from Sciences-Po (France). Her research on Malaysian Politics is based on extensive empirical data collected in the field since 2006. Her MA thesis explored the Apostasy controversies and Islamic civil society, while her PhD is an original analysis of the relationship between gangs and political parties in Malaysia. Sophie’s area of expertise focuses both on religion, criminality and Politics in a comparative perpective. The second volume of her edited book on Malaysian Politics will be published in 2017.
  • Peng Wang, U. of Hong Kong
    Gangs as protectors
    This article elaborates the ways in which local gangs earn profit through selling quasi law enforcement and private protection. The involvement of local gangs in supplying protection is due to the failure of the state to meet society’s increasing demand for the protection of property rights and dispute resolution services. By examining two cases (underground police organizations and in-house hospital security teams), this article investigates how gangsters and illegal entrepreneurs offer protection to private individuals and legitimate entrepreneurs, solve medical disputes for local hospitals, and help local and regional authorities deal with the problem of ‘nail households’.Bio: Peng Wang is Assistant Professor of Criminology at the University of Hong Kong. His recent publications include The Chinese Mafia (Oxford University Press) and ‘Military corruption in China’ published by The China Quarterly.

Discussant: Nafis Hanif, SMU