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Economic Anthropology

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Economic Anthropology, including production systems, property arrangements, exchange typology, and substantivism versus formalism.

Economic Anthropology, including production systems, property arrangements, exchange typology, and substantivism versus formalism.

Published in Economy & Finance , Technology
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  • 1. Economic Anthropology The Cross-Cultural Provision of Goods and Services
  • 2. Defining Economic Anthropology
    • Basic definition:
    • The cross-cultural study of the
    • Production, distribution, and consumption of
    • goods and services
    • Economy is not to be confused with technology
    • Technology involves techniques,
    • Examples: hunting, cultivation, house construction and others.
  • 3. Production
    • How people organize their work
    • Preindustrial society divide labor by:
    • Gender
    • Age
    • Part-time specialization (full time in agricultural states)
    • In industrial societies, detail labor (labor split into subparts)
  • 4. Distribution
    • Emphasis is on exchange
    • Three types predominate:
    • Reciprocity
    • Redistribution
    • Market exchange
    • Exchange often is embedded in society
    • Yanomamo: trade is part of political alliance
    • Ongka’s Big Moka illustrates how power is derived from an elaborate system of exchange
  • 5. Consumption
    • Access to goods and services
    • Related to property, where such rules exist
    • An example of consumption: leveling mechanisms in fiesta systems (left) of
    • Mesoamerican cargo system
    • Involves some wealth leveling
    • Also community control over surplus wealth
  • 6. Overview
    • Scarcity postulate
    • Infinity of human wants
    • Limits of means to satisfy them
    • Source of substantivist-formalist debate
    • Relations of production, including property
    • Systems of exchange: 3 kinds of reciprocity, plus redistribution and market exchange
    • The embedding of economy in society or
    • Polanyi: economy as instituted process
  • 7. Scarcity Postulate
    • In Western society
    • Human wants are considered infinite
    • Means of satisfying them are finite
    • Example: cars from clunker to Lexus
    • Robbins’ definition of economics
    • “ The science which studies human behavior
    • as a relationship between ends
    • and scarce means that have alternative uses”
  • 8. Are the Best Things in Life Free?
    • Free goods
    • Goods that exist in plentiful supply
    • Few examples: air if you don’t mind the pollutants
    • Economic goods
    • Those that are scarce
    • Second sense of economics: economizing
    • How do you best use what is scarce?
  • 9. Substantivism and Formalism
    • Overview
    • Substantivists emphasize cultural relativism of economics
    • Scarcity is not universal
    • How goods and services
    • are produced and distributed
    • depend on the society studied
    • Formalists emphasize scarcity is everywhere
    • May be intangible thing, such as prestige
    • Time is finite, even if other things are not
  • 10. Substantivism
    • Polanyi: defined substantivism and formalism
    • Substantivism: provision of goods and services
    • Defined three major modes of exchange: reciprocity, redistribution, and market transactions
    • Argued that scarcity postulate does not apply everywhere
    • Economy is an instituted process.
  • 11. Formalism
    • Robbins: scarcity is everywhere present
    • A question of economizing:
    • Optimizing ends with limited means
    • Economizing occurs in
    • Noneconomic contexts:
    • Politics: “safe” districts, uncertain ones
    • Study time: major course, elective
    • Cross-culturally
    • Prestige is scarce
    • Onka’s Big Moka is illustrative
  • 12. Summarizing Formalism: The Academic Market
  • 13. Relations of Production
    • Arrangements governing production of goods and services
    • Involve several variables
    • Property:
    • Is there such a thing as ownership?
    • If so, who exercises ownership?
    • What rights are included?
    • Labor relations: Who does what?
  • 14. Property: Communalism and Joint
    • Communalism: ownership by community
    • Property is freely accessible to all
    • Or it involves a sharing arrangement--meat among !Kung or Inuit
    • Mesoamerica: communal ownership, private use rights (usufruct)
  • 15. Joint property
    • All share in rights and obligations
    • Property held by members of a corporate lineage or clan
    • Example: cattle ownership among some East Africans
    • Analysis: Corporate Lineages and Clans
  • 16. Descent Groups (Corporate Groups)
    • Are organized with the following characteristics
    • Own estate: land, cattle, fishing/hunting ground
    • May be owned by group or
    • owned by their constituent families
  • 17. Descent Groups: Rights and Obligations
    • Estate entails rights and obligations
    • Examples:
    • Rights to cattle for bridewealth
    • Obligation to provide cattle for bridewealth
    • Obligation to defend herds (or add to them)
    • Fulani:
    • If one loses herd due to disease
    • Others contribute to replenishment of here
  • 18. Descent Groups: Perpetuity
    • The lineage or clan is sociocentric
    • It outlasts the life span of individuals
    • Not unlike corporations and downsizing
    • Contrasts with kindreds- egocentric
    • Kindred comprises full brothers and sisters
    • Overlaps with other kindreds
    • When full siblings die, kindred dies
  • 19. Legal Persons
    • Corporations are defined as legal persons
    • Similar to descent groups
    • Kwakiutl: murder of noble of one clan by commoner of another
    • Requires death of noble of commoner’s clan
    • Responsibility is thereby collective
    • New Guinea: murder requires revenge--regardless of individual view
  • 20. Property: Private
    • Private property
    • Can be used to one’s own end
    • Community or public restrictions apply
    • One needs a permit to make renovations
    • Then there’s that ole debbil—Eminent Domain
    • Recent news: houses are being taken over by (private) corporations
  • 21. Property: Command Economies
    • State in command economies
    • Communist countries owned most productive assets
    • Upper Left: Chinese commune
    • Only remaining countries: Cuba, N. Korea
    • Inca: a administrative economy
    • Land mostly belonged to empire
    • Labor tax was motor of the Inca economy (lower left)
  • 22. Division of Labor: Gender and Age
    • Definition: Assignment of tasks based on societal rule or norm
    • Among foragers, horticulturalists, and pastoralists, division is assigned
    • By gender : women do some tasks; men, others
    • By age: youths do more strenuous tasks than the aged
    • The aged bring experience to each task
    • By part-time specialty: weaving, shamanism
    • But all handle jobs in primary sector: foraging or cultivating
  • 23. Division of Labor: Craft Specialization, Detail Labor
    • With intensive cultivation
    • More devote full time to specialized crafts
    • Knowledge extends to all aspects of a given craft
    • Some may specialize by region: W. Guatemala
    • Industrialization: Detail labor
    • Which is more efficient in pin production?
    • One man cutting wire, pointing pin, putting head on it, whiting it, and papering it
    • Or five men, one to each task?
  • 24. Division of Labor: Industrial Production System
    • Detail labor involves breaking each task down
    • To its subtasks in production
    • Assigning each subtask to each individual and
    • Ordering each individual how to do each subtask
  • 25. Effects: Globalized Division of Labor
    • Has enabled globalization of production
    • Labor intensive tasks sent to Third World
    • Such as this leatherworking operation in Ecuador
    • Result: downsizing and plant closures
    • Mexican maquiladoras close
    • As low wages in China or Bangladesh draw factories there
  • 26. Distribution: Exchange Relations
    • Once produced, good and service must be distributed
    • Three ways by which goods are distributed
    • Reciprocity: direct exchange of goods and services
    • Redistribution: Flow of goods and services to central authority, then returned in different form
    • Market exchange: buying and selling through price mechanism
  • 27. Imperatives of Exchange: Background
    • Marcel Mauss: The Gift
    • Preface: “When two groups of men meet, they may
    • move away or
    • in case of mistrust they may resort to arms
    • or else they may come to terms”
    • Coming to terms, he called “total prestations” or
    • an obligation that
    • has the force of law
    • in the absence of law
  • 28. Obligations of the Gift
    • Obligation to give
    • To extend social ties to other person or groups
    • Obligation to receive
    • To accept the relationship
    • Refusal is rejection of offered relationship
    • Induces hostilities
    • Obligation to repay
    • Failure to repay renders one a beggar
  • 29. Types of Reciprocity: Generalized
    • The obligations underlie the principles of reciprocity
    • Reciprocity: Direct exchange of goods and services
    • Generalized reciprocity: altruistic transactions in which
    • gifts are freely given without calculating value or repayment due
    • Example: meat distribution among !Kung (upper left)
    • Example: family pooling of resources, even birthday presents (lower left)
    • Usually occurs among close kin
  • 30. Types of Reciprocity: Balanced
    • Balanced reciprocity: Direct exchange
    • Value of gift is calculated
    • Time of repayment is specified
    • Selling surplus food (upper left)
    • Kula ring, Trobriand Islands
    • One trader gives partner a white armband (see map, lower left)
    • Expects a red necklace of equal value in return
    • Promissory gifts are made until return occurs
    • Usually occurs among distant kin
  • 31. Types of Reciprocity: Negative
    • Negative reciprocity: An exchange where
    • One party tries to get the better of the exchange
    • from the other party.
    • Example: hard bargaining or deception
    • Example: horse raids (upper left)
    • Example: selling prepared food to a captive market (lower left)
    • Usually occurs among unrelated persons
    • Variation: silent trade
  • 32. Case Study: Big Man Complex
    • Big men are headmen with a following
    • Following created by doing a favor (e.g. lending pigs)
    • Favor is difficult to repay
    • Individually, exchange is reciprocity
    • Collectively, has appearance of redistribution
  • 33. Big Men’s Power: Limits
    • Cannot enforce the obligations
    • Subject to competition to other big men
    • Exchange feasts every 10 years with another big man equal in status
  • 34. Redistribution
    • Process whereby goods and services
    • Flow to a central authority (king, chief, government)
    • Where they are sorted, counted, and
    • Reallocated
    • Classic example: Potlatch
    • Historical example: administered trade
  • 35. Redistribution: Socialist Model
    • Central feature of command economies
    • Ethnographic example: Inca labor tax
    • Here, men turn the soil with foot plows
    • While the women break up the clods
    • Modern examples: socialist countries
    • Students from across Latin America at Cuban medical school
  • 36. Market Exchange
    • Exchange of goods among many buyers and sellers
    • Directly, by barter, or
    • Indirectly, by money and pricing
    • Example: Yoruba market in Nigeria (upper left); Haitian market woman (lower left)
    • Markets include
    • Crowds of buyers and sellers
    • Instant information on prices
    • Freedom of market entry and exit
  • 37. Market Exchange: Actors
    • Actors are:
    • Supplier, whose willingness to sell is directly proportional to price increases
    • Purchaser, whose willingness to buy (demand) is directly proportional to price decreases
    • Interaction lead to price equilibrium--no profit
  • 38. Example: Regional Guatemalan Markets
    • Case Study: San Francisco el Alto
    • Entry: seller pay small tax; buyers pay none
    • Many buyers and sellers
    • Price is constant topic of conversation
    • Profit is minimal
    • Regional specialization guarantee buyers for product
  • 39. Conclusion
    • Economy entails distribution of goods and services
    • Still, economy is embedded in society
    • Big man complex involves politics
    • Maintains power by persuasion, negotiation
    • Kula ring is also embedded in prestige
    • Interconnections will be seen in other topics: social groups and politics