Madison Committee
on Foreign Relations

Why Do Capitalist Societies Have a Problem with Financial Profits?

  • Thursday, June 04, 2015
  • 5:30 PM - 8:00 PM
  • The University Club, 803 State Street, Madison, WI


Registration is closed
This Event Is Co-Sponsored By
University of Wisconsin- Madison's European Studies Alliance and the Warburg Chapter of the American Council on Germany


The Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies,
Harvard University

Dr. Sascha Münnich
John F. Kennedy Memorial Fellow
Harvard University's Center for European Studies

During and after the financial crisis of 2008 and the following ‘Great Recession’ we have witnessed a strong return of anti-capitalist sentiments and arguments in public media as well as parliaments, sometimes even among economists and market experts. What became visible in those public debates was an intense debate on the legitimacy and/or moral appropriateness of certain forms of financial profits – mostly profits drawn from highly leveraged transactions that consisted of monetary exchange of future expectations that shows high similarity to gambling. Sascha Münnich explores whether such moral debates about more and less morally acceptable ways of profit seeking actually have an impact on the institutions and rules that define different national financial sectors. In short: Is moral outburst against illegitimate financial profits just “cheap talk” in a crisis while “hard” politics is subject only to material interests, or do cultural understandings of a “good salesman” or a “just banker” actually influence how markets are allowed to operate?

Sascha Münnich is an Associate Professor for Comparative Sociology at the Georg August University of Göttingen and has been a Senior Researcher at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, Cologne, Germany, for many years. He completed his Ph.D. at the University of Cologne, focusing on the evolution of German and U.S. labor market policy and how ideas and interests interacted for the emergence of market regulations. Münnich is a recipient of CES’ John F. Kennedy Memorial Fellowship. He will continue writing his book on the social legitimacy of profits. The book will take an institutional perspective within the field of sociology and trace back the regulation of financial markets in Germany and the United Kingdom to the financial crisis of the late nineteenth century and the 1930s.

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