Anthropology of Economy

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* Book: The Anthropology of Economy. Community, Market, and Culture. By Stephen Gudeman. Blackwell, 2001



" Anthropology plays a special role in broadening our understanding of material life, for the less-recognized processes are displayed with special clarity in the situations ethnographers study. In this book I offer a cross-cultural model of economy drawn from anthropology, written theories, and contemporary life. My purpose is to develop a lexicon or language for discussing economic processes as well as environmental, welfare, distributional, and other contemporary issues. I argue that economy consists of two realms, which I call community v and market. Both facets make up economy, for humans are motivated by social fulfillment, curiosity, and the pleasure of mastery, as well as instrumental purpose, competition, and the accumulation of gains. By community, I refer to real, on-the-ground associations and to imagined solidarities that people experience. Market designates anonymous, short-term exchanges. We might call these two aspects of economy, the Up-close and the Far-distant. In one guise, economy is local and specific, constituted through social relationships and contextually defined values. In the other, it is impersonal, even global, and abstracted from social context; this dimension consists of separated but interacting agents. Both realms are ever-present but we bring now one, now the other into the foreground in practice and ideology. The relationship is complex: sometimes the two faces of economy are separated, at other times they are mutually dependent, opposed or interactive. But always their shifting relation is filled with tension. This book is about the dialectical relation of economy's two realms.

I shall especially try to portray the multiplicity of the community realm with its grounding in local values, and show how it and market are connected in institutions and practices. The motor of capitalism is profit-making, but I shall suggest that even the most market-driven actor - the national or global corporation - mixes the two realms and relies on the presence of communal relations and resources for its success."