I just watched Keith Hart at Cambridge talking about the diffuse nature of Cambridge networks and the implications of that for the possibility of radical change and a real and sustained attack on global inequality (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YsGfDU1gATU&feature=relmfu). It is nice to listen to my esteemed colleague who sees the world as I do, but who seems more optimistic. His glass seems three-quarters…Continue
The question arises: Why did the Great Recession happen? My answer is poleconomic i.e., that it was due to…Continue
“For most of the last century, the basic bargain at the heart of the American economy was that employers paid their workers enough to buy what American employers were selling” (Reich 2011). Robert Reich indicates that this basic bargain created a virtuous cycle of higher living standards, more jobs and better wages. I am going to say that from a purely economic standpoint the cycle was virtuous, but when one takes a longer view, through environmental glasses, that capitalist bargain…Continue
Those in power almost always want to stay in power and they have the official means to manipulate the system in ways that underwrites the status quo. Let’s take an example from the Arab Spring in Egypt. As reported on Al Jazzera, the ruling military tribunal in Egypt released details about the districts and rules governing the upcoming 2011 parliamentary elections. They way they decided to map out the districts and write the governing rules of each favored the election of…Continue
Added by Eugene L. Mendonsa on September 29, 2011 at 5:33pm — No Comments
An anthropologist studying political economy in ethnographic situations or by reading history can get a perspective on the locus of problems in contemporary society. The problem is that anthropologists are almost never consulted in these matters – economists are. As a rule, they lack the ethnographic and historical insights a seasoned anthropologist gets from doing fieldwork and reading history. History is important and it can teach us many things. This applies to what I see happening in…Continue
Before one tritely dismisses the term Casino Capitalism, one should read the book by that title by Susan Strange. Furthermore, the analogy between a casino, where the odds are stacked against most players; and the capitalist world is apt. For example, much of the crisis of the moment began with powerful men betting with our futures. William Cohan (2010) largely attributes the fall of Bear Stearns and its disastrous results for the rest of us to a lack of supervision of greedy folks at…Continue
The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones
Act 3, scene II of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.
Inequality can generate fascism from either end of the political spectrum. Let me give you first fascism coming from the American right some eight decades ago and then a contemporary example from South Africa.
The 1930s in…Continue
Added by Eugene L. Mendonsa on September 23, 2011 at 9:07pm — No Comments
Recently, Naked Capitalism reported a London study entitled Bankers-Anthropological Study (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/sep/14/bankers-anthropological-study-joris-luyendijk). In it the Dutch anthropologist Joris Luyendijk indicates that while bankers are widely reviled, he is finding them to be very…Continue
What could undermine the stranglehold of global capitalists? As millions slip into poverty while the super-rich make fantastic profits, what could loosen their grip?
Gramsci (1971, 1991) gave us the concept of hegemony, which he saw as the result of the activities of politicians establishing rules of predominant influence over a public. Over and against these efforts by leaders, however, power…Continue
In my book, The Creation of Political Domination: From the Paleolithic to the Present I present scores of history and ethnographic cases describing how aspiring men fabricated symbolic representations to rise to power and attempt to stay there by controlling the flow of information. This process of fabrication began with the advent of a storable-stealable-surplus roughly in the early years of the Neolithic and continues today.
In this short article I want to outline the way…Continue
Added by Eugene L. Mendonsa on August 31, 2011 at 4:00pm — No Comments
From the book: The Creation of Political Domination: From the Paleolithic to the Present by Eugene L. Mendonsa, Ph.D
The Emergence of Stratification in Little Chiefdoms
Clastres seems to pine for simplicity and order in Amerindian society; while the Yokut-Mono data show men strategizing and scheming on the backstage of office. The…Continue
Added by Eugene L. Mendonsa on August 27, 2011 at 4:07pm — No Comments
(From the book: The Creation of Political Domination: From the Paleolithic to the Present by Eugene L. Mendonsa, Ph.D) Part 2 follows
As I have said, aggrandizers are born in every society in every epoch. Some are born into a cultural habitus (milieu) that is conducive to their acquisitive nature – the need to control others and desirable material goods. Others were not born into conducive circumstances and their…Continue
Added by Eugene L. Mendonsa on August 27, 2011 at 3:53pm — No Comments
Anthropologists interested in political anthropology and/or economic anthropology need to think in terms of poleconomics. In some of my publications I have used the term poleconomics to indicate that political power and economic clout go hand-in-hand. That is, those with great wealth either attain high office or have greater than average influence over politicos and political processes. On the one hand, being in office can open up opportunities to achieve great wealth if one makes the…Continue
Added by Eugene L. Mendonsa on August 25, 2011 at 3:00pm — No Comments
In history and many ethnographic treatises we see office-holders and their subordinate officials seeking to create upward flows of tribute. They essentially used five means to produce rents: (1) They inexorably moved to control a portion of primary producers’ output. (2) They also conquered neighboring communities to transform them into tribute-paying clients. (3) Another tactic was to control artisans and the production of prestige items. (4) A further device was to control traders…Continue
Added by Eugene L. Mendonsa on August 17, 2011 at 5:02pm — No Comments
In my writings on political economy I have often used the term poleconomic to highlight the fact that politics (the use of power) is never unconnected to those with economic clout. They are two sides of a coin. Persons with political power are usually either wealthy or in bed with the rich; and those with lots of money almost always try to influence those with political power. The majority of citizens stand on the sidelines.
The situation in our present globalized…Continue
The common folks of my small unincorporated village in Northern California are grumbling about capitalism’s negative impacts on their lives. They usually don’t phrase it like that, but rather they blame the government or the rich or a given political party or the whole bunch of them that the folks of my community call “they.” “They are screwing us.” But we don’t have any riots in my village – ones like we see in the streets of the Middle East, London, Greece, Chile or now Israel. …Continue
Added by Eugene L. Mendonsa on August 14, 2011 at 4:22pm — No Comments
Asa M. Larsson wrote: “The whole structure-agency debate that still carries on in various forms owes a lot to Marxism as well.” I do not see that connection, specifically, but I am open to being educated on the subject. Rather, more broadly I see those anthropological theorists advocating agency, of whom I was one, as arising out of a reaction against positivism, structural-functionalism and the mechanicalism of Durkheim and his followers. I can see how it could also have arisen as a…Continue
Added by Eugene L. Mendonsa on August 12, 2011 at 4:48pm — No Comments
In the recent London riots, two young English youths were interviewed on camera and made interesting comments. One girl, who was drinking from a bottle of purloined wine, said: “We showed the police and the rich people that we can do anything we want.” Her friends and accomplices were nodding in agreement. Another young man said he and his friends were angry because they had wanted to go to university, but recent changes by government had prevented this.
Anger seethes in the…Continue
The Whitehall studies found a strong association between grade levels of civil servant employment and mortality rates from a range of causes. For instance, males in the lowest grade (messengers, doorkeepers, etc.) had a mortality rate three times higher than that of males in the highest grade (administrators). These and other studies indicate that those in the lower ranks of society, the poor and powerless especially,…Continue
Added by Eugene L. Mendonsa on August 8, 2011 at 3:40pm — No Comments
Recently, a colleague suggested that any analysis of the origins of political domination falls into the category of speculation or philosophy, that which my teachers at Cambridge would have called “armchair anthropology.” But that is an easy way of ignoring the fact that we have a great deal of historical and ethnographic data to bolster any speculative hypotheses.
Here is my hypothesis: The origins of political domination lie in the early structures formulated as kin…Continue