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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
  • 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
slide9
All forms may be present:
    • U.S. generalized reciprocity –
    • U.S. balanced reciprocity –
    • U.S. redistribution –
non capitalist economies
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
slide11

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
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
slide13
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
MONEY
  • MEANS OF EXCHANGE: Use to purchase goods
  • MODE OF PAYMENT: Use to pay debts
  • STANDARD OF VALUE: Can compare value of goods
slide15
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?
slide16
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
slide17
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
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
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
slide21
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
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
slide23
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
slide32
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