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REALEURASIA Report Summary

Project ID: 340854
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: Germany

Periodic Report Summary 2 - REALEURASIA (Realising Eurasia: Civilisation and Moral Economy in the 21st Century)

The project “Realising Eurasia: civilisation and moral economy in the 21st century” (REALEURASIA) is rooted in economic anthropology, but also draws on historical sociology and adjacent fields. Relying primarily on ethnographic methods, it investigates economic attitudes and activities at the level of households and family businesses, paying particular attention to the moral dimension of the economy and the extent to which this is shaped by distinctive religious and “civilizational” traditions. Conceptually, the project takes off from classical work by Max Weber alleging a distinctive “economic ethic” in Protestantism. Weber’s Eurocentric limitations can be demonstrated through comparative investigations of the other major “world religions” he identified. In addition to economic and other sub-divisions of anthropology, this project addresses long-running debates about modernity and European bias in other social sciences and in global history. Research results to date indicate no radical divide between the four European countries and the four countries located in Asia. The implication is that “Christian Europe” is better grasped as a very important macro-region of the Eurasian landmass. It continues to share many features with the other civilizations of this landmass, as one would expect in view of their common origins dating back to the Bronze Age.
The eleven researchers of the project REALEURASIA (seven PhD students and four post-doc/senior researchers, all but two funded by the ERC) have made significant progress since the launch of the project in July 2014. After a year of theoretical and methodological training, the doctoral students carried out a full year of fieldwork in six countries of Eurasia (Denmark, Hungary, Turkey, Russian Federation, India, China, Myanmar). Three of the senior researchers have also undertaken fieldwork (in Germany, Hungary and Turkey). A major task of the senior staff in the initial period has been to assist the students in preparing their survey instruments and in clarifying key concepts. Having set out his concept of Eurasia in a major article in "Current Anthropology" (Hann 2016), PI Chris Hann drafted a Working Paper on the concept of moral economy. He is currently working on several new papers to clarify indeterminacies surrounding the third key concept of this project, namely “civilization”. M. Krul, S. Terpe and L. Yalçın-Heckmann have each published foundational papers dealing respectively with institutionalist economic history (with particular reference to North and Polanyi), the utility of Weber’s idea of value spheres and life orders for micro-sociological and anthropological analysis, and the creation of value in economic transactions (all these Working Papers are available at Researchers have used the project blog to chronicle their research and to disseminate knowledge, including substantive scholarly contributions as well as ethnographic materials pertaining to field sites. The PI has used this medium in innovative ways to demonstrate the relevance of his Eurasian perspective to current geopolitical and economic affairs (see for REALEURASIA blog).
The doctoral students have observed and participated in the everyday lives of urban residents, households and small firms. They have all implemented a survey to gather detailed data concerning labour, taxes, corruption, solidarity, thrift, informality, family values and religious commitments. The analysis (both individual and comparative) of the data collected in 2015-2016 is still at its initial phase (first results will be presented in the latter half of 2017, in particular at an international conference in Wittenberg, Germany). It can already be stated with confidence that the “moral background” is pertinent in explaining both behaviour and attitudes. In at least this minimal sense, all human economies are “embedded”. Specifying the links between moral dimensions and different political economic regimes will be the chief task in the next phase of this project.

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