Neoliberal Moral Economy: Capitalism, Socio-Cultural Change and Fraud in Uganda. London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016; 375 pp.: ISBN: 9781783488544, 29.95 [pounds sterling]
In some of the most powerful and engaging passages in Capital, Karl Marx wrote about the systematic fraud at the heart of market relations. Fraud, adulteration of food (a topic close to Marx's heart) and corruption, was an element of capitalist development from the earliest days. As Marx wrote, the bread of the poor' was unlike that of the rich. Loaves purchased by the poor were frequently subjected to 'the adulteration of the flour with alum and bone earth'.
In Jorg Wiegratz's important book on Uganda, Neoliberal Moral Economy, he explains, 'markets are ... not just the sites of economic transaction but of deception, intimidation, domination, humiliation ... and, of course, morality' (p. 342). Wiegratz looks at the deception and fraud that has come to dominate the moral economy of capitalism in the neoliberal period.
In this respect, the case-study at the centre of the book could have been taken from any continent, and any country. Yet, Wiegratz focuses on Uganda. Why? In the late 1980s and 1990s, Uganda, like much of the continent, went through a dramatic, indeed tumultuous transformation. International Financial Institutions (IFI) using loans granted to Uganda (and to which reforms were attached) to embed the country deeply within what is known as neoliberalism.
This neoliberal counter-attack was by no means limited to Uganda. The scale of devastation across Africa was equally astonishing. From the late 1970s, more and more African states found their options constrained and their macroeconomic policies increasingly shaped by the conditions imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, western governments and the private banks. Among these players, it was the IMF and World Bank who were central in imposing free market economics.
For most African economies, structural adjustment included far-reaching economic and institutional reform, and various degrees of economic liberalization--privatized national industries, removal of tariff barriers and exposing economies to international competition and the free market. Even though these reforms were sold as equitable, the costs of liberalization fell dramatically on the vulnerable. The poor and working class, particularly in rural and urban areas, felt the pain of adjustment acutely. In Wiegratz's study, it was the network of cooperatives that...