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Economic Anthropology


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

Published in: Economy & Finance, Technology

Economic Anthropology

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