The great divorce: the freeing of markets from communities and from moral constraint

Kenneth W. Stikkers (Department of Philosophy, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois, USA)


ISSN: 0828-8666

Publication date: 5 August 2014



This paper aims to explain how economics severed itself from the moral constraint of community and from ethics.


The paper utilizes respected economic histories (e.g. Tawney, Polanyi, Heilbroner) and analyzes central theoretical texts of modern capitalism (e.g. Adam Smith).


This paper concludes that the divorce of economics from community and ethics had historical causes, beginning with enclosure, and was then theoretically justified by the classical economics.

Practical implications

The paper suggests that, if social economics wish to reconnect economics with ethics, they need first to understand and to contend with, better than they have, the enormity of the historical and theoretical forces that drove the two apart in the first place.


While many social economists argue for the need to connect economics with ethics, few if any have offered an extended analysis of their divorce.



W. Stikkers, K. (2014), "The great divorce: the freeing of markets from communities and from moral constraint", Humanomics, Vol. 30 No. 3, pp. 186-198.



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