chapter  3
The neoliberal harvest: the proliferation and normalisation of economic fraud in a market society
ByJÖRG WIEGRATZ
Pages 16

The global capitalist economy of the 2010s is characterised by a significant and apparently rising level of economic trickery, fraud and crime in many business sectors – and related to this we often find associated corruption and intimidation. These sectors include not only the trade in arms, drugs and human beings but also industries and sectors such as manufacturing, agro-business, food, supermarkets, pharmaceuticals, hospitals, elderly care, banking, accounting, insurance, marketing, emissions trading, military and telecommunication services, housing and construction (e.g. UNODC 2011; Friman 2009; Levi 2008; Whyte 2007; Black 2005; Callahan 2004). Notably, fraud has been ‘mainstreamed’ in the formerly ‘purified’ Global

North: readers of the major newspapers in Britain, Germany and elsewhere are confronted on an almost daily basis with the newest revelation about harmful illegal practices in the corporate sector, from banks and waste management to online ticket sales. In particular, there seems to be an expansion of organised fraud in the everyday economies and markets for legal goods and services. Notably, some of the flagship organisations and big household names of Northern capitalism have been linked to fraud: Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, Barclays, Siemens, Nestlé, News Corp, and so on. Indeed, the list of contemporary fraud cases is long and remarkable when it

comes to the economy; add to that the recent publicised cases of fraud, corruption and crime in the various polities around the globe and the prevalent discourses about predatory and crony capitalism, powerful oligarchies, elite criminality, or moral crisis and bankruptcy. This social reality is a significant analytical puzzle and raises crucial questions. What does the empirical significance of these practices tell us about contemporary capitalist societies? What is the politicaleconomic and normative context in which these practices are embedded? What are the values and norms – and especially moral codes – that shape and govern these practices of elite and non-elite actors, both in the Global North and Global South? What explains the shift, if any, in these practices and their structural underpinnings since the end of the ColdWar and the accelerated neoliberalisation of not only global commerce but also many societies around the globe?