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ECONOMIC SYSTEMS An Anthropological Perspective
Are All Humans Driven by a Profit Motive to Accumulate? • How many would ask your boss for a salary cut? • Who aspires to earn less in 5 years than you do now? • Which of your possessions are you willing to give up?
The Capitalist Market Economy • Assumptions: • The world is a commodity • Human material wants are unlimited • The means to acquire these wants limited • People economize – make rational choices among alternatives to maximize individual profit • We allocate scarce resources to increase material well-being • New car? Send child to college? Vacation?
FORMALIST ECONOMICS • The Capitalist Market Economy • Maximization • Free Market – Law of Supply & Demand (“Invisible Hand”) • Labor is a Commodity • Mechanized Technology (“efficiency”) • Rationality • Capitalism Requires Accumulation • Inequality is Inherent
The Big Assumption: • Formalist Economics can be applied to ANY society
Can Formalist Economics be Applied to Understand Non-Capitalist Societies? • How well can we understand behavior in other cultures as maximizing or based on profit motive? • Some cultures maximize social realtions • !Kung – Ethic of Reciprocity • Some cultures maximize Prestige • Melanesia – Big Man gives away wealth • Kwakiutl – Potlatch
Karl Polanyi, Substantivist: 3 Systems of Exchange • Reciprocity • Generalized Reciprocity (!Kung, Bands) • Balanced Reciprocity (Trobriand Kula, Tribes) • Negative Reciprocity (Gambling, theft) • Redistribution (Kwakiutl, Chiefdoms) • Market Principle (U.S., States) • Price based on supply & demand
All forms may be present: • U.S. generalized reciprocity – • U.S. balanced reciprocity – • U.S. redistribution –
Non-Capitalist Economies • Tiv Spheres of Exchange (Nigeria) • Prestige can be a scarce good • Prestige is the basis of an elaborate economic institution that has little to do with subsistence • Multicentric economy: exclusive spheres of exchange marked by different moral values
WIVES – Rights in Wives, Brass Rods = Special Purpose Money PRESTIGE – Exchange at ceremonies: Slaves, cattle, ritual office, Medicine, Magic, Brass Rods = General Purpose Money within the sphere; Do not enter market sphere SUBSISTENCE – barter WIVES PRESTIGE SUBSITENCE
Wives Sphere • Marriage: Sister exchange • The only “price” for a woman is another woman • Ward-sharing groups; exchange in women lags in time • Brass Rods or Cattle = Ernest Payment during lag • Bridewealth is paid with prestige goods, brass rods
Rationale: Invest to convert subsistence goods into prestige goods & prestige goods into wives • CONVEYENCE: Exchange within a sphere (morally neutral) • CONVERSION: Exchange between spheres (moral quality) • The Ultimate Maximization
MONEY • MEANS OF EXCHANGE: Use to purchase goods • MODE OF PAYMENT: Use to pay debts • STANDARD OF VALUE: Can compare value of goods
If money serves all 3 purposes, it is GENERAL PURPOSE MONEY • If money serves only 1 or 2 of the purposes, it is SPECIAL PURPOSE MONEY • Do we have special purpose money?
If money serves all 3 purposes, it is GENERAL PURPOSE MONEY • If money serves only 1 or 2 of the purposes, it is SPECIAL PURPOSE MONEY • Do we have special purpose money? • Meal ticket • Copy card • Bus token
Which did the Tiv have? • Brass Rods = GENERAL PURPOSE MONEY WITHIN the Prestige Sphere • Brass Rods = SPECIAL PURPOSE MONEY ONLY in the Wives Sphere
Change • The British Colonial System introduced General Purpose Money • This broke down distinctions between the three spheres • The British imposed taxes & outlawed sister exchange • The Tiv paid for wives in money, thus converting down • The price of bridewealth soared • Wealth differences increased • Debts increased
Trobriand Kula Ring The Trobrianders maximize prestige • Kula is a formalized exchange system, distinct from subsistence activities • Life-long trading partners • The more partners, the more prestige • Each shell necklace or armband has a known history, acquires fame
Magical rituals for safe trip, to make trading partner generous • Sea reefs, giant octopii, flying witches • The danger makes kula trade seem irrational • Taboos on sex
Complex Kula Rules • Only trading partners exchange prestige items • They are given to trading partners with great ceremony • Host is obligated to trade & offer hospitality to guest • Subsidiary trade takes place among non-partners • These are practical items with no ritual value
The Kula gifts are not kept—prestige is gained by giving it away in ritual gesture • There is expectation that items of comparable value will be exchanged within a reasonable time • This is an example of BALANCED RECIPROCITY
Kwakiutl Potlatch • “Potlatch” means “gift” • Prestige is acquired by giving valuable gifts away • Each village has a hierarchy of offices marked by titles, crests, the rights to masks, songs, & symbols used in ceremonies
Potlatch • Is held to validate hereditary titles & social rank • Totem poles symbolize the ancestral titles claimed by chiefs of the village • Rank & prestige are scarce commodities • Amount of goods given away reveals prestige
How to Potlatch • The host traces his line of descent • Recounts the ancestral origin of the title he seeks • Demonstrates the validity of his claim to the title, privileges, masks, etc. • Until publicly validated, no right to titles • Like notarizing a document
The Potlatch Unit • The extended family of the chief • Assist in preparation & assembling goods for distribution • Convince others to give blankets, carved cedar chests, barrels of oil, boats, etc. • The group may spend years accumulating enough goods
Formal Ritual With Complex Rules • Invite guests from other villages • Guests are seated in rank order • Speech making • Display of crests, masks, performance of dances • Presentation of title • Redistribution of gifts, according to rank order of guests
Elaborate System of Conversion Among Economic Spheres • Coppers: (prestige item) • Each is named, has a history that is publicly known • If coppers are given away in ceremony, value is now in the prestige sphere 1875
Conversion The ideal is the conversion of goods into a higher, prestige sphere • Introduction of a cash economy intensified the potlatch • Caused inflation • Introduction of trade goods led to rivalry potlatches
Rivalry Potlatch • Where two potential heirs claimed the same title • Each rival held a potlatch, invited the same guests, denied or belittled the claims of his rival • To show economic superiority, destroyed valuable goods
Aim: to convert goods into coppers, acquire the ultimate prestige of destroying the copper • Break copper into pieces & throw into sea • 1880s Canadian law prohibited potlatch & police confiscated the coppers