Moral claims and redress after atrocity: Economies of worth across political cultures in the Holocaust Swiss banks litigation

Ron Levi & Ioana Sendroiu (2019)
Poetics, 73, p. 45-60

Abstract. How do political cultures shape claims of worth? This paper focuses on Holocaust restitution claims against Swiss banks. We study nearly one hundred proposals that were submitted by organizations worldwide, regarding how to allocate funds where individual restitution or compensation was not possible. Relying on the sociology of conventions, we map the justifications that each provides and the value they assert for their projects. Through multiple correspondence analysis and bipartite network graphs, we find that across geographic settings, justifications map on to the politics of compassion and pity. Proposals relating to survivors emphasize an industrial economy and legal language, whereas proposals to rebuild community rely on an inspired economy to underwrite their value. Reliance on law, in turn, is also contingent on the historical paths of political cultures. We conclude that the role of law in justification is limited to situations that are oriented to private redress rather than national memory or community building efforts. Our analysis advances the empirical study of ethical pluralism and the study of valuation, by demonstrating how projects are justified through moral values across political cultures and axiological registers, and how economies of worth can underwrite ethical responses to honor the past.

Keywords: Valuation, Justifications, Holocaust, Political cultures, Economies of worth

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