Economic anthropology


Economic anthropology

A forum to discuss how economic anthropology might be regenerated by taking advantage of new social forms such as this one.

Location: OAC
Members: 405
Latest Activity: Mar 26, 2017

texts referred to on the comments wall

Discussion Forum

Keith Hart on the human economy at MAD, New York, 29th November 7pm 3 Replies

Started by Keith Hart. Last reply by Keith Hart Dec 9, 2012.

The Madness of National Rankings

Started by John McCreery May 2, 2012.

Anthropology of finance 10 Replies

Started by Nathan Dobson. Last reply by Nathan Dobson Apr 30, 2012.

The story of the crash (and what to do about it) 19 Replies

Started by Keith Hart. Last reply by Nathan Dobson Apr 30, 2012.

Fungible money 2 Replies

Started by Nathan Dobson. Last reply by Nathan Dobson Mar 21, 2012.

Comment Wall


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Comment by Davide Torsello on September 7, 2010 at 1:37pm
Hello to all,
I am an Italian social anthropologist based in Bergamo. I have been trained in anthropology mostly abroad (Japan, England, Germany) and finally I headed back to my country. In my past research I became interested in economic issues in anthropology particularly in relation with secondary economic practices, household living strategies, property. Recently I deal with reciprocity and corruption. I concentrate on Central Eastern Europe (Slovakia, Hungary and Czech Republic) where I study outcomes of large development projects on urban centres, looking at corruption discourses, environmental issues and civic organizations. I did other fieldwork research experiences in Japan and southern Italy.
I am very glad to join this list about which I discovered only some days ago and I am looking forward future discussion.
Comment by Richard Francis on September 2, 2010 at 4:31pm
Dear Keith,
Many thanks for your welcome. I have also joined a few other groups of interest and look forward to the discussions. Thanks also for the references. It was interesting to see the export of the 'Wall Street' culture to Russian investment banks in the past 20 years. the '98 crisis in Russia was a partial portent for the recent crisis. The Chinese have been more cautious in adopting this culture. I am curious to see what may arise instead.
Comment by Keith Hart on September 2, 2010 at 4:14pm
Welcome, Richard. If you go to the Groups index and click on the right-hand icon after Views, you will see all the Groups laid out alphabetically. There are at least a couple dealing with applied business anthropology. Traffic has not been high over the summer, but we hope that life in some of the Groups, such as this one, will pick up now that the holidays are over.

It is a curious fact that the financial crisis seems to have flushed out a number of major monographs by anthropologists. They include: Karen Ho's Liquidated: An ethnography of Wall Street; Alexandra Ouroussoff's Wall Street at War (which focuses on conflict between CEOs and the ratings agencies); and Gillian Tett's Fool's Gold (which exposed the history of credit derivatives). Tett is an FT journalist with a PhD in social anthropology.

A reviewer in the FT noted that books like these suggest a new synthesis of anthropology, economics and history may be round the corner.
Comment by Richard Francis on September 2, 2010 at 3:46pm
Hi to all,
Just an introduction as I join the group.
Although my early training was in anthropology, I have become more involved in government and international business. I still like to catch up with what is going on in economic anthropology. With my anthropological qualifications, I have managed to have an interesting career in international business. I have lived and worked in Taiwan, Russia, India, UK, Spain, Switzerland and Lithuania. I often regret not being more integrated into the anthropological discipline to make the most of these opportunities to generate knowledge. Personal laziness and the fast pace of international business life is one reason for 'missed opportunities'. Another is the methodological difficulty of doing 'acceptable' business ethnography 'on the fly'. I will be interested to see if an applied 'Business Anthropology ' might be able to build methodologies to bridge this gap - and how this will relate to existing theory in economic anthropology. best regards to all, Richard
Comment by Richard Wilk on January 15, 2010 at 11:32pm
CHORD workshop Call for Papers:

'Commerce and Illegality, 1500-2000'

21 April 2010

University of Wolverhampton, UK

The Centre for the History of Retailing and Distribution invites participants to a workshop devoted to a discussion of illicit and illegal commercial practices, from 1500 to the present.

Proposals are invited covering any form of dodgy dealing and any geographical location.

Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

· The trade in stolen goods

· Fraud, misrepresentation, unethical and sharp practices

· Commerce and the legal system

· Black markets and unlicensed dealing

· Kleptomania, retail theft and shoplifting

· Consumer and retailer protection organisations

Please e-mail proposals (including title and c. 200 words abstract) to the address below by 5 February 2010.

For further information and to submit proposals, please contact :

Laura Ugolini


Workshop web-page:

CHORD web-page:

Dr Laura Ugolini
Reader in History

School of Law, Social Sciences and Communications
MC Building
University of Wolverhampton
Comment by Keith Hart on November 29, 2009 at 1:59pm
John, I was introduced to Pigou's Economics of Welfare as an undergraduate at Cambridge in the 60s, where it was the basic textbook. At the time, I thought economics was a bore and especially him. Like most members of my generation I thought I was an orphan, entirely responsible for my own life and owing no debt to those who came before, especially my own parents. Of course it dawned on me later that they fought the war against fascism and installed the welfare state that made me possible. But I didn't want to know that then. As a teacher, I have found it hard to get history across to students who have something of the same attitude, but nothing like as bad as we did.

Nick Stern is the man who resurrected Pigou. He is very bright and, for an economist, very human, an East End Jewish working class boy who made it all the way to the top. I knew him when he was chief economist at the World Bank. His report on the economics of global warming resurrected Pigou from the limbo where the Keynesians, Marxists and Friedmanites put him.

I have ordered the author of this article, John Cassidy's book, When Markets Fail. Perhaps it will lead me to Pigou at last. But it took my two decades to get past the first chapter of Capital and I only got as far as the Preface in The Critique of Pure Reason, so I am not holding my breath.
Comment by John McCreery on November 29, 2009 at 6:47am
Keith, what is your take on Pigou?
Comment by John McCreery on November 26, 2009 at 10:48am
Kathleen, we are not so far apart as you seem to imagine. Every entrepreneur, activist and, yes, interesting scholar looks beyond the status quo to new possibilities. You remind me, however, of one of Mao Tse-tung's essays, in which he criticizes a young cadre who charges into a village without first making a careful study of the conditions in which he is trying to promote the revolution. I think, too, of how many of us were so terribly excited about the possibility of China's creating a new socialist human being freed from the chains of feudal and capitalist institutions — back before the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, the Gang of Four and Tienanmen.

That said, you might be interested in something I wrote yesterday for the Theorizing Identities group,

In my experience, anthropologists tend to think of structures in terms of constraints, obstacles to individual autonomy. We neglect the fact that structures can also be opportunities. When I think of my own life, I note, at one end of the scale, that the position of the USA in the post-WWII world system has made my passport extraordinarily desirable. Being born in the USA in a middle-class family, growing up in a state and county with good public schools, being able to go to college and then to graduate school — I grew up with structures on my side, opening doors wherever I turned. On a more micro level, the fact that when I found myself an unemployed anthropologist, I was married to a very smart woman who was doing Japanese literature and had a colleague who had worked in advertising in Japan and the timing that brought us to Japan shortly before the economic bubble of the 1980s...but enough of that. The critical point is that structures always leave people with choices. Some may be hard choices. A girl in Afghanistan going to a school that may be bombed any day, facing the threat of violence from those around her who believe that she is destroying local values is one example. A battered wife with no job skills and children she needs to protect may have more than psychological issues preventing her from leaving an abusive husband. But choices and the possibility of courage remain.

Perhaps we anthropologists need to pay more attention to that.
Comment by Kathleen Lowrey on November 26, 2009 at 1:36am
I like to think of the ethnographic record as tracking not the limits of possibility, but the lack thereof... As a feminist, I'd be filled with despair if I thought the only possible models were the ones human societies have already tried. I've always thought "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs" is one of Marx's greatest lines -- the point is not to look to the existing evidence to prove or disprove it but to forge on in that direction!
Comment by John McCreery on November 26, 2009 at 12:40am
I also loved Kathleen's last post. A very sharp reading of Marx with, I note, direct connection to discussions now underway in the Anthropology of Consumption group. I remain, however, unconvinced by Keith's suggestion that "the complementary currency movement is seeking to contrive a social situation where scarcity is not the natural condition of individuals."

I say "unconvinced" because my awareness of the movement has just been awakened by Elaine's pointer to the Totnes pound and in that case, at least, the motivation behind the movement is far more down to earth. Like other small towns (I know of similar cases in Europe, North America, and Japan), Totnes' local economy is being drained as money flows to other larger centers. Local merchants are suffering. Jobs and, if young people who lack employment are emigrating, the very existence of the community may be at stake. (I am reminded here of depopulated rural towns in the American Midwest and rural Japan.)

If my reading is correct — I am well aware it may not be — local currency is one of a number of possible strategies, all of which at the end of the day come down to a form of "buy local" protectionism and feed on nostalgia for an imagined self-sufficiency and good old days when people took care of each other. I say imagined because if there is anything that ethnography has clearly revealed, it is the endemic nature of bickering, conflict, and feud in small communities.

There is a remarkable dearth of evidence that "to each according to his needs, from each according to his abilities" is even remotely possible, thus the need to consider new institutional frameworks along the lines suggested by Jean-Louis Laville.

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