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“This Market Changed my Life”: Aspirations and Morality in Markets for Counterfeits

The Contested Moralities of Markets

ISBN: 978-1-78769-120-9, eISBN: 978-1-78769-119-3

Publication date: 2 September 2019


With only a few exceptions, economic sociology scholarship remains almost silent about illegality and crime in the economy. The implicit premise in the literature on market sociology is that institutional structures and exchanges taking place in markets are law abiding in nature. As a consequence of this legality bias the study of morality in markets has so far only addressed commodities – like human organs, gambling, drugs, alcohol, or tobacco – whose legal status depends on broad social agreements and has excluded markets whose workings are dependent on formally legitimized institutions like property rights, trademark laws, or copyrights. Drawing on seven months of ethnographic research, this chapter addresses the phenomenon of emerging moral justifications in the context of a marketplace for counterfeit and sweatshop-produced garments. In line with Anteby’s proposal on a “practice-based view of moral markets,” it argues that despite the broad moral consensus around trademark laws and the absence of professionals who advocate for legalization, moral justifications views arise from rising aspirations in such illegal markets. The case expands existing understandings of morality and contestation in economic sociology literature and shows its relevance in the context of recent academic scholarship on perceptions of the future as a source of moral justification of market exchanges.




I would like to thank Annette Hübschle and the editors of this volume for their helpful comments to earlier versions of this chapter. Any shortcomings of the final product are mine alone. Funding for this research was provided by the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.


Dewey, M. (2019), "“This Market Changed my Life”: Aspirations and Morality in Markets for Counterfeits", Schiller-Merkens, S. and Balsiger, P. (Ed.) The Contested Moralities of Markets (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 63), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 67-84.



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