Keith Hart's Blog (34)

The uniqueness of humanity: a philosophical discussion (video)

The Uniqueness of Humanity examines the human condition through the lens of evolutionary theory. Darwin's work appears to ally evolution with advance, and we are often compelled to place humanity at the top of a hierarchy. Is…


Added by Keith Hart on December 1, 2013 at 11:50pm — 5 Comments

The anthropology of money and finance: from ethnography to world history

Come read and discuss an essay by Horacio Ortiz and myself posted online in separate parts, either here or on my website.

We review developments in the anthropology of money and finance over the last century, listing its achievements, shortcomings and prospects. Since the 1960s, anthropologists have tended to restrict themselves to niche fields and marginal debates.…


Added by Keith Hart on September 4, 2013 at 5:30pm — 21 Comments

The human economy: a strategy in the struggle for happiness

An earlier essay, ‘Manifesto for a human economy‘, deals explicitly with the object, theory and methods of a human economy approach. Here I examine some of the precedents for such an approach in the history of modern revolutions, drawing on Kant, Jefferson, Tocqueville, James and Gandhi.

‘Human economy’ is one way of taking forward the great conversation about making a better world.…


Added by Keith Hart on July 14, 2013 at 5:00pm — 2 Comments

An African liberal revolution in the 21st century?

I have just posted an essay exploring the prospects for African emancipation (as part of a world revolution) in the decades ahead. It's full title is Waiting for emancipation: towards an African liberal revolution. You can find it here. The essay summarises Africans' history of relations with the rest of the world and their current situation as the…

Added by Keith Hart on July 4, 2013 at 11:00am — No Comments

The case for an African customs union

I will first explain what I mean by saying that the informal economy, a concept I was associated with coining in the early 1970s, has taken over the world, largely as a result of neoliberal deregulation over the last three decades (pp. 1-3). After a brief account of my own early exposure to West Africa (pp. 3-5), I turn to the question of how and why Africa has long been a symbol of global inequality. Even after independence, Africans are still waiting from emancipation (pp. 5-10). Even so…


Added by Keith Hart on June 6, 2013 at 3:24pm — No Comments

After the disaster (but before Krugman endorsed Klein's shock doctrine)

Nate Roberts posted a link on Facebook to a recent piece by Paul Krugman essentially saying that he once thought Naomi Klein's views on neoliberalism were extreme, but now he thinks she could be right. This led me to look up an Anthropology Today editorial I published in…


Added by Keith Hart on May 19, 2013 at 9:30am — No Comments

The Human Economy approach endorsed by Nobel laureate economist aged 102

Ronald Coase, an American economist of British origin, won a Nobel prize for inventing the idea of transaction costs in his famous paper "The nature of the firm" (1937). He is now 102 years old and has just announced his desire, with a young Chinese associate, to found a new journal called "Man and the economy" (well he was born in 1910).

A century ago, Alfred Marshall, author of Principles of Economics (1890) and Keynes' teacher at Cambridge defined economics as “both a study of…


Added by Keith Hart on January 18, 2013 at 1:14pm — 11 Comments

The limits of Karl Polanyi's anti-market approach in the struggle for economic democracy

I am a fully paid-up member of the Karl Polanyi fan club. In the past few years I have published, with my collaborators, a collection of essays on the significance of The Great Transformation for understanding our times (Blanc 2011, Holmes 2012) and have made him a canonical figure for my versions of economic anthropology, the human economy and the history of money. I have also published two short biographical articles on him. I have contributed in this way to the recent outpouring of…


Added by Keith Hart on January 16, 2013 at 6:37pm — No Comments

How the informal economy took over the world

The idea of an informal economy was born at the moment when the post-war era of developmental states was drawing to a close. The 1970s were a watershed between three decades of state management of the economy and the free market decades of one-world capitalism that ended with the financial crisis of 2008. It seems now that the economy has escaped from all attempts to make it publicly accountable. What are the forms of state that can regulate a world of money that is now essentially lawless?…


Added by Keith Hart on October 17, 2012 at 6:30pm — 4 Comments

Germaine Tillion (1907-2008) on the method of the human sciences

An unpublished essay in French, "To live in order to understand", by Germaine Tillion (1907-2008) from Le Monde Diplomatique, August 2009. Preface by Tsvetan Todorov. An ethnographer of North Africa and historian, she joined the resistance in WW2 and was put in a concentration camp; she intervened against the Algerian genocide. Here she lays out a powerful and moving case for a humane methodology…


Added by Keith Hart on August 26, 2012 at 8:00pm — 11 Comments

In Rousseau's footsteps: David Graeber and the anthropology of unequal society

A review of David Graeber Debt: The first 5,000 years (Melville House, New York, 2011, 534 pages)

Debt is everywhere today. What is “sovereign debt” and why must Greece pay up, but not the United States? Who decides that the national debt will be repaid through austerity programmes rather than job-creation schemes? Why do the banks get bailed out, while students and home-owners are forced to repay loans? The very word debt speaks of unequal power; and the world economic…


Added by Keith Hart on July 5, 2012 at 8:11am — 7 Comments

Money in the making of world society: lessons of the euro crisis

Europe in the global economic crisis

I have been writing about the euro for a decade (Hart 2002, 2007a, 2012), always from a critical perspective, since I have long believed that a single currency cannot address the needs of a large and diverse region. Moreover, the European Union’s ambition to transcend national capitalism by becoming a federal power in the world economy was always compromised by yoking member states to a system whose logic harks back to the gold standard.…


Added by Keith Hart on June 9, 2012 at 11:06am — No Comments

New Open Access Journal NatureCulture

First issue The Human and the Social with downloadable essays by Viveiros de Castro, Kwon, Kasuga, Mol, Jensen and Morita. Excellent.

Added by Keith Hart on June 4, 2012 at 8:51pm — No Comments

Anthropology, society and the unconscious mind

I am coming round to a view of anthropology as a mixture of late Durkheim and Jung. It's why what the others call ethnography is not what we do and what anthropologists do is to some extent occult, so we hide it like a dirty secret when it is in fact the source of why we get it right more often. How do we turn the bits of concrete fieldwork, the individuals and events, into a partial vision of the whole society we study? By immersing ourselves in the social life and conversations of a place…


Added by Keith Hart on April 14, 2012 at 7:30pm — 15 Comments

tactical cosmopolitanism

Two members of  the University of Witwatersrand African Centre for Migration and Society asked how foreign migrants to South Africa cope with hostility sometimes amounting to xenophobia. In this short version of a longer journal article, they come up with the answer -- tactical cosmopolitanism -- and offer a list of its characteristics. As I read this and…


Added by Keith Hart on November 28, 2011 at 2:00pm — 2 Comments

Did the machines win?

Over on nettime-l, a list for those who once thought "tactical media" was the way forward, the old question of men and machines has been revived with due acknowledgment to Marshall McLuhan. One contributor exclaimed that "of course the machines won" and another said this was "simplistic Luddite rubbish". This was my response.

I can't speak for Mark Stahlman, but I don't imagine that anyone who can write so interestingly…


Added by Keith Hart on October 18, 2011 at 9:00am — 5 Comments

Mary Midgley on some modern myths that might interest you

Brilliant 5-mins video riff by philosopher Mary Midgely on some modern myths that sustain morality: Working Class, Market, Common Good and Selfish Gene. I won't add any commentary here, but I sure would be glad of yours, if you have any.

Added by Keith Hart on December 28, 2010 at 3:00pm — 3 Comments


Marx between Mill, Mayhew and Dickens

Phil Swift's brilliant post on the relevance of Henry Mayhew's 19th century investigations of London's working classes for a politicized ethnography today has set off many reverberations inside my skull. One issue is the relationship between Mayhew's project and Marx's. Both are highly critical of the social causes of the… Continue

Added by Keith Hart on November 18, 2010 at 2:00pm — 2 Comments


The mysterious disappearance of blog posts

It is now ten days since someone made a blog post here and our most prolific blogger departed with all her posted material. It is hard to imagine that the two things were not somehow related to a decision by the Admins (including me) to take current blog posts off the home page and replace the box there with one featuring posts selected by us.

We took this step because… Continue

Added by Keith Hart on June 17, 2010 at 9:00am — 6 Comments


AIDS in South Africa

South Africa is currently the leading victim of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, with the highest number of people infected in the world (almost 6 million or 1 in 8 of the total population). The next top five countries are all neighbours of South Africa. The proportion of sexually active South Africans infected reaches 30% in some social categories (such as pregnant women) and places (Kwazulu-Natal’s rate is five times that of the… Continue

Added by Keith Hart on April 26, 2010 at 10:00am — 2 Comments


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