Moral economy

November 28, 2013

Robert Colls is right that the 50th anniversary of the publication of E. P. Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class deserves to be marked and celebrated (“The Making and the man”, 21 November).

Of course, after 50 years there are downsides and upsides. Whether or not, as Colls suggests, Thompson was too critical of Methodism, the language of religion that was central to the development of the working class in the 19th century is now mostly absent from daily discourse. An edition with a  glossary explaining some of the religious terminology and concepts in the book might encourage new readers.

On the plus side, Thompson’s concept of a “moral economy” – that is, a market economy tempered (if need be by riot) to the needs of ordinary people – is one very much of our time. What better way of looking at the activities of bankers and assorted fat cats than through the prism of a moral economy?

Keith Flett
London

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