A persistent challenge in democracies, particularly in industries controlled by professions, is for citizens and critics to be able to understand an industry sufficiently well to regulate it. This challenge is magnified when one body of expert knowledge—such as theology—is applied to another body of expert knowledge—such as the products and services of the finance industry. For example, how would Islamic scholars know if a sovereign or corporate bond traded in international financial markets is morally good and compliant with Islam? If it wasn’t, how could religious experts and investment bankers creatively co-produce a security that was morally compliant? This presentation draws on ethnographic research in Malaysian Islamic investment banks to understand how Islamic critics are attempting to alter the trajectory of finance capitalism to conform with their theological understanding of an ethical market. I suggest that this case can help us to understand the conditions under which such moralization projects succeed or fail.
Dr. Aaron Pitluck is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Illinois State University and a Faculty Affiliate with the Stevenson Center for Community and Economic Development. He is currently serving as President of the International Sociological Association’s Economy and Society Research Committee (RC02).