Economic anthropology


Economic anthropology

A forum to discuss how economic anthropology might be regenerated by taking advantage of new social forms such as this one.

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Latest Activity: Mar 26, 2017

texts referred to on the comments wall

Discussion Forum

Keith Hart on the human economy at MAD, New York, 29th November 7pm 3 Replies

Started by Keith Hart. Last reply by Keith Hart Dec 9, 2012.

The Madness of National Rankings

Started by John McCreery May 2, 2012.

Anthropology of finance 10 Replies

Started by Nathan Dobson. Last reply by Nathan Dobson Apr 30, 2012.

The story of the crash (and what to do about it) 19 Replies

Started by Keith Hart. Last reply by Nathan Dobson Apr 30, 2012.

Fungible money 2 Replies

Started by Nathan Dobson. Last reply by Nathan Dobson Mar 21, 2012.

Comment Wall


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Comment by Joshua Smith on June 1, 2011 at 4:02pm


Your work sounds interesting to me Kathryn and Im curious to where you see an entry point for alternative local voices in the forums of these imperially driven institutions. I work on these issues here in Canada and anthropology's roles in them as well. Here, there has been no real opening for the various indigenous voices and expertise to count even at municipal, provincial and federal tables. Canada holds on to a very deep rooted colonial mindset that continues to shut out communitutes who are fighting hard to protect fisheries, combat devastating mining practices and oil extractions. What is quite intereesting to me is the number of social scientists working 'with' so many of these groups 'collaboratively' and, yet, not really engaging in the political work of supporting self-determination, treaty rights (in Canada) and taking stands on the issues together with the people they are working 'with'. I wonder, too, if there is a place for vocies such as these at the IMF and the World Bank whose mandates seem to be unmovable in terms of unmovable economic and political ideologies? Many indigenous groups have been calling for this for decades, but when they are saying no to piplines, dams, deforestation, waste dumps, etc. Is  there a space for this discussion to even occur among these instiutions or are they fundamentally (structurally, ideologically) the problem ?

Comment by Kathryn Papp on June 1, 2011 at 3:33pm

I'm working on an article that draws comparisons between Wall Street traders' and indigenous peoples' management methods.  In the course of that I've found many instances of local people pushing back on outside incursions from economic forces ranging from national to EU bankers.

For me a defining moment for international ngos was the Copenhagen climate conference, where they were effectively walled-off eventhough there were many.

I think there has to be an international umbrella organization of ngos and civil society organizations that can speak at the same level as nations, UN, IMF, World Bank etc.  Better balance in the Polyani equation.

How do we start this?  There are many web listings of groups who could help - but it needs a dedicated home.

Comment by Carlos Ferreira on June 1, 2011 at 2:57pm



Not really brilliant, but I couldn't help reading The Last Transformation and finding that much of what Polanyi talks about is going on all over again - with the appropriate differences, of course. Neoliberalism is definitely not the same as Liberalism, and while the latter went down with a Bang (well, several), where will we all be when the former really, really kicks it - if ever? What are the differences, what are the pressure points this time around? Answers in the back of a postcard to the usual address, I suppose...

Comment by Kathryn Papp on May 30, 2011 at 10:18pm


You are brilliant!  

Yes, that is just it.  The Double Movement.  Now is the time to "talk about it" .  Global organizations are in a state of transition and even large financial organizations are questioning how best to do business ... the Germans are taking the lead. 

It is a push/pull of globalization and local movements, who are now much better organized and articulate about the importance of land rights, outside influence, cultural integrity.  With the advent of the internet and other connective technologies such as cell phones, GPS, satlinks, etc there is growing ability to counterbalance.

Large global organizations such as the World Bank/IFC, WTO, UNEP+DP, FAO have a responsibility to monitor and balance corporate expansionism with local economic integrity.  This could be quite a good role for them to play.  And if they don't --- well, as it is said "nature abors a vacuum"!

Right now there are few global fora in which to aggregate and present the multitude of local initiatives that exist around the world.  The South Americans are among the foremost in documenting and interpretting this movement.  The reports and case studies are widely dispersed in academia  - data mining could produce the kind of attention that it did for the climate science effort.  I clearly recall the amazement of scientists when multitudinous, informative, and credible data were unearthed in short spaces of time.

I see an important pivotal point here.

Comment by Carlos Ferreira on May 29, 2011 at 7:09pm
What to do, Kathryn? Search me. Is this a question of a double movement, the kind Polanyi describes it?
Comment by Kathryn Papp on May 24, 2011 at 3:17pm

I'm doing a comparison of indigenous watershed management systems and financial trading systems - they have much in common.

But what is interesting is finding that the long intact and efficient Bali water/ag/pest system has scale limits - essentially it has expanded as far as it can go without upsetting the ecosystem ... and any outside, especially top down, intrusion runs the great risk of tipping the entire, well-balanced, and intricate management system into chaos.  This has been recorded as happening twice already: with colonial Dutch tax collection that added an unnecessary management layer that mixed water and indigenous admin; and with the "green revolution" that added non-native rice stocks and untraditional inputs which threw off rice/water/pest balance of indigenous ecosystem management.

Those were both at relative "shock speed".

So what do we do?  In Bali and in the Gran Chaco - local groups are pushing back with mixed success using a mix of "tools" - GPS, observation reports, planning documents, alliances etc.

Comment by Carlos Ferreira on May 24, 2011 at 1:38pm
I agree with Kathryn's comment on the impraticality of exporting the capitalist model to other cultures - and would like to add that there are consequences in our culture too. There are pretty good reasons why certain goods have been contained in different spheres of exchange, and exposing them to market, especially at shock speed, is bound to create more problems than the ones it solves.
Comment by John McCreery on May 21, 2011 at 6:47am
Kieran Healy's review of David Henwood's After the New Economy should be of considerable interest to economic anthropologists. (Tip of the hat to Kerim Friedman on Savage Minds).
Comment by Kathryn Papp on May 13, 2011 at 3:44pm

Local self-sufficiency... Elinor Ostrom ... take a look at this paper, it is well-thoughtout.  Even a senior rep from the EU-environmental policy thinks it is a transportable model!


Comment by Julia Panther on May 13, 2011 at 2:45pm

Good - that's a relief!  Nor do I... I agree that local indigenous systems are necessary for resource management.  Makes me think of the work of Elinor Ostrom about how scarce resources can be managed by local people, rather than having to be privatised to avoid tragedy of commons...  Important thing is that rules of group managing the resource can be continously adapted to match ongoing changes in environment (social and physical).  I think the fact that these traders are playing away with people's lives in their air-conditioned offices is absolutely ridiculous - it should be made illegal... 

So what kind of money system should we use instead?  In another forum people have been talking about alternative types of money.  Some feel these systems need to be much bigger.  I think they still need to be local and trust-based, just for the kind of reasons we've been talking about - need to reflect local environment and needs of local people.  But presumably there needs to be a way for different areas of the world to trade with each other too...  Not sure how to combine local and global... but more local self-sufficiency would be no bad thing... we don't have to eat bananas... perhaps if people lived where their resources were being produced world population would more closely match the resources available... I don't mean I want people to starve, but there needs to be more information exchange between the natural world and the people who live in it....?  Living in cities and getting food from the supermarket, would be all too easy for food supply to suddenly run out and have no warning this was about to happen...


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