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ECONOMIC SYSTEMS. An Anthropological Perspective. Bartering. 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?.

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Economic systems

ECONOMIC SYSTEMS

An Anthropological Perspective



Are all humans driven by a profit motive to accumulate
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
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
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
The Big Assumption:

  • Formalist Economics can be applied to ANY society


Can formalist economics be applied to understand non capitalist societies
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
Karl Polanyi, Substantivist: 3 Systems of Exchange Non-Capitalist Societies?

  • 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: Non-Capitalist Societies?

    • U.S. generalized reciprocity –

    • U.S. balanced reciprocity –

    • U.S. redistribution –


Non capitalist economies
Non-Capitalist Economies Non-Capitalist Societies?

  • 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, Non-Capitalist Societies?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
Wives Sphere Non-Capitalist Societies?

  • 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



Money
MONEY prestige goods & prestige goods into wives

  • 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 prestige goods & prestige goods into wivesGENERAL 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 prestige goods & prestige goods into wivesGENERAL 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? prestige goods & prestige goods into wives

  • Brass Rods = GENERAL PURPOSE MONEY WITHIN the Prestige Sphere

  • Brass Rods = SPECIAL PURPOSE MONEY ONLY in the Wives Sphere


Change
Change prestige goods & prestige goods into wives

  • 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
Trobriand Kula Ring prestige goods & prestige goods into wives

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


Trobriand kula ring1
Trobriand Kula Ring prestige goods & prestige goods into wives


  • Magical rituals for safe trip, prestige goods & prestige goods into wives

    to make trading partner generous

    • Sea reefs, giant octopii, flying witches

    • The danger makes kula trade seem irrational

    • Taboos on sex


Complex kula rules
Complex Kula Rules prestige goods & prestige goods into wives

  • 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



Kwakiutl potlatch
Kwakiutl Potlatch it away in ritual gesture

  • “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
Potlatch it away in ritual gesture

  • 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
How to Potlatch it away in ritual gesture

  • 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 Potlatch Unit it away in ritual gesture

  • 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
Formal Ritual it away in ritual gestureWith 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
Elaborate System of Conversion Among Economic Spheres it away in ritual gesture

  • 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
Conversion it away in ritual gesture

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
Rivalry Potlatch it away in ritual gesture

  • 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




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