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POSTPONED || Symposium ‘Money, Rationality, Solidarity’

Wednesday 15 April 2020
THIS SYMPOSIUM IS POSTPONED (and does not take place on April 15th) - A new date and time will be announced
Will be announced soon

‘Money, Rationality, Solidarity’

This symposium is postponed. A new date and time will be announced.



This symposium is a conversation across academic disciplines about money in everyday life, both today and in the past, both here and elsewhere in the world. The aim of this symposium is to share most recent academic insights about rationality – mostly understood as the pursuit of self-interests – and solidarity, which refers to the fundamentally human propensity to care, cooperate and organize collectively. Money can help people and societies to take care of one another, or fulfil personal and societal aspirations, but it can also be, or be seen as, a destructive force, leading to mental health problems, the destruction of solidarity in society, or as part of ideologies that cause violence and suffering. How do scholars, using a wide range of methodological and theoretical approaches, understand both the more benevolent ánd detrimental aspects of money in society?

This symposium stimulates a conversation about money across a great variety of methodological, theoretical, and disciplinary approaches. By stimulating this conversation, we will gain a better understanding of how our own academic background and the field in which we work shape the questions we ask and the issues – be it social, methodological, or theoretical – we identify. This is of particular importance at a moment where money, financial products and services, often end up becoming a destabilizing force in society; as part of suffering and unprecedented economic inequalities and a dystopian future where the lack of economic sustainability is a fundamental and global threat.

Presentations by Tazuko van Berkel, Assistant Professor in Ancient Greek Language; Wilco van Dijk, Professor by Special Appointment of Psychological Determinants of Economic Decision Making; Erik Bähre, Associate Professor in the institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology; Natascha van der Zwan, Assistant Professor in Public Administration. Maghiel van Crevel, Professor of Chinese language and literature, will convene the symposium.


Registration is appreciated through the online form.

Program overview

14.10-14.15 A word of Welcome
14.15-14.45 Will the real Homo Economicus please stand up? Towards a revisionist historiography of ancient Greek economic thought. By Tazuko van Berkel
14.45-15.15 What having too little money means to people. By Wilco van Dijk
15:15 Coffee/tea break
15.30-16.00 Rationality as Solidarity: The ‘discovery’ of an insurance market as a moral process. By Erik Bähre
16.00-16.30 Financialization: An Introduction. By Natascha van der Zwan
16:30 Coffee/tea break
16.45- 17.30 Roundtable and discussion
17.30 Drinks


Will the real Homo Economicus please stand up? Towards a revisionist historiography of ancient Greek economic thought | Tazuko van Berkel

“The central problem of economics is not scarcity, but abundance.” “Economics is not about growth but about happiness.” “Freedom is the capacity to not pursue your desires.” These are paraphrases of pieces of ancient Greek economics. However, from a Neoclassical point of view, these statements are hardly about economics at all. How do we define “economics”? And what are the anthropologies, i.e. theories of human nature, are presupposed in every economic paradigm? Who is Economic Man?

Tazuko van Berkel
Tazuko van Berkel is an Assistant Professor in Ancient Greek Language and Literature at Leiden University. Her research interests include history of ideas (ancient conceptions of friendship and reciprocity, ancient economics), ancient philosophy (Protagoras of Abdera, Eudemus of Rhodes) and Greek mathematics. Her monograph The Economics of Friendship. Conceptions of Reciprocity in Classical Greecehas just came out (2020, Brill). She is currently preparing a monograph (Counting and Accountability) about the cultural history of numbers, measures and calculations in classical Greek literature and philosophy. 

What having too little money means to people | Wilco van Dijk

In the Netherlands, more than 1 million households have serious financial debts. This is very worrisome, because problematical debts are costly for both the individuals involved and society at large. In the current presentation, the newly developed 12-item Psychological Inventory Financial Scarcity (PIFS-12) scale is introduced, and discussed together with our recent research on the psychological and behavioural correlates of financial scarcity.

Wilco van Dijk
Wilco van Dijk is Professor by Special Appointment of Psychological Determinants of Economic Decision Making—a chair that is a collaboration of Leiden University with the National Institute for Family Finance Information (Nibud). In his research, Wilco focuses, amongst others, on the influence of financial stress on economic decision making, whereby he combines laboratory research with (experimental) field studies. In 2018 and 2019, he was Academic Partner of the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB), and as of 2020, he is Director of the Knowledge Centre Psychology and Economic Behaviour. 

Rationality as solidarity: The ‘discovery’ of an insurance market as a moral process | Erik Bähre

This presentation is based on Bähre’s recent book on insurance in South Africa. It explores how rationality is always also morality regarding the boundaries of and hierarchies within solidarity. Rationality needs to be understood as a utilitarian pursuit that is morally grounded in the distinction between ‘us’ and ‘them’. In South Africa, distinctions between ‘us’ and ‘them’ changed fundamentally when Apartheid ended in 1994, which led to the ‘discovery’ of a new insurance market for predominantly poor Africans. How did insurance become part of everyday life of people who were previously understood as non-marketable, and how did insurance change other forms of solidarity between neighbours and within families?

Erik Bähre
Erik Bähre is an associate professor in the institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology at Leiden University. He specializes in economic anthropology with fieldwork in South Africa, Brazil and The Netherlands. He is the author of Money and Violence: Financial Mutuals in a South African Township (Brill, 2007) and Ironies of Solidarity: Insurance and Financialization of Kinship in South Africa (Zed Books, 2020). Erik Bähre is currently doing fieldwork on health insurance in Brazil, which is part of his ERC Consolidator project ‘Moralising Misfortune: A Comparative Anthropology of Commercial Insurance.’

Financialization: An Introduction | Natascha van der Zwan

Financialization has become the go-to term for scholars across the social sciences and humanities grappling with the growth of finance in various domains of society. A variety of divergent definitions of financialization have been offered over the years, which allowed the field to prosper in a transdisciplinary and eclectic manner; as a recent survey of publications shows, the bulk of publications have been in explicitly interdisciplinary journals, followed by economics and geography as disciplines. In contrast to its academic popularity, the concept of financialization has not yet travelled far beyond its immediate field, despite empirical links between the rise of finance and a host of pressing societal issues, such as growing socioeconomic inequality, rising household indebtedness, and environmental degradation. In this talk, I will outline how many households today are increasingly embedded in global networks of finance and why it is important that we better understand this phenomenon. 

Natascha van der Zwan
Natascha van der Zwan is an Assistant Professor in Public Administration at Leiden University. She does comparative and historical research on financialization and the welfare state, pension investment rules and regulations, and the politics of sustainable finance. She recently co-edited the Routledge International Handbook of Financialization (2020), with Philip Mader and Daniel Mertens. Her article “Making Sense of Financialization” (SocioEconomic Review, 2014) is a key publication in scholarship on financialization. Dr. Van der Zwan holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the New School for Social Research. 

Convenor: Maghiel van Crevel

Maghiel van Crevel’s interests include (Chinese) literature, issues of translation in the broadest sense, and critical area studies across disciplinary divides in the humanities and the social sciences. Drawing on regular fieldwork in China, his research combines textual analysis with ethnography and work in/on unofficial poetry archives to establish a multi-faceted vision of literature’s encounters with its cultural, political, and socio-economic surroundings. 

About the symposium

This symposium is made possible with support from the project ‘Moralising Misfortune’ funded by the European Research Council (ERC) under the Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme (Grant Agreement No. 682467); Kenniscentrum Psychologie en Economisch Gedrag.

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