The Centre examines the relationship between morality and economics in contemporary Ireland 

President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, today officially launched The Centre for the Study of Moral Foundations of Economy & Society at an event held at the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin.  This launch is the final event under the President of Ireland’s Ethics Initiative, which ran from November 2013 to November 2015. The Centre is a collaboration between University College Cork (UCC) and Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT).

UCC’s Dr. Kieran Keohane, Professor Colin Sumner and Professor Arpad Szakolczai lead the Centre jointly, in collaboration with Dr. Tom Boland, Dr. John O’Brien and Dr. Ray Griffin at WIT.

The Centre was set up to study the manner in which the development of the modern global economy has damaged social life and well-being and, to examine ways in which Irish society can work towards ethical living. In line with the President of Ireland’s Ethics Initiative, it looks to stimulate new ways of thinking and to provide a framework within which creative new ideas on markets, welfare, housing, debt and employment can be developed.

The Centre will produce research in the form of academic articles, books and summarised reports, which will be available on the Centre’s website

Welcoming the new Centre, Dr. Michael Murphy, President of UCC said:

“I wish to thank an tUachtaráin Michael D. Higgins for officially launching this new centre – A Centre for the Study of Moral Foundations of Economy & Society.

One of the key missions of University College Cork is to support and develop research activities at the highest level of excellence. This new Centre will act as a focal point for the creation of new knowledge, which will stimulate discussion on: where we are, how we got here, and where we are going and it will do so in an atmosphere of cooperation and collaboration.”

Commenting on the launch of the Centre, UCC’s Professor Colin Sumner, Head of School of Sociology and Philosophy said:

“Against the assumption that modern states, market economies and scientific technology merely represent progress and rationality, the Centre looks at how these forces have also spiraled out of control, threatening the environment, fragmenting society, making people ill, generating crime and undermining individual integrity. Rather than simply emancipating people, these movements also entrap us by punishing the poor and rewarding the already wealthy; turning the fairground into the market, making political crisis perpetual, and enabling technical development, not ethics, to drive social change, so that ordinary life is no longer possible.”

“It is in this context we launch our own research Centre with the ambition of contributing to filling a void in Irish society; an initiative of UCC, where the slogan is ”Great minds don’t think alike” and WIT, an embryonic university with a distinctive mission. The Centre hopes to suggest, through a variety of projects, ways to re-imagine the social and moral fabric that is necessary in order to live a healthy, meaningful and ethical life.” added Professor Sumner.

The Centre not only focuses on research but generates new courses, seminars and conferences, such as the annual Economy and Society Summer School, the International Political Anthropology Summer School and the new Bachelor of Arts in Criminology at UCC. These will draw upon and articulate the ethical concerns of Irish people in the twenty-first century. For example, launched in 2014, the BA in Criminology, developed by Professor Sumner, now has 110 students in its first two years and attracts more than 1,000 applications a year. It examines the causes of crime, who the real criminals of our time are, and who makes and controls the criminal laws and the agenda behind them.

The Centre currently facilitates research projects such as: Community Voices for a Renewed Ireland; The Contemporary Welfare State; Commemoration: Contexts and Concepts; and Anthropological Foundations of a Moral Economy.

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