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
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Latest Activity: Jan 22

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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.

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Comment by Kathryn Papp on May 30, 2011 at 10:18pm


You are brilliant!  

Yes, that is just it.  The Double Movement.  Now is the time to "talk about it" .  Global organizations are in a state of transition and even large financial organizations are questioning how best to do business ... the Germans are taking the lead. 

It is a push/pull of globalization and local movements, who are now much better organized and articulate about the importance of land rights, outside influence, cultural integrity.  With the advent of the internet and other connective technologies such as cell phones, GPS, satlinks, etc there is growing ability to counterbalance.

Large global organizations such as the World Bank/IFC, WTO, UNEP+DP, FAO have a responsibility to monitor and balance corporate expansionism with local economic integrity.  This could be quite a good role for them to play.  And if they don't --- well, as it is said "nature abors a vacuum"!

Right now there are few global fora in which to aggregate and present the multitude of local initiatives that exist around the world.  The South Americans are among the foremost in documenting and interpretting this movement.  The reports and case studies are widely dispersed in academia  - data mining could produce the kind of attention that it did for the climate science effort.  I clearly recall the amazement of scientists when multitudinous, informative, and credible data were unearthed in short spaces of time.

I see an important pivotal point here.

Comment by Carlos Ferreira on May 29, 2011 at 7:09pm
What to do, Kathryn? Search me. Is this a question of a double movement, the kind Polanyi describes it?
Comment by Kathryn Papp on May 24, 2011 at 3:17pm

I'm doing a comparison of indigenous watershed management systems and financial trading systems - they have much in common.

But what is interesting is finding that the long intact and efficient Bali water/ag/pest system has scale limits - essentially it has expanded as far as it can go without upsetting the ecosystem ... and any outside, especially top down, intrusion runs the great risk of tipping the entire, well-balanced, and intricate management system into chaos.  This has been recorded as happening twice already: with colonial Dutch tax collection that added an unnecessary management layer that mixed water and indigenous admin; and with the "green revolution" that added non-native rice stocks and untraditional inputs which threw off rice/water/pest balance of indigenous ecosystem management.

Those were both at relative "shock speed".

So what do we do?  In Bali and in the Gran Chaco - local groups are pushing back with mixed success using a mix of "tools" - GPS, observation reports, planning documents, alliances etc.

Comment by Carlos Ferreira on May 24, 2011 at 1:38pm
I agree with Kathryn's comment on the impraticality of exporting the capitalist model to other cultures - and would like to add that there are consequences in our culture too. There are pretty good reasons why certain goods have been contained in different spheres of exchange, and exposing them to market, especially at shock speed, is bound to create more problems than the ones it solves.
Comment by John McCreery on May 21, 2011 at 6:47am
Kieran Healy's review of David Henwood's After the New Economy should be of considerable interest to economic anthropologists. (Tip of the hat to Kerim Friedman on Savage Minds).
Comment by Kathryn Papp on May 13, 2011 at 3:44pm

Local self-sufficiency... Elinor Ostrom ... take a look at this paper, it is well-thoughtout.  Even a senior rep from the EU-environmental policy thinks it is a transportable model!


Comment by Julia Panther on May 13, 2011 at 2:45pm

Good - that's a relief!  Nor do I... I agree that local indigenous systems are necessary for resource management.  Makes me think of the work of Elinor Ostrom about how scarce resources can be managed by local people, rather than having to be privatised to avoid tragedy of commons...  Important thing is that rules of group managing the resource can be continously adapted to match ongoing changes in environment (social and physical).  I think the fact that these traders are playing away with people's lives in their air-conditioned offices is absolutely ridiculous - it should be made illegal... 

So what kind of money system should we use instead?  In another forum people have been talking about alternative types of money.  Some feel these systems need to be much bigger.  I think they still need to be local and trust-based, just for the kind of reasons we've been talking about - need to reflect local environment and needs of local people.  But presumably there needs to be a way for different areas of the world to trade with each other too...  Not sure how to combine local and global... but more local self-sufficiency would be no bad thing... we don't have to eat bananas... perhaps if people lived where their resources were being produced world population would more closely match the resources available... I don't mean I want people to starve, but there needs to be more information exchange between the natural world and the people who live in it....?  Living in cities and getting food from the supermarket, would be all too easy for food supply to suddenly run out and have no warning this was about to happen...

Comment by Kathryn Papp on May 11, 2011 at 6:24pm

Julia - no I don't think it would improve management of natural resources, mostly because I think it is already being done by indigenous people's own systems, which assign different names to the various properties but achieve similar outcomes - except they are not playing games and have a much more nuanced understanding of where they "live".

It is scary to think that this is NOW operating in an ethical vacuum with the implications for far away peoples, animals, plants being totally unaccounted for at the place/level where decisions are being made.

Perhaps, regular visits to the places and people whose lives they trade on an hourly basis would be a way to help connect these traders.  How about a network of volunteer homes where they could get a taste of where they really work??  The network could be funded by the financial institutions' own foundations and run as a nonprofit.  With regular evening sessions with anthropologists, conservation biologists, local farmers, ethicists, and of course indigenous people themselves (if they agree).  A thought ...

Comment by Julia Panther on May 11, 2011 at 11:39am

That article was fascinating, Kathryn... but horrifying.  What would people say if thet world's financial markets were being decided by the outcomes of a group of teenage boys playing on video games??  How is this really any different?  Reminded me of the fact that people working for the Nazi regime were able to do such awful things in their working lives because there was such a complete split between their work and home lives... Surely it can never be healthy or ethical for people to be engaging in their working lives as if they were merely playing a game...  And where do the values and behavioural codes they apply to this game (of market trading) come from?  From popularized versions of evolutionary theory??  From a childhood misspent playing too many video games?  Isn't there some way to reconnect these traders to the real world?  And does this require a whole new system of money, or just a different culture/environment/training for traders?

And to answer your question, no I really don't think it would improve management of natural resources at a local level - do you?

Comment by Kathryn Papp on May 10, 2011 at 4:51pm

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