Tijo, I have read the latest version of your chapter for our book on Economy For and Against Democracy, “Room for responsibility: making the financial sector social”. The chapter is definitely coming along, but it still suffers in my view from lacking a sharp definition of the question it addresses. This in turn is handicapped by a historically impoverished perspective on the question. The latter aks whether it is possible to institute a moral politics, moral law or moral economics that would help most people to humanise the impersonal social forces that govern their lives. It does not come to us out of nowhere and certainly not just in the circumstances of the recent financial crisis. It concerns the possibility of legitimate government in capitalist states.
The genealogy of this problem begins with Locke and the liberal (bourgeois) revolution of the 18th century Enlightenment culminating in Kant. Locke sought a protected zone for private property free of interference by public agents (of the king). This led to the normative separation of public and private interests which was never actually achieved (as in the establishment of the Bank of England, a private institution, to nationalise the king’s war debts). This confusion was resolved in two ways: by the invention of ulititarian economics (Smith, Bentham) which reduced public outcomes to the interplay of private individual interests or by Kant’s attempt to discover the grounds for a cosmopolitan moral politics. State laws ended at territorial boundaries and geography generated endless cultural variations. So how could humanity make society in the world as a whole? His answer was the categorial imperative. We all want to be good or at least to be seen as being good. Cultures define the good differently, but the desire to be good makes a conversation across them possible. This project is still liberal, nourished by the American and French revolutions, plus the drive to abolish slavery. The liberal legacy emphasises personal responibility for ones actions, especially in common law traditions, where intention is key to legal culpability. Civil law traditions, as in Continental Europe, retain a strong division between law and right, lex and ius, loi et droit.