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A dissertation submitted to the University of Manchester for the degree of Master of Arts in the Faculty of Humanities
Alexander Parkinson School of Social Sciences
Introducing the Eye of Providence Economic Model ........................................................................................... 7 Bridging the Intellectual Divide? ......................................................................................................................... 12 Why the Great Transformation Today? ............................................................................................................... 7 Outlining the Eye of Providence Methodology .................................................................................................. 8 Dialectical Interconnectivity of Components ................................................................................................. 11
Introduction ......................................................................................................................................................................... 5
List of Contents
Theorising with the Eye of Providence Model ..................................................................................................... 14 Political Economy ...................................................................................................................................................... 14 An Interpretative Theory of Value...................................................................................................................... 18
Wall Street in an Anthropological Economy ....................................................................................................... 23
Migrant Remittances in an Anthropological Economy ................................................................................... 34 Remittances and the Eye of Providence Model............................................................................................... 41 Conclusion ......................................................................................................................................................................... 49 What the Economists Say… ................................................................................................................................... 34
Articulations of Value Realms ..........................................................................................................................45 Summary ...................................................................................................................................................................47
Transnational Dynamics of Remittances .....................................................................................................42
Remittances and Macroeconomics .................................................................................................................37
Remittances and Microeconomics ..................................................................................................................35
Masters of a Symbolic Universe of Value .....................................................................................................30
The Politics of Shareholder Value in a Finance-led Economy .............................................................27
The Economy, The Whitehouse, Wall Street, and High Financiers ...................................................23
The Values of Price ................................................................................................................................................21
The Problem of “Economic” Value ..................................................................................................................19
Local Expressions, Global Forces, and Elite Interests ............................................................................15
Word count: 17,594
The Eye of Providence model…………………………………………………………………………………………………10
List of Diagrams
This paper critiques the privileged place of economic expertise in contemporary society and introduces the Eye of Providence model - intended for economic anthropology - that directly engages and challenges knowledge from the discipline of economics. The formal and substantive elements of the economy are situated in dialectically embedded relationships with individuals, institutions, and ruling powers. I exemplify how an anthropological approach to value is useful when highlighting the limits of economic knowledge. This is achieved theoretically by blending ideas from political economy with perspectives from interpretive or symbolic anthropology. The result is an approach that, on the one hand, pays careful attention to wider systems of power, such as those embodied by the term “neoliberalism”, and how these articulate with local political contexts. On the other hand, it uses the concept of value or values to probe the social, political, and cultural dynamics of economic value and to interpret meaningfully how values shape economic action from the perspective of economic actors.
The model is tested comparatively, firstly with financiers that operate in a formally instituted market environment but that are shown to also function through institutionalised culture and forces of political power. Secondly, it is tested on the case of remittance makers that operate more informally through gift exchanges with their kin. This allows me to contrast the place of economic expertise in a market environment – familiar ground for economists – with a context that does not sit so comfortably with its methods. I argue for a more humanistic approach to the economy and highlight specific points of collaboration with economics. I also emphasise that anthropologists should pay more attention to the processes through which economics ideologically represents the world, rather than channelling efforts into disproving the universality of economic models.
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I obtained a Bachelor of Arts with First Class Honours in Corporate Communication from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2006. This included two years of study at Indiana-Purdue University Fort Wayne.
In September 2009, I embarked on the Master of Arts (taught) in Social Anthropology at Manchester University and began specialising in economic anthropology over the summer of 2010. With special thanks to Karen Sykes, Mia, David, Jarle, Irene, and Jennifer.
I worked as a stockbroker and investment manager in Manchester, UK, from 2006 to 2009, obtaining the Certificate in Investment Securities in 2007 and the Certificate in Investment Management in 2008 from the Securities and Investment Institute.
For Mr Alan Cave…
discipline rests but to provide new insights that connect with its understandings? Given the centrality of economic thought in modern social and political spheres. not only to challenge the axioms upon which the these are among the big questions of today. Indeed. Council (2009) granted less than one-fifth of the number of research awards to social The astounding dominance of the discipline of economics over the other social Introduction understanding of contemporary economic life? In what ways can it engage constructively with economics. in my view. To this end. I reveal how anthropology of value can mark out the limitations of economic expertise – embedded ideologically in our social knowledge and practice – by negotiating those areas of life that currently fall outside of the rubric of the discipline of economics but nonetheless 5 . also includes judgements made certain interests are served by value structures that pattern such judgements. which as a matter of no coincidence. and hopefully questions about the value of knowledge meet questions about value more generally. enhance.sciences is all too well known in anthropology. The Economic and Social Research anthropology than it did to economics in 2009 and it received just over a quarter of the described as “intellectual imperialism” and in order to problematize the current status this paper asks what are the implications of privileging one form of knowledge over another? What is economic expertise? In what ways and in which places can we study number of applications (p. It is here that In this thesis. “the economy”? How might an anthropological perspective enable a greater overcomes the current rule of economics as the queen of those social sciences that judge importance of understanding dimensions of power in relation to value. 64). I will present a critique of the high value placed on economic expertise in contemporary Western society and. 33). emphasise. what is “good”. An influence and constitute our economic lives. In response to the trend that William Milberg (2009) has that economists occupy as “the high priests of our [Western] culture” (Wilk 1996. p. by arguing for the theoretical guidance for the subdiscipline of economic anthropology. the value of anthropological expertise. for anthropologists and for us all. in doing so. I introduce what I shall refer to as the Eye of Providence economic model that offers methodological and What is at stake in answering these questions is an anthropology of value that regarding the discipline’s own brand of knowledge.
To add theoretical direction. however. More setting. and to individuals. perspectives are the only ones compatible with my model. I believe that we must go beyond simply arguing that the world everywhere is different and that universal principles do not hold up in reality. The final people live economic lives in spaces of divergent degrees of (in)formality. for the purposes of The remainder of the paper endeavours to emphasise the importance of this specific importantly. as well as the place and role of money in each social 6 . This comparative analysis not only shows anthropologically how undertaken by remittance-makers to contrast economists’ understandings with that of workers to reveal the influence of culture in a formally instituted environment. blend of prescriptions for an anthropological economy – theoretical. the third section reinterprets ethnographic research conducted with finance part investigates the less-instituted practices of international money transfers anthropologists. cultural. In addition to this. Hence. methodological. I do not suggest that these two theoretical this paper. In the space between economic representation and economic reality lies a distinct opportunity for anthropological analyses to highlight social. model. I argue that anthropology should focus on the ways in which economics political dynamics that can draw the two disciplines closer together. which situates the economy – as a set of both ideas and functionings – in relation and epistemological – in a more concrete fashion and across two very different contexts. they should be considered part and parcel of the conceptual apparatus. and ruling powers. Rather than merely refuting economic expertise.and of theory – that I should avoid reiterating the conceptual dichotomy of the “universal” and the “particular” that seems to echo through so many connected debates. it also enables me to contrast the nature and place of economic expertise vis-à-vis anthropological expertise. institutions. connection between economic knowledge and anthropological knowledge. I hope to engage it directly to highlight potential areas of It became apparent to me while developing the overall framework – of method part considers how the model relates to political economy and interpretative approaches to the anthropology of value. (mis)represents the world and should vie for a more humanistic intellectual perspective on the economy. the second The opening section outlines the methodological areas of the Eye of Providence Thus.
characterising unrestrained markets as “engines of inequality” and arguing that the “notion of markets as a natural force beyond social regulation serves also to society. I conflate the terms “market”. Keynesian dominance of the U. a situation I take “the market” to be both an economic idea and a functioning of the economy. he showed that this was achieved through political power rather than The inspiration for my model initially came from Hann and Harts’ (2009) Why the Great Transformation Today? when the market principle reigns supreme. Hann and Hart (2009) have similar concerns today. He was not opposed to the Importantly. 7 . particularly with tracing how the former became central to the latter and emphasising the destructive social consequences that ensue when self-regulating markets form the bases of societies. “institutions”. Certainly. I hope to show that Gudeman’s (2009a) concept of dialectical embeddedness is useful when understanding contemporary economies. and “ruling powers”. consequently.Introducing the Eye of Providence Economic Model rethinking of Polanyi in a contemporary context. Polanyi was principally concerned with the relationship between the market and society. 2 In the model. contradicting common belief. I have largely drawn on the idea of the interplay between the market 1 and economic practices. his fears may have been quelled with the rise to Polanyi believed that the market fundamentalism to which he was opposed utilisation of markets to allocate goods and services from a more marginal position in society but to the dominant position that self-regulated markets can come to occupy would ultimately lead to a political reaction and a withdrawal to more socially sensitive perpetuated by market fundamentalists epitomised by Reagan and Thatcher. enabled through market expansion (Hart 2000). However. I have split society into “individuals”. nonetheless imbued his ideas with a new resurgence (Hann & Hart 2009). with the global spread of neoliberal ideology since the 1980s. it is the rethinking of Polanyi’s ideas that I am concerned with here. In structuring my model. 2 as well as Polanyi’s notion of embeddedness. 3). and “economy” throughout the paper.S. 3 Although it has been argued that “embeddedness” is not one of Polanyi’s main concepts and that it was actually transformed by sociologists into the mainstream of the discipline (Beckert 2009). natural social evolution. 3 legitimize [sic] wealth and even to make poverty seem deserved” (p. There are 1 has arisen that Polanyi did not envisage when writing in the 1940s but that has and socialist forms of economic management were dislodged. as an economic superpower. “finance”. rather than tracing a genealogy of ideas.
The remainder of this section and the one that follows lay the more anthropologists to directly challenge economists at their own game of national and anthropology. My work is not based on research experience and is thus restricted by the component for “economy” that encompasses both economic “ideas” per se and the actual “functionings” of an economy that occur out there in the world. Anthropologists. too.parallels between Polanyi’s description of European societies during The Great Transformation and the current revival of self-regulating markets through neoliberal this resurgent wave of Polanyian (re)thinking. I hope to still set out specific research objectives. The world of ideas. and consumption. p. With the focus on market relations. the idea of an quest for a better understanding of contemporary economic life 4 should begin by riding social integration (Beckert 2009. and investigate further “whether or not capitalist economy rests on human principles of universal validity” (p. has within its triangular enclosure a Outlining the Eye of Providence Methodology 4 I use the term “economic life” to incorporate the perspectives of production. 13). The baton was the perceived rise in the importance of understanding economic concerns in relation to partly carried by sociologists whose interest was invigorated from the late 1970s due to practical arm of global capitalism” (Hann & Hart 2009. However. as economics became “the ideological and economy with humans has been left for other social scientists to pursue. 38-41). as well as some general questions to be explored. 8 . distribution. The model. 12). Yet people per se do not feature in their calculations. have felt obligated to address the main views of economists. globalisation. pp. exchange. hence. as outlined in figure 1 below. it certainly seems that a Hann and Hart (2009) argue that the discipline of economics has mainly concerned itself with individuals assumed to be economic decision-makers and market participants. 72-74). pp. would consist of neoclassic theories ranging from hypotheses of efficient markets to notions of individual rationality but also more socially sensitive concepts. as the market is once again considered vital to the functioning of society (Servet 2009. The editors (2009) call for global economic analysis in order to assess the world economy – in whole and by part – conceptual groundwork for this type of study by offering a model for economic walls of a library-based study. for instance.
Department of State 2003. one dollar bill and that has the I have named my economic model the “Eye of Providence” for two reasons. has become so important to modern Economy. area to illustrate the dialectical embeddedness (discussed below) with the other housing market”. Firstly. The component of the model that points to “institutions” and their “knowledges” and “practices” does rethinking that I have outlined above. I use it interchangeably with “the economy” in order to interpreted as God watching over all of humanity. In accordance to the Polanyian to understand economic life. for example. such as the household or family. market. namely.such as the domestic moral economy. the point of the model that incorporates “individuals” and their “thoughts” and represent the fundamental perspectives from which I believe social scientists should try its structure resembles the symbol of the Eye of Providence. It may. 6 & 15).S. such as that on the London Stock Exchange. it is rather fitting with a central tenet capitalist societies that we can think of this Great Transformation as an apotheosis. Therefore. or the eye. together. these signs are said to refer to the many divine interventions for the American cause (U. I have situated the economy within this enclosed and their “rulings” and “interests”. Given that the all-seeing eye can be state may intervene but it acts only in the divine name of a Capitalist Democratic metaphor of “the eye”. They would. for instance. which is perhaps more loosely enacted through the market principle The top point of the model – the pyramid’s tip – represents the “ruling powers” than through a physical marketplace. consist of the actual buying and selling that occurs in a institutions themselves but also includes institutions.S. as well as activity in “the components at each of the three points of the triangle. pp. “actions” highlights the importance of considering peoples’ economic agency and the agendas to protect the economy from inflation through monetary policy. which is probably most words “Annuit Coeptis” – God favours our undertakings – placed above it. these four main elements of the framework Finally. The physical functionings are the substance of the marketplace. my second motive for labelling my model this way is to invoke the 9 . Taken ubiquitously represented on the Great Seal of the U. The of this paper. reflect modern capitalist state not simply signify economic phenomena relating to organisations or to economic meaning that they attach to their economic lives. that the economy.
Marketplace. I have ordered the examples in every sub-component box of the model between the concepts. Figure 1 – The Eye of Providence Economic Model: * Rulings Monetary policy De-regulation Confer chiefly title Force state governments to act Ruling Power Interests Control inflation Reduce trade barriers Increase chiefly power Encourage investment of remittances Economy ** *** Functionings Capitalist transactions Banking deals Cycling gift system Total remittances Ideas A market economy Marketplace Domestic Moral Economy Remittance phenomenon Institutions Practices IMF policy pressure Raise capital Serve chief and kin Remit to kin Individuals Knowledges Economic reports Analyst reports Services rendered Kinship ties Actions Sell labour Buy stock Share food with kin Migrate and remit Thoughts Accumulate money Make a profit Value sharing Value family * The borders on each component are intentionally dashed to emphasise the crossover the following order: 1. 2. 4. Remittances. 3. and the power emanating from. ** All connections are dialectical. Market economy.emphasise the piety towards. the associated ideas and functionings. Domestic Moral Economy. correspondingly. *** “Economic ideas” discussed in this essay are mapped onto the sub-component box in 10 .
On the one hand. as the product acts back upon the producers in a dialectical relationship whereby: “Society is a human . My model supports the illumination of such depict the social order as an ongoing human production where action becomes model is characterised by dialectical mutual constitution. where it assumes different historical forms and degrees of pp. On the other. Polanyi emphasises how the economy became disembedded from existing social relations as the Western world made the transition to despite observing the emergence and form of economic institutions (Gudeman 2009a. while this dependency link is itself erased. Berger and Luckman (1966) We could posit further that the relationship between all four elements of the patterned and the patterning eventually becomes habitually typified into institutions product. but it is also undermined by the very market tension” (p. Gudeman (2009a) argues for a dialectical approach to society and the market as both embedded and disembedded and considers the two different economic base of shared interests and holdings of people who are themselves products have become submerged in the market. 79). To rectify this. Even the New Institutional Economists overlook the a priori relationships that constitute actors. 69-78). Having outlined the main components of the framework. This world is then objective and antecedent to individuals. people are only connected through market trade by alienating and impersonal contracts. I now depict the Dialectical Interconnectivity of Components value realms that surround each. communities to the employees on which they depend. for which Berger and Luckman (1966) identify 11 (pp. 37). This is productivity (Gudeman 2009a. while the downsizing itself undermines mutuality and holds wages down. perceiving relationship between the parts. Mutuality is essential to the existence of all economies. 32-34). there is a mutual of others within the base. Neoclassic economists would happily leave things there. Gudeman (2009a) argues that this “division is a continuing dialectic in all economies. Once this first- order of social institutionalisation has been established. Society is an objective reality. even those that exemplified when companies mystify downsizing by presenting themselves as dynamics. industrial society. it must be made plausible by a second-order process of legitimisation. 28 & 29). Man is a social product” (p. despite the rhetoric of increased practices and models that it supports. pp.any embeddedness as a flaw to the ideal functioning of the economy.
and finally. (1996) believes that the debate’s disengagement derives from each party’s starting substantivists start at the level of societies. propositions that explain sets of meanings. The divide was perhaps most pronounced when it manifested as the opposing force between the two schools of thought that comprised As I alluded to in the introduction. the symbolic universe that amalgamates discrete provinces of meaning and encompasses the institutional four distinct and ascending levels (pp. explicit theories of an institutional sector with a separate stock of order. which he claims made the perspectives mutually exclusive. Reinterpreted for a neoliberal capitalist “The Great Debate”. Having outlined my model.economy. at the highest level. I do not revisit the formalist-substantivist debate but invoke it only to demonstrate the model’s capacity to draw together these divergent views. such as economics. such as the economic proverb “a rising tide knowledge. Carrier (2009a) traces the universalpoint. Thus. a great intellectual split can be discerned when Bridging the Intellectual Divide? assumes the universality of the individual and the latter implies the particularity of each The roots of the intellectual dichotomy at the heart of the formalist-substantivist particular divide back respectively to the individual contract posited by Spencer and the social contextualisation of Durkheim. one could say that these are: incipient transmission of a vocabulary of selfinterest. I assume that in reality the truths in either view that are worth exploring. the institutions of which they say act as structures for economic life (pp. considered to be rational self-interested maximizers. such as a universe of “value”. the methodology of the former view debate run much deeper and farther back. I can now explore this a little further. such as “you have to think of yourself in business”. basic theoretical lifts all boats”. The divide continued to the primitive acquisitive context of self-interest that Mauss argued for (pp. 20-22). The formalists begin considering the history of economic anthropology. 110-122). Disputes between those that even to the time of Plato and Aristotle (Blavatsky 1939). while the social context. Wilk with individuals. 1-13). This leaves me with one caveat and one saw a “world of ideas” and those who tried to understand things “as they are” date back divide is more of an intellectual continuum than a dichotomous split and that there are tendency that Malinowski identified in the Trobrianders against the social and historical 12 .
where possible. I must avoid the pitfalls of adhering too strongly to either perspective. Firstly. I should aspire. by positing that “everything is like this” or that “everything is different”. to productively reconcile this age-old epistemological separation. namely. these prescriptions. my model is designed to encourage adherence to 13 .challenge. Secondly. Indeed.
I have chosen to invoke political economy and interpretive approaches to value. of representation and reality. it is necessary to further elaborate the theoretical account in line with The Eye of Providence economic model. such as the use of 14 . Moreover. The exclusive to the stated domains. 83). though. allowing me to interweave the theoretical analysis and investigation that constitute the final parts of my model and that I will later apply to the At the societal level. p. This may seem at odds with Steiner’s Political Economy institutions. which is powerfully employed to extend the market. whereas interpretative value theory is generally more applicable to the element for “individuals”. his discussion of the importance of the teaching of economics. and for endorsing rather than challenging its economic assumptions (pp. is more methodological Theorising with the Eye of Providence Model theoretical apparatus of political economy lends itself to studies of the “ruling powers” generally differ with respect to their orientations to society and to the individual. These complementary perspectives. and on how economic knowledge is embodied by market tools and apparatus. Navigating through the notions of the universal and the will take more than conceptual cartography. Although it does include some theoretical discussion. because they particular. We also need a theoretical compass to which are key themes from Hann and Harts’ (2009) edited volume. as outlined so far. assuming market mentality to be obsolete. are not open up the economic realm in a unified fashion. I have opted for a view of political economy. Steiner’s (2009) framework of my model (p. such as dialectics and embeddedness. and “institutions”. in developing an anthropological theory of economy”. I now introduce the two lines of cases of finance workers and remittance makers. value. As I mentioned at the outset. rather than say stress on “[a] more accurate study of the interplay between economic thought. 68-71). Indeed. and the economy” does seem to superimpose comfortably onto the functioning of the market. direct our way. (2009) criticism of Polanyi vis-à-vis the Durkheimians for not attending to the emphasising a Durkheimian functional approach. to allow for a political slant when connecting with economics (Wilk 1996.in that it highlights four conceptual areas where researchers might examine “the the aspirations of the paper. 71). and of anthropological and economic expertise.
motivations. the market reach was largely realised as park management eventually became reduced to the financial bottom line and a good coastal areas through an emphasis on tourism. Local Expressions. a profitable space. that is. Carrier (2009b) augments this point when he measure and value of individuals. compares our current moment of neoliberalism to Polanyi’s notion of the self-regulating “environment” came to mean a profitable space for attracting tourists. Global Forces. 242-255). as money itself becomes the we must attend to economic beliefs. had no money for 242). 240conservation in Jamaica. institutions. I revisit this case briefly below but for now wish to note that it raises an to operate through extending the market principle to commodify the coastal land and local labour force. pp. Even in situations where the connection may ostensibly be trivial. In a political economic milieu where the heavily indebted government. which nonetheless shows that investigating the dynamic relationship between political powers and economic forms is market growing free and expanding to other areas of life. 15 . by dealing with economic ideas I begin with a less extreme case of political power. He argues that neoliberalism permeates many aspects of life that are not ostensibly economic. and Elite Interests economic models in contemporary financial markets. pp. While this approach may also fit my model. Nevertheless. This was not simply a consequence of the self-regulating market model but an outcome of the way the environmental activists had important point about how ethnographers should think about engaging with political economy. power is prevalent. To exemplify this. in order to understand these phenomena. I clearly do not ignore Steiner’s (2009) concerns. activists had to appeal to the commercial advantages of protecting the vital if we wish to comprehend the latter. Nevertheless. 68-71). for large overseas corporations (Carrier 2009b.and power dimensions of economic life rather than simply observing the functional aspects of an economy. as if it were a component of something that derives from a and functionings directly. Carrier (2009b) discusses his research of environmental conservation. seems to link well with the dialectical interconnectivity of the model (pp. since it essentially represents a local expression of global and national forces. 83-93). thus. owing to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). I develop a more Marxist stance on this occasion to emphasise the political unified structure (Wilk 1996. and practices (pp.
we could posit that the neoliberal ideology forcefully circulated through the IMF allowed it to continue charging crippling interest payments to an indebted country and force the reduction of trade barriers and capital flows to allow foreign tourism corporations and investors to gain capital opportunistically within the 29). p.$240 calamitous consequences of this from the Jamaican perspective are perhaps most 5 defaulting on its debt and its inability to negotiate more socially-friendly terms would be climate over social well-being (p. At the time of their writing.Marcus and Fischer (1986) call for ethnographic fieldwork to represent “external ethnographic subjects” (p. when the million IMF loan in 1978.S. Combining his arguments with Carrier’s (2009b) institutions and ruling powers that shape them. The passionately communicated in Stephanie Black’s documentary Life and Debt (2001). interpreting neoliberalism – a sweeping abstraction that he invokes to for elites to accumulate capital. my model notably advocates the kind of formative of the symbols and shared meanings within the most intimate life-worlds of expressions per se. this was perhaps a more innovative statement than if it were made now. 16 . the unlikelihood of Jamaica simply attributed to neoliberal reforms that made the borrower take the losses on defaults (p. as we must also consider the broader scale of political economy. For describe a plethora of different actions – as a political project that creates the conditions research in Jamaica. 138). these political economic forces should be the object of study for anthropology. 5 By connecting economic forms and individuals to the forces of and how can it complement an understanding of local economic forms? David Harvey (2005) offers a particularly Marxist view of these broader research that the authors envisage. 39). From Harvey’s (2005) standpoint. those opposed to the move predicted “lower wages for country’s borders. even if this macrosystem perspective entails traversing multiple field sites (pp. However. Jamaican government accepted “stringent fiscal controls” in order to obtain a U. 73). and the full authority given to the IMF in cases of Jamaican workers and higher profits for multinationals” (Bolles 1983. 90-95). it is not sufficient to simply reveal these systems…[through] their thoroughly local definition and penetration. and [that] are Marcus and Fischer (1986). the precedent set by the New York fiscal crisis that favoured a good business default. Indeed. The notion of a multi-sited ethnography has indeed become part of the mainstream in anthropology. 48). But what might this type of macrosystem view be processes. whereby it will always protect financial firms (p.
Not only are we seemingly devoid of the social controls in place to curtail force to be reckoned with. it is debt but this age has also witnessed the establishment of “the first effective planetary administrative system. nor am I ignoring alternative views of it that de-emphasise its homogenising and hegemonic character (Ong 2006). tracing the influences of “neoliberal” ruling powers that operate through ideas themselves. I have merely chosen to utilise the global spread. the World Bank. creating a totalizing model within which the books all balance and all debts and production. an endless interweaving of dyadic relations that often operate The dynamics of political economy can also be fathomed by unpacking economic “is a model created by isolating certain principles within a complex system […] and then If “markets”. like “societies”. are ideological gestures that do not exist out there in the world but rather are a specific way in which a society represents itself. in reality. corporations. especially boundaries or making models is problematic since “what we call social or economic according to completely different principles” (p. 131). Graeber (2009) emphasises this point when he argues that drawing systems are. operating through the IMF. national economies driven by consumer debt. 130). I am not suggesting that neoliberalism is the only broad systemic other financial institutions. He argues that the market: credits ultimately cancel one another out” (pp. However. and debtors” (p. it is important to look at whose interests a particular model is serving and question the types of value that 17 . This is particularly crucial even if neoliberalism around the globe. Graeber’s (2009) depiction of our current era as “the electronic consumer transactions. It is characterised. and financialisation that is increasingly detached from direct relations to commerce or While Harvey (2005) offers a rather radical perspective of political economy.nonetheless instructive in showing the importance of attending to the ways in which empire of debt” does seem to echo these concerns. starting-point when thinking about external influences on economic forms. by we only partially accept Harvey’s (2005) depiction of the uneven spread of external influences can forcefully shape a given locale. 131-132). largely in order to protect the interests of creditors against abstraction because it exemplifies my point about external forces. he says. since it is usually employed to encompass notions of market fundamentalism and processes of “neoliberal” institutions – such as the World Bank and the IMF – may be a decent those that we would usually refer to as “capitalist”.
As Graeber (2009) illustrates. In short. we must aspire to interpret the interplay between the local and the for greedy opportunistic creditors to loan money to people who could not afford to pay “value(s)” in different contexts to effectively map out a symbolic structure of meaning. it was quite acceptable it back. rather than vice18 the world of minds and presents the possibility of revealing a more Weberian view of inherent meanings would be left unexamined. This is a holistic ambition external political influences on economic actors and institutions. however. failed market exchange. We also require a better comprehension of the positioning of different actors in such practices. attempt to understand more than the functioning of a market and probe the influences even entail challenging the raison d'être of existing ideas about the latter. the institutional context that enabled the loans to take place. Economic life would simply be a socio-political product and the An Interpretative Theory of Value . 110). better understanding of the forces that shape economic life and a further opportunity Leaving things there would do no justice to the dialectical relationships that I political dynamics that constitute economic ideas themselves. This allows us to enter have depicted above. In sum. such as the commodification of Jamaica or of humans and nature more broadly. for instance. this part tries to reveal the picture as seen from “the individual”. To achieve this. rather than just what is going on. as well as the internal agenda that promoted less regulation. 132).market” justifies capitalist principles (p. say. “a market” sells a house. to argue abstractly that defaults on subprime mortgages can be understood as what Stuart Kirsch (2006) might refer to as “unrequited reciprocity” rather than. where as “the would be insufficient. it indicates that anthropologists must are being realised. My point is that it that may not be truly achievable in modern ethnography. In our “empire of debt”. it is a step towards a for interdisciplinary dialogue. If the previous section brought the individual into the picture as an activist within a Jamaican political economic system. p. and the state’s neoliberal means asking why this is happening. it and interests of political powers and their effects on that facet of the economy. This may If we accept Graeber’s (2009) argument. versa with a Marxist take (Wilk 1996. I probe the meaning of economics as something that is embedded deeply in culture and belief.
which we must venture much deeper than these logics of exchange. Classical economists. extending the concept of an anthropological theory of value and its connection to economy. 89). it becomes apparent that there are alternatives to our current world configuration. of recognising both the needs of the individual and of society (pp. For instance. The Problem of “Economic” Value forms of economic life. questions of value. pp. 89-90). This conflicts with the notion of humanity as having the potential for solidarity. positing their world of self-interest. and considers Developing a symbolic theory of value takes us far beyond thinking about “value” theories were: another. could not resolve this problem. consequently. This is something that I hope an anthropological theory of value will achieve. have been sidelined and left for anthropologists and other To understand the problems surrounding past and current theories of value(s). scarcity. 86). Servet (2009) argues that these “objective [since] they rationalized the relationship between a person (conceived of as 2009. expertise do we miss by assuming a narrow view of value? Graeber (2005) maintains that contemporary economists have limited the focus of their discipline to the production of mathematical models of resource allocation for profit or consumer birth of the discipline. so. and utility. p. which was manufactured by economists and based on relations of self-interest (Servet in the purely rational economic terms of labour.thus. what kinds of preferences. interdependence as a community. and being obligated to future societies. maintain an equal standing to one by nature an egotistical individual) and a world of things where others exist only through competition for access to those things” (pp. By meshing symbolic anthropology with the dynamics of political instead how value is determined through relations between different groups. and have the ability to act with full rationality. 87-89). In doing as natural and isolated from politics and where exchange counterparts in the market could have complete freedom to make choices. the Eye of Providence model should hopefully encourage “[a]n interpretative anthropology [that is] fully accountable to its historical and political-economy implications” (Marcus & Fischer 1986. which were central to economics at the 19 . Economic theories of value were developed through the myth of value Polanyi made explicit.
453). Graeber (2005) outlines three uses of the term: system of value “that defines the world in terms of what is important. it implies a common foundation for the three meanings. the movement from mid-nineteenth situation.scholars to explore. the price and value of objects became increasingly “transcended the physical altogether. My point is. that makes this whole process work. a contemporary study of value would typically surpass what we territory that is very hard to reduce to rational calculation and science” (Graeber 2005. production to consumption at the turn of the following century. one that followed on historical changes in the economic ideas change vis-à-vis economic functionings. Maybe it can be better viewed as a constructive distinction that was produced – largely through political power – when making the shift in perspective key economic activities of men and women. p. Was this shift in economic expertise simply down to myopia? I suspect probably not. Moreover. so too is the state of the present would usually refer to as “economics”. Significantly. If one considers these terms to essentially be instances 20 . and “value” in of the same thing. I kindly ask for the reader’s patience here. meaningful. Grasping the particular is not a calculative act but judging the universal is. Adam Smith developed the labour theory of value to explain the difference between the exchange value and use value of objects. However. as one may recognise that I am characterising it as destructive of all that is worthwhile and meaningful. aesthetic and symbolic the Saussurean linguistic sense. a symbolic So how else can we theorise about value(s)? When questioning the existence of century U. this kind of intellectual insight was swept aside by the marginalist revolution that redefined however. 441-443). “for it leads us into moral. that there was a fundamental change. I will “values” in the socio-philosophical sense. economics as a discipline devoted to studying the formation of price (pp. “value” in the economic usage. traversing material to which some scholars dedicate an entire career. Marx critiqued the wage system. and became simply a subjective measure of desire” indistinguishable from one another. as the meaning of value (p. he highlights that it was questions of value that set neoclassic economists apart from their predecessors. 439). In the sections below. desirable or worthwhile in it” (Graeber 2005. While the underlying dynamics of the change are important because they allow us to see how away from the theorists mentioned above. p. a paradigm shift perhaps. an anthropological theory of value. that is.K. Ricardo identified the problem of depressed wages. From here on. 440).
Thus. invokes Dumont’s notion of classic structuralist ideas as values that are hierarchical and individual. which has allowed the market. then perhaps it The Values of Price will pay to also scratch below the surface of commodity prices to reveal the social price provides a suitable account with which to close this section because it political power. 447-50). She shows how. we are now reminded of outcome. to If value is conflated with price in our current economic world. Guyer (2009) claims. corporations. the public representation of price was as Guyer (2009) demonstrates this through a case where the price of gasoline in the distinguished between crude oil costs. rather than simply amalgamates an expanded notion of value with an awareness of the concealment of the fabrications of prices. I specifically investigate Graeber’s (2005) claim that it may be able to regards to the latter of the three usages. With difference.attempt to delineate such a system by analysing different usages of “value(s)”. petroleum companies claimed that despite the rise in the nominal price of oil. Moreover. taxes. economic actors are processes behind them and popular understandings of them. as a sphere of individual self-realisation. which made costs of finance imperceptible. as he argues. Forced to explain the rise. As shrewd consumers. “is a moral economy of transparently composite prices. 203-205). rose sharply by a dollar and rocked the projections of budgets from households to assuming prices to be singular wholes. They did not include profit on capital as a composite category. The hidden amongst the traditional elements (pp. Graeber (2005) able to become inverted at different levels. paper since. Dumont believed Western society is no longer hierarchical. This may be especially pertinent to this not because Westerners value equality but because the supreme value is now the become the highest sphere (pp. thus. 205). and distribution 21 . refining costs and profits.S. there was a steady proportional return and they and marketing. she argues that we should investigate the components encompassed by prices that are diffusely U. the Saussauran approach to value as meaningful mediate understandings between individuals and systems. which nevertheless retain the mystery of their components” (p. Guyer’s (2009) work on increasingly aware that composite elements constitute prices. in the twenty-first century. such as those encompassed by currency exchanges.
was the composite component that was eventually retailers. Risk management and consulting costs. cultural. into them. So 22 . can only constitute part of the market price of crude from the view benefactors seem to be investment banks. these factors. If our composite structure and how it is negotiated is crucial if we are to probe the concealed it is not just economic models that we must unpack but also the numbers that are fed political aspects. financial speculation on the commodity through futures where companies produced socially important economic expertise by (mis)representing the very factors that they were supposed to explain. are diffusely hidden (pp. and indeed the great resulting profits made from investment banks. Guyer’s (2009) analysis may be useful here not only because it suggests that presented to consumers. from which the great values are composite and allows us to investigate them as such. If numbers cannot simply be taken at economic face “value”. Beyond the singular numerical task involves working with economic numbers – or with theories that imply that numbers are wholes – then Guyer (2009) shows that an understanding of their aspects of numbers lies an array of social dynamics that affect their composition. which itself created further incentives to invest in oil. and interests. 208-210).determined to be the impetus behind the rise. Furthermore. However. driving up the price. and forces that are masked by these public ideologies of price. motivations. It also portrays a case proportions of the retail price that was itself based on market actors from producers to contracts. this presents a clear point-of-entry for anthropology to interpret their associated social.
having initially worked there as a management consultant and later through probing her network of financial and economic actors when conducting fieldwork. it implies huge feeder relationships that naturalise banking careers as the main destinations for top graduates of any discipline. I consider “finance” and “financial markets” to be both an idea and a functioning of the economy. whereby long-term social institutions have transformed into short-term liquid spaces under the dictates of Wall Street. however. with a huge bias to recruiting students from Harvard and Princeton. we can investigate how people actually use and produce economic ideas and functionings not only on-the-ground but Providence model and pursue the theoretical approaches of value and political economy. The Whitehouse. Wall Street. For Ho (2009). With this influence that the labour market in high finance operates freely from stringent social ties. 23 . Ho’s (2009) monograph of high finance 6 on Wall Street through the lens of the Eye of Having set out the conceptual framework of this paper. The investment banks actually operate a quota system Candidates are actively poached from these two schools regardless of whether they can demonstrate technical banking ability. whereas candidates from other universities lack As with “the market”. the divorce of what capitalism. a broader view can also be attained of the effects on both the trends in the is in the best interests of corporations from that of employees is a new feature of on a Street that is a well-instituted environment and an icon of modern market capitalism. such an assumption If we accept the notion of the market being disembedded from society. 6 remunerative and prestigious places in today’s society. Thus. Her ethnography allows us to understand an aspect of capitalism from the perspective of financial market actors and institutions in mind. The Economy. and High Financiers economy and in the structure of corporate America.Ho (2009) offers a unique view of Wall Street. I now reinterpret Karen Wall Street in an Anthropological Economy that possess a considerable degree of economic and political agency. Wall Street institutions and elite universities maintain for the schools. a meritocracy that is based on individuals competing fairly and equally for such highly would amount to a grave neglect of the organisational mutuality that governs this process. As Ho (2009) shows.
In Ho’s (2009) book. 106-121). white upper-class males (pp. This was largely enabled through acts of deregulation by the ruling power 7 that instantiated a greater degree of only able to accrue such high levels of risk and large amounts of wealth by functioning as force might recruit through strong ties of mutuality but. She shows that the traders interpret the market in political terms. African-Americans generally assumed roles that required less networking and The privileged client-facing roles with the large bonuses were mostly earmarked for attended a non-elite school (pp. The market is more overtly embedded in the rulings and interests of the ruling power. although it does seem that money can still buy status for those latest crisis. Meanwhile. these market actors’ given that their greed almost reduced the Street to rubble in the that bankers collected were still astronomically large and unfair (p. once operational. Ho (2009) alludes to this process by mentioning the rollback of the disembedded from concern for society at large. 26). that intelligence is not considered a quality of a person but a currency that proves a person’s worth attests to the mutual ties that underlie the dealings in this currency (pp. the bonuses Glass-Steagall act in the late 1990s that allowed deposit-taking banks and casino banks 7 disembeddedness. 39-72). Peoples’ way on the Street is largely already paved by social that can afford an elite education. 225). and compensation. This is exemplified by the case of a talented black woman who left banking because she felt alienated for having paths. success that one may have once hired. bankers were A contrast can be made with this Western view to Hertz’s (1998) monograph of stock market traders in Shanghai. one could argue for the disembeddedness of the actions of neutral marketplace. 61 & 62).the socio-cultural capital and must prove themselves otherwise. investment bankers are recruited and constructed through embedded ties of mutuality and are patterned into Wall Street’s culture of “smartness”. Such filtering could not take place without preexisting social ties and dispositions being transposed as conduits onto the supposedly On the other side. never mind helping to engender a global recession. Furthermore. these connections also influence the On the one side. 24 . directors who themselves graduated from these elite schools. The labour relations and institutions. Moreover. the lines between what constitutes the ruling powers and the financial institutions are much fuzzier. you cannot look at economics without looking at politics” (p. Despite the culture of hard work where green is supposedly the only colour. as there are better opportunities to meet with hard work. while Asians normally ended up in technical or product-focused positions. Ho (2009) shows how ethnicity greatly determines career harder work. thus “in China.
227). and effect. 229). Ho (2009) analyses the realign social relations throughout the country. This is perhaps most evident in her illustration downsizing and realigning them to the short-term. as shifts and busts (p. 136). markets. If we also consider that investment bankers are paid huge sums for their services. 213-215). these corporations are also pressured – to rationalise the prevalence of rampant downsizing. I would note that in the dialectical embeddedness. 34). nexus of investment banking culture and strategy and the intersections with corporations. employment (p. Whatever the case. disembedding describes a process.much about disembedding as it is about power relations” (p. through her focus on employment. as the political power through institutions. Any tension deriving from bankers’ self-concern or concern for company intentionally promoting itself as a community that mystified downsizing but others was reconciled by them resorting to market externalisations – as economic ideas 25 . my model clearly highlights the need to The dialectical mutual constitution of the elements of the model can also be While Ho (2009) purports that “a finance capital-led version of capitalism…is not so to operate as one (p. an image of decisions bear a relation to. but do not mirror. and economies (pp. it was not the from the cultural dynamics of Wall Street to adopt downsizing as the general model for workplaces (p. 7). This is achieved by both acting out and perpetuating particular ideas about the way in which the economy should function. where as power relations suggest how this process may have been enacted. 247). 293). and shareholder value movements than other corporations (p. the stock market. While Wall Street prides itself on reacting much more quickly to market More specifically. discerned from Ho’s (2009) monograph. A major theme of her book is how the institutions of Wall Street have incredible influence over those of corporate America through encouraging their attend to both the cause. This does not engender productive growth but short-term mortgaged productivity that leads to broader economic booms of the interplay between economic ideas and functionings and institutions’ knowledge and practices. Economic and financial expertise is used by one group in society to economic expertise as a prized asset that can be exchanged for wealth – usually in the money form – begins to emerge. She also mentions how the takeover movement of the 1980s could only occur through deregulation and favouring of private ownership (p. On the one side. In this case.
242). the other side of the dialectic. Through generating a global market for doctrine. perhaps to protect the bonus pools of elites (p. the institution of investment banking. the role of investment banks in constructing unstable financial markets and jobs (pp. Wall Street eventually created “a those acting within. 234 & 235). that investment banks actually get enrolled in during boom times. Threatened with job cuts even compelled to extract whatever they can out of the present regardless of the cost to investment banks in engendering the subprime boom and the disastrous social consequences that came with the bust. and institutional standards. further attests to notion of the creation acting back upon the creators (pp. In this case. In addition to past crises. she argues that we should look behind abstracted notions of space of human values. She re-imagines the market as a practices as opposed to an abstract concept. people actually refer to economic ideas when justifying the undermining of mutuality and of themselves. and dually transforming. the market principle has become submerged into the organisational structure of investment banking compensation schemes (p. to wit. The high 26 . Future ideas about work life. and rampant-insecurity. 240). the world to its image of shareholder value but has actualised a model that “is [in fact] understood as particular cultural self-representations borne out of everyday Wall Street 252. 233). italics in original). Wall Street has not simply reconstructed the banker’s cultural model of themselves as coeval and identified with the market” (p. hyping them. 318-324). Like some sort of religious their own hype.the institutional culture and individual beliefs of bankers. 260). bankers are For Ho (2009). Ho (2009) discusses the substantial role of mortgages by creating various sophisticated instruments. not reification of market dominance” (p. and the market trends that they help to engender. Moreover. emotions. 321). and peddling them around the globe to investors (pp. a site of everyday Ho’s (2009) ethnography is intriguing because it shows that the economic actors global web of risk that they themselves could not decipher” (p. “the market” since bankers’ “appeals to naturalized market cycles must also be economies and present functionings of economies are shaped by the collective agency of within the well-instituted hub of the world’s financial markets actually operate largely through culture. Hence. short-termism. this fetishization of the invisible hand obscures what happens on society (p. while also expressed through the culture of Wall Street whose members are socialised into this elite world of market-centricity. 297-302).
economics. In the new modes of production in the age of neoliberal financialisation.(2009) emphasises the importance of anthropological insight in examining these forces. the notion of economic cycles being produced by Wall Street would not fit into any of the economic models of market cycles that I have come across. The distance bankers perform reiterates the need to look beyond the models themselves to the 8 keeping with the Marxist stance that I have highlighted for political economy. and Murphy 2010). It would have been perspectives of the model. When I became qualified as a stockbroker and investment manager. Asking investments bankers what they thought about the relationship between the actions of Wall Street and the economy at large could have yielded interesting results. I was taught how to conduct a combination of watch for the excesses of Wall Street culture. Nonetheless. The same Having discussed the ethnography from the different methodological The Politics of Shareholder Value in a Finance-led Economy economy and for economics from the perspective of her informants. I can now turn to the first of the theoretical approaches. not just machines with calculators. In fact. Ho (2009) unpacks the notion of shareholder value to show that it is part of a wider scheme on Wall Street to promote its For an accurate and accessible explanation of these two financial strategies see (Janssen. Langager. Ho (2009) does not explore the huge implications of her argument for the fascinating if she had elicited their take on her theory by perhaps asking whether they considered economic and financial market models and formulas to be relevant. I spent three years looking at charts of share prices and share indexes to try and establish where the prices were going but This cultural understanding is clearly beyond the repertoire of neoclassical financiers of Wall Street are humans with culture. Ho technical and fundamental analysis 8 but was never shown where to look on the graph to ignored the actions of Wall Street that allegedly caused the whole market to bottom out. fascinating to also consider that she did not decide to pursue this research. I read Ho’s between the ideal of shareholder value and the particular version of it that investment (2009) ethnography as an account of financial hegemony and competition over access to interests that are being served. 27 . could also be said for their views on the notion of a jobless recovery. since there is no place in them for the “human factor”. as I mentioned above.
and the condition of the U.S.. and U. 122-129). The institutional loyalties of the economic relationship. and short-term profits. economy at large. as Gudeman (2009a) might posit. perpetuated by an origin myth where investment banks provided the capital to allow corporate America to grow. 26-30). grip over corporate America. who in turn U. To understand this phenomenon. The dependency link of the shareholder value-orientations. Essentially. Thus. valued for its permanency and role in the community.benefits to the economy at large. which leads her to the takeover movement in the 1980s when Wall Street hardened its the plural sociological sense – and establishing values that are more market-oriented. These self-serving narratives (discussed in more detail below) re-signify the business landscape in a in the U.S. this entailed supplanting existing values – in During her fieldwork. liquidity. to the new notion of the corporation as a mutuality upon which it rests. shifting concepts of inequality and wealth. I am referring to the contrast of “values” that can be discerned between the stakeholder economies of Japan and Western Europe. the former offer more than simply a market rate wage. Ho (2009) unpacks the ethnographic present.K. for Ho’s (2009) network of liquid investors. The shift was from the old concept of the firm as a social institution.S. There is a greater inherent valuation for 28 . (pp. Ho (2009) maintains that shareholder value was beginning informants. with the shareholder economies of the rewards for loyalty and the latter for individual gain. the tension is averted because the company has become a necessary evolutionary progression from stakeholder value-orientations to market to society is rendered imperceptible. where stakeholder economies create social attachments to firms. where profits go to the owners of the companies’ shares. Even when increasing shareholder defined by its owners and not its employees (pp. which surpasses a mere I would suspect that bankers would instead perceive this unfortunate scenario as company profits go to long-serving employees. This loyalty is reciprocated from the companies. the championing of shareholder value was mission-driven and considered economically and morally the correct thing to do. While one could interpret this as an instance of the market undermining the value means cutting jobs. to engulf U.S. now measured by efficiency. culture as the central reasoning and explanation for the restructuring of manner that promotes inequality and prevents a more democratic approach to business firms.
lower wages. as advocates of shareholder value.group ties. 29 . and “efficiency”. Hence. pp. highlights the representational were more hesitant over the benefits of shareholder value. such as these. Contrary to the worldview of her informants. To counter the perceived inefficiencies of managerial long term decline in the value of the target company. were abandoned for price back then. this enacted a significant transfer of wealth (2009) argues that takeovers should be understood as power struggles over cultural mergers and acquisitions prevalent in the 1990s were really about high financiers the firm became their interests (pp. values and practices that are hierarchical and diverging. 129-153). Essentially. Although some informants the demands of short-term financial profiteering. the economists economic usage of the term – as a market valued share price – that ignores and conceals calls forth the case of Safeway to show the real purpose of creating shareholder value in these contexts. Just as values. The company had been operating competitively with plans for growth while the company itself was saddled with a monumental amount of debt. as rewards are given for occupancy and role within the firm. individual achievement and ability (Blim 2005. who believed that Wall Street unlocked value and improved efficiency in corporate America. downsizing. the way that her informants none robustly challenged their assumptions and resorted instead to neoclassic explain this tension. caused a example of Daimler-Benz and Chrysler. as Ho (2009) illustrates with the capitalising on the downturn of the previous decade to align corporate values to those of capitalism. Ostensibly. Ho in capital improvement plans. and a reduction from the firm to top company executives. managers were made into shareholders through LBOs so that the interests of These revolutions in the name of shareholder value often. she argues that shareholder value must be viewed as a political tactic to monopolise control over corporations and to support power of economic ideas and their utility as political tools. Ho (2009) argues that the takeover movement of the 1980s and the the stock market and Wall Street. rather than composites of shareholder value were packaged together and represented in one any conflicting values. investment banks. Moreover. today the until a leveraged buyout (LBO) led to massive downsizing. The benefits of this configuration for the few can be discerned when Ho (2009) and financiers of today have learned well from their counterparts of the marginalist revolution. paradoxically. and the private equity firm. Thus. 314-316).
If the ruling theory of value may throw light upon these questions. we also begin to see why economic expertise is perhaps such a valued service. Ho (2009) purports that part of the discursive power of the market derives from these abstract. hegemony (pp. were the minds of the masses won over or coerced into allowing such unequal accumulations of wealth? Combining these transformations with an interpretative control and ownership of firms. The explicit theories of an institutional sector. In this view. the use of the share price as the rationalisations (pp. As she argues. powers and institutions have cultivated the market economy to their benefit. and investors. since it allows an enormous primary measure of a company was about restoring the “correct” harmony between centric short-term decisions on corporations. 35- package their values into a single number and fight for elite interests by forcing market- naturalizes imperialist practices. and produces financial dominance” (p. but also on decontexualized extrapolations (and new “a crude reinterpretation of the historical relationships between corporate America.the Marxist analysis of political economy changes that I outlined above. shareholder value enables investment bankers to allows Wall Street to maintain its current position as producer of U. justifies global financial influence. as we travel deeper into the realm The manner in which investment banks and their worldview of shareholder value Masters of a Symbolic Universe of Value became institutionalised and then legitimated resonates clearly with the levels of legitimacy that Berger and Luckman (1966) outline.S. in this case comprised of economists and financiers. then how of the human economic mind. 72). 153-168). the 30 . This interpretation of events sits rather comfortably with amount of wealth to be transferred to those who access it. Here. brewed its own stock of knowledge to support shareholder value through what Ho (2009) shows to be stock market. contributions to these unequal transfers of wealth. flexible representations and 38). Wall Street also maintains its own hegemony through “[t]he culture of smartness [which] begets global spread. Elites created the conditions for financial accumulation through the financialisation of corporate America and by perpetuating neoclassic ideologies that became so pervasive that the very actors who currently carry the flag for shareholder value do not recognise their From the standpoint of investment bankers.
Ho (2009) contests the myth funds predominantly through bonds issues for most of the twentieth-century and of the stock market (p. Firstly. this implies a value loyalty are abandoned for shareholder value that. hierarchy where Wall Street’s quick adaptation and flexibility are favoured over slow and rigid firms. to denaturalise bankers’ worldview of shareholder value. is a composite that includes notions of liquidity. There are numerous indications that such a phenomenon exists. in spite of the single number power that my discussion in the previous section crystallised. She points out that corporations raised early 1970s (pp. while it was actually corporations that financed the growth axioms to fit their worldview indicates how it was able to reach and maintain such a None of these changes could have taken place if they did not occur within a funded the vast majority of their capital expenditure from internal resources up until the constructed justification for institutional practice. 243-248). Ho (2009) finds this alarming since the stock price is used as a separate control from ownership in order to create liquidity. 343). bankers are superior to the average worker. which is perhaps best exemplified when Ho (2009) recounts an interview with an analyst that moved from investment bank Morgan Stanley to Pepsi Corporation. 179 & 202).adaptations) from neoclassic and classic economic thought” (p. Ho (2009) offers us a vignette of these realms when she shows that the stock market was historically constructed to reality never had it. hierarchy. and short-termism. This notably contains and conceals the dimensions of illiquidity (pp. commitment. The values – in a sociological sense – of trust. who in flexibility. and liquidity is preferred to high level of legitimacy. Accordingly. the hierarchy above implies that there are different segregations or 31 . Although shareholder value is in reality a socially upon which its legitimacy rests whereby the shareholder was situated as the original fund provider and controller of corporations. As Ho (2009) points out. represented on the stock exchange. 169). this universe is characterised by Dumontian Her informant describes Wall Street as a fighter plane when making decisions in comparison to other corporations. a fourth level of legitimacy that also suggests the existence of a system of meaning that Graeber (2005) alludes to. and Secondly. spheres of value encompassed by the modern universe. This contradicts general beliefs about corporate history that saw control returned to the shareholder. the manner in which bankers selected symbolic universe of value.
then Ho’s (2009) informants have used the scientific. For instance. there is no inversion of values at different levels since everything is measured the word first. contemporary consciousness. Rather than determining share price based charitable causes or the level of carbon emissions. a Thirdly. such as contributions to modern view. 262 & 263). 248-250). these segmented hierarchies of value may be imagined to have varying degrees of attachment to a broader social order.measure of corporate success and value yet the value realm of liquidity – which affects not historically or culturally connected to the practices of the company. Whatever the context. share value in relation to some broader social measure. “valued shareholders”. conceptually harder to solely on cash flows and the like. determining the values of the pair would only entail a look at each of the hands. At that over left or right. Dumont’s (1986) claim that “[t]he whole has become a heap” resonates with The more that shareholder value gains legitimacy and begins to take on the form of an against share price. It makes the inversion. or the economic. market mechanisms could be established that increase Certainly. 183-188). Finally. 249). This may be a step to fixing the our current economic crisis (pp. Applying this to shareholder value suggests the possibility of alternative configurations. the values of the right hand and left hand – which he invokes to exemplify modern formation that has arisen from the break between the element and the whole. while the share price itself is prevent general market fear – operating in a different value sphere – from depressing the price and attracting pressure from investors. In the modern view. which clearly denotes the superiority of the shareholder by placing 32 . Against Wall retail company could be making lots of sales and performing well but this would not Street’s claims. stocks are not merely representations since they belong to a divergent the share price – is ill suited to the operations of the firm. p. Dumont (1986) claims that in the nonan idea and a pair of values – is rooted in relation to the whole body or a higher level of existence (pp. we need not look beyond the very structure of the phrase point. the scientific is replacing the moral in our ideology – if indeed it has not already – “the previous hierarchical universe…[becomes] “shareholder value”. if as Dumont (1986) argues. we do not even make the value judgement Fourthly. fanned out into a collection of flat views of this kind” (Dumont 1986. which might lead to downsizing. social construction that functions apart from corporations (pp. to directly realign and then justify what should be considered “moral”.
there appears to be a realm of value the ruling powers. out there informing bankers’ decisions and guiding their preferences towards appear to assume endless forms. Summary universe”. Hence. one could argue that all bankers are really just acting continues into the section below. forgiving or relentless. these elements of the framework cannot be left economic expertise that has essentially liquidated social relations – both individual and Whether or not one chooses to accept the hegemonic view of the institutions and crafting these values. The concept of value that I have been developing appears to have universal applicability – ostensibly due to its interpretive flexibility – yet the manifestations of it shareholder value. are capable of manipulating and oscillating these value structures – by asserting a particular type of economic expertise – into configurations examine a single ethnography in significant detail because it largely conforms to my specific relation to the economic lives of investment bankers. while political economy unearths the 33 . nurturing or predatory. On the other. thus. long-term or shortterm. I chose to I have tried to show how the Eye of Providence model is useful when interpreting manufacture.imagine. I have verified that interpretive value theory can speak of both individuals and of societies in the same breath. existing ethnographic research on powerful market actors and institutions. While the universal-particular debate dynamics that motivate them. This has enabled me to think through the key perspectives of this paper in where people go to make money as individuals. Wall Street is a place framework. Institutional and political influences played an instrumental role in out of universal self-interested rationality. as the name implies. money is central to peoples’ being on the Street and is also the key product that the financial institutions are structured to institutional – on the Street and far beyond. On the one hand. It seems that “the masters of the that best suit their financial and monetary interests. it is hard to doubt that they play a significant role in perpetuating the worldview of shareholder value. there can be no value in who the shareholders are. This is all made possible through the rendering of instituted financial and unattended.
But what happens when we step away from market institutions and toward economic life that flourishes in an entirely different social sphere? To address this question. The authors recognise 34 . 4). Assuming that remittances are less of a formally and – for some –potentially the most important 10 example of economic activity that origin country. while in 9 Against other international flows. I point out that since the 1980s. p. In addition to the cultural influences. 10 Given the development potential of $316 billion+. I first examine how economists try to build expert knowledge about the remittance phenomenon. The migrant-remittance phenomenon is perhaps the most significant 9 institutionalised economic function. entails dealing with peoples’ actions that operate outside the discipline’s comfort zone. Investment bankers were shown to largely talk in its “the market” itself. or at least from the perspective of very influential market actors. even just the recorded transfers were estimated to be only second to Foreign Direct Investment and were much more resilient during the global downturn (Ratha. See Rapoport and Docquier (2006). there has been increasing acknowledgement in microeconomics of the familial and strategic motives behind remittances. 11 The work was prepared for an independent non-profit organisation that researches labour and was later published in a handbook for economics. 3). I turn the optic to the case of international cash arena for economic rationality.Migrant Remittances in an Anthropological Economy society and later critiqued an ethnography that offers a view of this relationship from language and think in its logic. I suspect that the transferring agents are much then contrast this with an anthropological perspective through the conceptual operates to principles other than those that we might consider to come under the rubric more distant from the discipline of economics than financiers. the authors I begin with a summary and critique of Rapoport and Docquiers’ (2005) What the Economists Say… their long-run role in development and reducing inequality (p. macroeconomics there has been a shift of focus from the short-run effects of transfers to discussion of migrant-remittance economics. Mohapatra & Silwal 2010. Thus. since it framework of this paper. investment banking is very much an institutionalised I began this paper by drawing on theories about the relation of the market to transfers that are sent by migrant workers to recipients who have remained in their of “the market economy”. 11 To introduce remittances.
a variety of services” (p. a repayment-of predicated on the characteristics of remitters (pp. an insurance component. and exchange of individual rationality. whole collections of motivation. they still assume a complex mixture of motives that “combine an altruistic component. thus. money is used to loans component. determine and shape the impetus to remit. Moreover. This is essentially a series of complex formulas abstracted for each of the motivations to remit. or cultural forces that might In spite of the recognition of these composite structures. In this view. 5). while the authors acknowledge more than self-interest. however. they emphasise that the method of conducting household surveys from study more challenging. they argue for further investigation since remittances various countries has revealed that a significant percentage of households rely on improve the material well-being of family members in the recipient countries. which underlies every motive that they inspect. an inheritance component. 6). From this and for each women but with no consideration of the social. 10). are a major source of foreign exchange. suggesting that transfers are not Rapoport and Docquier (2005) begin their analysis by attempting to understand economics is located in individuals’ minds – or more specifically the psyche – of men and values are packaged into single numbers and played off against one another when the materialise if the motivations were combined with different variables (pp. 8 & 9). often significantly increase GNP. They reference a comparative and statistical study from the 1980s that showed migration and remittance decisions to be interrelated but determined by different factors. they present a corresponding set of predicted outcomes that would allegedly 35 . as with Guyer’s (2009) oil prices. Remittances are claimed to be remittances from a microeconomic perspective. political. However. Remittances and Microeconomics large portion of GDP in many of the developing countries to which they are sent (p.that poor data quality circumscribes the macro analyses of remittances and that the difficulty in discriminating between competing microeconomic theories makes their Moreover. Rapoport and Docquier (2005) seem to recognise that the money transfers are a composite of categories. and constitute a remittances as an important source of income (p. authors proceed to present their “theory”. 11-36).
37-38). Interestingly. such as: “pure altruism can be singled out as a motivation…[A]ssuming that altruism decreases with time and familial distance. pp. 39). remittances geographic distance” (pp. while the disclaimer acts as a caveat in develop their theories. This implies that single-site research is unable to community levels because they only have information from four communities (Rapoport 36 . cracks in the woodwork begin to appear when the authors conclude the persuasive power (Gudeman 2009b). The solid form of the argument – its simple causeeffect statements – replaces the woolly content. [U]nder the investment motive.Several claims and hypotheses that are “testable” and relatively straight-forward are contrasted. 40-48). the form of the argument is transmitting a considerable part of its meaning and case the hypotheses are proven wrong in the future. The first drew on empirical studies that publicised the “proofs” for the motivations and variables used to anthropological material by taking into account the social prestige that is gained for a migrant’s clan when remitting and how this makes insurance contracts – a form of remittance – enforceable. neglects social determinants of the propensity to remit and underscore two exceptions burn the vast majority of anthropology books published since Malinowski (1922) determine that which operates at the level of community. in which case. In the section that follows. we may as well economists argued that the study was unable to determine the factors that operated at & Docquier 2005. the size of remittances should be negatively related to these two variables in the altruistic case. Rapoport and Docquier (2005) offer a précis of the However. and/or moving costs…[and should] increase with the migrant’s education and with …should…be related to the amounts invested by the family in the migrant’s education Here. the authors note that the empirical evidence where community characteristics were not overlooked. The second study analysed remittances in four different anthropological expertise have a greater use value in this context? It is even more astounding that a later review of the second study by other Mexican communities and returned intriguing findings when “dummy variables” for community membership actually explained much of the variance in the study. Might “theory” section by noting that “working with a limited data set makes it impossible to reach any decisive conclusion regarding the underlying motives for remittances” (p.
welfare in relation to international transfers. they criticise the research for only which found that “the high-migration equilibrium Pareto dominates the low migration analysing remittances for a certain level of migration and treating this variable as exogenous (pp. and Now that we know what Rapoport and Docquiers’ (2005) “native point-of-view” equilibrium. they endogenous determination of wages and prices…[but that] there is no study on the point out that modern econometric research is “based on a systematic exploration of the short-run effects of remittances” that apply these techniques. relative prices. 50-53). effects of remittances on welfare together with the factors that determine migration. After outlining some general theories about trade. 54.underlying motives that Rapoport and Docquier (2005) search for. They attribute this to the lack of necessary data. Outside of their hammers and chisels to chip away at the surface and reveal the hidden treasures of cultural forces. I doubt that they would have returned with little explanation. On the short-run side. The short-run analysis concludes by referencing a study of the 12 37 . Further. even if it were to be only applicable to those communities. In short. the immeasurability of data. They have a toolbox full of sophisticated in one community would shine a much brighter light upon the cultural determinants and established our method. footnote added). there is less inequality. (p. it seems that economists struggle to formulate economic ideas from economic functionings. 50). and the potential bias in developing countries (p. The economic researchers allude tape measures and spirit levels when what we really need are good old-fashioned familiar institutional environment. we can turn to their macroeconomic analysis. Remittances and Macroeconomics amounts to. if there are lots of remittances and the recipients share I interpret this as showing that there is less inequality with higher migration. I predict that a traditional long stint of participant-observation to the necessity of this kind of study but seem incapable of suggesting it. 12 showing that…[receivers and non-receivers of remittances] may be better off with higher migration rates if lump-sum transfers between residents are available” them with each other in bulk transfers. if competent anthropologists had conducted a comparative extended-case study of the four Mexican communities.
66). so obvious. 55). investment of remittances should be encouraged rather than consumption (p. Firstly. This appears to be a case of economists “cascading” their market models to convert the exogenous socially shared (2005) outline two models that demonstrate that remittances promote investment in physical and human capital and then extend their investment model from the 2009b. the 76). For Milberg (2009). With the social now rendered workable. Secondly. 38 . it does not currently have the capability to apply the necessary a posteriori techniques. This presents a distinct opportunity for develop more contextualised models for the short-run effects of remittances. an economist by trade. pp. The authors conclude that “remittances tend to have an overall positive effect on origin countries’ long-run economic performance” and suggest two “modest” policy issues (p. Rapoport and Docquier Rapoport and Docquiers’ (2005) long-run examination begins with a disclaimer benefits of remittances to endogenous and calculable market transactions (Gudeman microeconomic section to analyse the effects of inequality. as they seek to are not. financial services industry should be developed to better accommodate remittances. 64 & 65). but rather in statistics and econometrics” (p. They argue that these reveal that “the growth potential of remittances depends on their impact on productivity and inequality in the origin communities” but concede that the evidence is based on micro data due to the poverty of macro data available (p. It seems that. era – the problems of applying this to the real world have purportedly been known since The problems that the researchers encountered appear to be related to Milberg’s shortcomings in perpetuating universal models. Perhaps that states: “it is only very recently that the long-run impact of remittances has been this will lead us to new avenues of exploration and allow us to arrive at conclusions that reformulated in an endogenous growth framework” (p. although economics is aware of its past anthropology to prove its worth in collaboration with economists. in my opinion. 75). 55). this has “established a new type of beachhead for economic research across the social sciences. which was no longer rooted in rational choice.(2009) depiction of the methodological shifts in economics where he argues that the discipline has moved away from the hypothetico-deductivism of the general equilibrium the 70s – to a more inductive methodology.
as James Carrier (2009b) argues. Chami et al (2008) maintain that their ultimate aim is to outline implications for It is intriguing to compare this academic research with that of economists who households’ welfare by lifting families out of poverty and insuring them against income Docquier (2005) as they warn that “literature on the causes and uses of remittances falls remittance determination” (p. rather than like opportunistic transfers such as capital flows” (p. the it – in order to establish a degree of supposed correlation between variables. The real question research was notably undertaken by two of the authors of this very IMF paper. The recommended far short” due to a lack of data and theoretical and empirical consensus. 27). To advance the notion of compensatory remittances. When doing so. 39 . “interest rate differentials are not a indication that remittances behave like compensatory transfers such as insurance. they seek more useful for thinking about remittances’ economic impacts” (p. the simplicity of the form of economic arguments is “potent rhetoric” in itself (p. Essentially. Moreover. Hence. 1). This is researchers are further abstracting from the evidence – representing and manipulating seemingly how their arguments are constructed. The paper’s findings are said to confirm the main benefit referenced in microeconomic literature: that “remittances improve shocks” (p.policymakers who may wish to manage the macroeconomic effects of remittances or harness their potential for development.25). The authors then reference work that shows the “best evidence” for this question and the results of a regression analysis that shows that “workers’ remittances decrease in significant determinant of remittance flows until after 2001”. Chami et al (2008) present response to [recipients’] currency depreciations”. 21). and that “income differentials are a highly significant determinant of remittances”. although this should apparently be considered with caution. Writing for the IMF. 25). they later criticise the categories of motivation that Rapoport and Docquier (2005) use and propose “to reconsider the literature on remittance determination and recharacterize it in a way that renders it that allegedly proves the case of the former parameter (p. All this apparently points to “a strong for Chami et al (2008) is whether or not remittances are compensatory or opportunistic. The authors initially appear to have similar concerns to Rapoport and “to establish a useful basis for classifying and distinguishing among theories of are more directly linked to the interests and rulings of the ruling powers.
15). In this case. the department where its knowledge is produced. cross-country longitudinal research must be conducted that: and remittances are actually made” (p. they suggest making the recipient offer policy advice. Given the weak foundations upon which Chami et als’ (2008) policy 13 simply reiterating Marx’s (1867) concern that “[o]ne capitalist always kills many” (p. 143). State arriving at the same conclusion as Rapoport and Docquier (2005). such as through improvements in infrastructure. 13 Geertz’s (1963) ideal of the two disciplines being “joined in a single framework” still seems some way off (p. 30). how decisions about migration the “anthropology” word. This is an incredibly precarious suggestion for poverty reduction. With the intention of improving the long-run development potential countries more investable. 6). 81). irrespective of the “depth and realism [that anthropology can add] to the more abstract and formal analyses characteristic of aggregative economics”(p. Nonetheless. 40 . “follows a cohort of migrants and their families over time as they face migration. effectively Even with their self-confessed partial knowledge. and “Other Fields”. as closely as possible. which are mainly its operational roles. or at least under our name. and repatriation issues…and must involve conducting interviews of migrants and family members to determine. of remittances while preserving poverty reduction. Could anthropologists not be situated in various communities The case for participant-observation is confirmed yet they dare not blasphemously utter through extended-cases in an attempt to understand the value universes within which there is no room for knowledge of our kind. Chami et al (2008) are able to remittances operate from the perspective of the migrants? Unfortunately. it appears that poverty and inequality that has historically followed the advancement of markets and the uneven accumulations of wealth they bring (Harvey 2005). the diversity of life is cropped into convincing and calculable categories that leave the un-captured elements for other social scientists to discover. in this grand neoliberal stalwart. governments around the globe have so far seemed largely incapable of curtailing the (2008) fear that remittances might reduce the political will to make these improvements and suggest that governments may need to be reformed through outside influences (p. Chami et al The International Monetary Fund (2010) offers only careers in “Economics”. the study concedes that the current literature is insufficient and that remittance. However. I am not 384). However.
It is probably out of their remit to directly recommend political changes. continuing through the conceptual that economics cannot seem to capture with its blurry view of remittances and the implications that this might have. the big winners are most likely Nevertheless. allowing them to venture much further into the The previous section has demonstrated how an anthropological perspective can Remittances and the Eye of Providence Model insignificance in the world as represented by economics. They should not be considered as formal exchanges 41 .recommendation is based. to be transnational corporations that will opportunistically exploit the local labour force. These that operate within a market economy. the gesture is made in a notably de-politicised manner by Chami et 21 & 22). Thus. they target values. as economists might prefer. To address this and to allow for economic functionings are actually part of a moral economy of informal transactions that meet and establish obligations. a very different picture emerges to that which economists depict. By recommending that entrepreneurial activity be encouraged through intervention. I restrict my scope to the case of remittances in the Pacific. values of the domestic moral economy be realigned to those of the market economy. I interpret it as a neoliberal ideological gesture to extend the al (2008). Anthropologists can carefully traverse the uneven ground that economists lay. which makes it practically impossible to invest in production (Hughes & Sodhi 2006. Remittances in the Pacific – a case which I discuss in more detail below – are reach of the market. A whole gift economy practically fades into analytical depth. As Carrier’s (2009b) case illustrates. pp. yet they framework of this paper. social domain. rather than the kin group. they do imply that a system of private property rights be established. Instead. Yet the economic reports discussed above mention nothing of private property being an obstacle. whereby the supreme value would become the individual entrepreneur. the purpose of this section is to reveal the type of knowledge are not restricted by the same frontiers. though. The economic researchers are suggesting that the existing overwhelmingly used for consumption due to the absence of established property rights. tries to storm through the streets. The imperial march of economic expertise descends from the ivory towers and probe the various ways in which economic knowledge is constructed by economists. With an anthropological view of remittances.
Moreover. The state influences of the origin and destination countries can be considered external forces that act upon migrants and remitters. Whereas in the case of investment banking. the “economic transaction is only one element… in which the passing of wealth is by either some ruling power or institutionalised practice. Remittances occur transnationally as part of the “ongoing flow of people. Thus. the notion of the market – as as strongly related to any market. As I will show.S. What do remittances do? Indeed. ideas and so on. pp. goods. 8). 9-12). and of the destination countries. between those at home and rapid expansion of Fijian migration that followed three political coups over the last overseas. This indicates that we must think twenty-five years (Lee 2009. Transnational Dynamics of Remittances rule. there appears to be no Thus. in fact. Australia. I can identify three sources of political force that brought migrant-remittances into being through the Pacific migrants – that are shown to have greatly shaped the patterns of migration and remittance (Lee 2009. assuming that they do not operate on a purely arbitrary individual basis. Nevertheless. they are. however. as the second source. it seems that there is neoclassic economic models or shareholder value. One could even argue that it was a blend of these two expansion of wage labour. 13) . or market institution. money. and across the diaspora” (Lee 2009. As Mauss (1990) would remind us. the state policies of New Zealand. due to the informal nature of remittances. distinct sources of significant influence. as the first source. 5).formally embedded in institutions – cannot help us here. remittances must logically be guided greatly submerged in a galaxy of socially institutionalised constellations of kinship and chieftainship. – as the three main destinations for 42 . An example of the latter form of influence are the about the interests and rulings of the powers of the origin countries. The former is exemplified by the The political economy of remittances is inherently complex. where exchange-through-gift is the only one feature of a much more general and enduring contract” (p. interpreting the institutional culture was central to understanding how that aspect of the market operated. we must also investigate the political elements of the phenomenon intrinsically. Shareholder powerful representations of remittances that we could compare to the notions of value increases market price. the acts of remittance cannot really been seen a lot less consensus in economics over what these transfers actually are. p. and the U. p.
third source of remittance patterning can derive from the internal political economy of a person’s community. By the 1980s. wagework was still the most powerful dynamic for social change. 14 kinship as an institution. I consider I now briefly discuss the case of Samoa from the perspective of the migrant chieftainship to be a traditional form of ruling power. p. mobilise and shape economic practices. kinship and chieftainship structure social organisation production were not significantly transformed by the monetary system in Samoa. money is not just a medium social relations are maintained and expressed (Strathern 1975). The commitment to kinship is changing in the migrant enclaves. expanding the sphere of political economic obligations (Macpherson & Macpherson transnationalism. 61). an aspect of the broader external and. Although land tenure and the lineage mode of rather than individual profit maximisation. it was kinship. With through which individuals gain wealth for themselves but an “operator” through which There have been substantial changes to these configurations recently that have demonstrations of wealth by chiefs and extended kin. Samoan transnationalism would actually not be what it is without kinship. and conferring chiefly titles. thus. Lilomaiava-Doktor 2009. increasing the size and cost of them to compete for social prestige. land access. which is something that I hope the political focus of this paper has emphasised. social and political statuses. 15 The institution of kinship has itself survived because it is crucial to kinship as the basis. Economic “expertise” of the investment banking variety does not feature here. and wage labour as an economic idea and functioning. the lines between the elements are blurry. as well as system of capitalism. such as those held for graduation. However. as relations are transforming to meet changing needs. 15 This notably counters any assumption that kinship is always fraught by transnationalism. migrants have elaborated traditional ceremonies. They have also created new ceremonies. that became the reason and vehicle for 2009. Testing the Eye of Providence model in Samoa would return some curious similarities and differences. In Samoa. however. however. as I mentioned when outlining the model. migrants started to One could argue that the ruling power has itself become instituted. Samoan remittances are embedded in kinship relations just as investment banking is submerged in the marketplace and Wall Street culture. communities that transfer money to their homeland. I still believe that it is necessary to differentiate ruling powers from other institutions. In this context. 43 . which were also used as sites for 14 altered the way in which remittances function.
Most gifts in the matai ceremony are now cash. where as in rural areas it is an extra. If this process continues. people assessed the costs and benefits of migrants looked after obligations in their homeland. which increases demand for remittances back home through the transnational interplay simply cash transfers motivated by a variety of individual drives. as was evident in an investiture ceremony where chiefly titles were for honours” exemplifies how an indigenous institution is being transformed by titles. are the tautua services that people are not simply uprooted but operate as transmigrants. People are using this chiefly institution of personal status. 61-64). while financial expectations from kin continued to grow (Macpherson & Macpherson 2009). enhance their close family kin group. 345-362). transnationalism has actually migrants to feel trapped in town because they have not made enough money to return home with and others to feel resentment towards those from home that make such demands (pp. A significant aspect of remittances. They are dialectically constituted and embedded in the politics of matai and the institution of kinship. then. while nonthat there will be fewer transactions and remittances between Samoa and the migrant destinations (Macpherson & Macpherson 2009). redefined the matai chiefly system and the tautua service system.feel the social and financial pressure of these demands. it is likely interest in matai recently as overseas transmigrants obtain power and desire chiefly power to accumulate wealth. This Samoan version of “cash of ideas. This 44 . This can lead to Strathern (1975) also identified in her study of Hagen migrants in Port Moresby. then. This transnational accurately described by the dichotomy of “receiving” and “sending” countries. where migrants’ kin making demands on them that they struggle to meet. The matai system has itself been effectively bought (Lilomaiava-Doktor 2009. Many community has cultivated indigenous notions of “home” and “reach” that are not On the Samoan island community of Savai’i. There has been increased they contribute to in order to acquire chiefly standings. As an integral part of this process. Money in urban areas is spent on subsisting and maintaining an urban lifestyle. This is something that money acts as a trickster that lures people to the town with an expansionist ideal but then turns out to be a limited good. In the case of Samoa. which causes some the aiga system and began to feel more obligated to kin within the enclaves. pp. remittances are much more than migrants’ access to new forms of wealth. and enrich their commodified. thus adding weight to the matai status.
while money only reciprocated. which it ranks below in Tongan society. remittance instance. and political complexity of remittances that escape economists’ analyses. transfers are still part of the broader gift economy. as it embodies some co-efficient of sociability. 23). state currency income is the index for all remittances in the Pacific function this way but emphasise general trends that begin to show the social. economic. for aesthetically. Moreover. obligatorily and out of self-interest” (Mauss 1990. Another consequence of this is that traditional wealth is not try to understand the principles of a gift economy. It is hard to imagine where the practice of koloa would fit into the inequality. 43-55). I do not suggest that that there will be a multitude of different ways that peoples engage with wage labour. 183). While cash is being used increasingly in ritual exchanges. The incredible diversity of Pacific communities indicates cannot just be assumed that modernity is homogenous or homogenising. It divergent meanings that money assumes in different contexts (Bloch & Parry 1989). From their perspective. almost all are bi-directional. it is still a long occur (Lee 2009. cash is King.reiterates Sahlins (1972) point that economics is a cultural category rather than simply individual motivation or behaviour. the contra-flows may as well not used as either a gift or a commodity and comprises a substantial amount of the contraflows. as 45 . cloth regenerates people culturally. and However. cannot be understood in its material terms apart from its social terms” (p. while some remittances may be altruistic and others self-interested. even if we were to limit our scope to the material world. money still needs to be accompanied by cloth to be gifted economic analyses described above that only see the value of cloth as its market operates for individuals. The study of remittances makes explicit the notion that “every exchange. Cloth is cloth. While money can make things more manageable. Koloa cloth can be overlooked. a system of processes that are “marked by a continuous flow in all directions of presents given. shells are shells. 29). We cannot just assume teleologically that money will replace cloth (Addo exchange value or price. yet since economics does way from replacing cloth. p. p. as traditional forms of wealth are rendered valueless. given the The examples that I have listed thus far are relatively broad. accepted. These contra-flows have significant value. pp. In Tonga. cultural. Articulations of Value Realms 2009.
Just as food-giving entails island’s resources – and transacting them across the inter-island community (p. Although her fieldwork began in of traditional values and capitalist values. operate externalising the island’s internal resources. a migrant externalises his self by leaving the person even after being abandoned. as the former creates negative value and the latter positive value. there is a need for theoretically-informed ethnography to account of how value is created and destroyed in Gawa. Clearly. migration and remittance expand the web of relations and obligations. transmission. might the act (p. I suspect that the current situation is an articulation Pacific Island community of Ponam (Carrier & Carrier 1989). 6). One tactic would now invoke a monograph from an inter-island Pacific community. Therefore. its capacity to expand relations the island and offering part of this self back in the form of remittance. as well as the fame of Gawa. migration and remittance mean to the current inhabitants. outside of the kula trade ring and into a transnational monetary space. Exchanges of food. Fame is thus produced by externalising the internal elements of Gawa – the activities of Gawans are geared towards increasing the fame – as a virtuality of influence context. To hypothesise about what such research might yield and to emphasise the strength of ethnographic accounts. where consumption is subordinated to eradicated by money and markets. then.interpret the local definitions and understand remittances from the perspective of economic actors in the origin communities and in the migrant enclaves. it is reasonable to assume that. for Gawans. What. the value of an act is determined by its potency. 117) – of individuals and the community. as has been shown to be the case on the the 1970s. Nancy Munn (1986) offers an be to apply and expand a theory of value at the level of community to comprehend what well as the resilience that Melanesian communities have shown to state money (Akin & Robbins 1999). it is highly unlikely that the Gawan value system has since been completely of remittance mean to Gawans in this milieu? As Munn (1986) shows. the “thing received is not inactive” because it still possesses something of How might Gawans that stay at home experience long-term migration that then leads to estrangement? Such cases can be considered to generate negative value for the 46 . “Through it the giver has a hold over the beneficiary” (pp. As Mauss (1990) would argue. 11 & 12). for instance. the economic within a hierarchical realm of value. I Writing from the view of symbolic anthropology. In this and fame.
whereby “the positive potentialities of inter-island relations have been subverted into negatives. prescriptions for nations and villages. 15). then would Gawans perceive community. problems. it is to confuse the elements of a synthesis with the synthesis itself” (p. I hope that Geertz (1963) once wrote that a nation is not simply “the small town writ large”. which are then used to justify policy that I have highlighted. groups powers that may explain the prevalence of such measures. the younger generations of migrants are expected to receive the messages of self-interest and economic individualism (pp. which are nonetheless produces to fit both state agendas and its own institutional environment. to generalise from the village-level to the country-level “is to commit the fallacy of composition in an egregious manner. Therefore. suggests. and purposes. 142). even the practice of calculating economic functionings through under considerable scrutiny (Lee 2009. 28 & 29). p. When constructing micro and macro expertise for remittances. the main point that I have tried to communicate here is that in order to theorise about remittances or about how their patterns might change in 47 . If a complex network of people. 220). 30). anthropology can help to illuminate the hidden interests of the ruling shadowed by the rhetoric and dominance of economics and the representations that it But more importantly. If. characteristics. Summary concerned that this kind of analysis risks becoming too abstract and could increasingly take on the form of a production of the ethnographer’s mind. economists appear to take this flagrant myth to the next level. dynamics. p.modernity and markets as seductive forms of witchcraft that destroy value by claiming second-generation migrants who choose not to return to the island? One may be they will not “lose touch with the hard surfaces of life” (Geertz 1973a. as Lee (2009) since it has its own social system. However. witchery is experienced as encroaching from the wider island world” (p. what is the use of “national” statistics? Under my model. by suggesting that researchers incorporate value theory with the Eye of Providence model. Given the transnational flows of wealth and ideas measures that rely on the notion of a nation-state – such as GNP or GDP – can be brought and institutions stretch beyond national borders. much like when there is suspicion of witchcraft. They use empirical data from communities in different nations to develop a patchwork quilt of theoretical propositions and models.
Although the New Institutional Economics has taken a step away from models of rational choice. and included the role of institutions in its analyses. expertise 48 . it has predominantly focused on those institutions that enforce property rights. we must locate individuals’ thoughts and actions within the context of the associated socio-political knowledges and practices that frame them. whilst also interpreting the inherent values that shape economic that is more socially-minded is perhaps a more appropriate service to summon. Perhaps guided by the framework of the Eye of Providence model. It has missed the social transnational gift economy at large. however small this step might be (Gudeman a marked opportunity for anthropology to contribute to economic expertise and. a comparative anthropology that aims to build general theory through ethnography can institutions and internal political dynamics that structure remittances from community behaviour in each locale. 59 & 60). as well as the 2009b). begin to tie it more firmly to the actions and thoughts of the peoples that it work constructively with economics to provide a better representation of the social to community. This presents doing so. in groupings that give meaning to peoples’ lives (Milberg 2009.the future. claims to represent. pp. In societies where money occupies a more social role.
are institutionalised with all the necessary 49 Economics tries to institutionalise economic functionings through perpetuating . Conclusion methodological areas. and individuals. history of intellectual disputes appears to be characterised by struggles over representation as economic ideas and reality as economic functionings. ruling powers. Social problems recoveries can been seen as socially good. the four functionings should begin by examining the dialectically embedded and constitutive relationships shared with economies. It has been demonstrated that an investigation into economic ideas and to feed off one another as they mediate between. the discipline appears to be attempting to change its methods and epistemologies. economic ideas but it is far from doing this in the case of remittances. The theoretical approaches of political economy and interpretative value have been shown value helps us understand the meaning of economic life from the perspective of economic actors. Yet this is more than a crusade against abstraction. with little effect. and rotate around. I have argued for a greater anthropological understanding of the economy and. a broader anthropological theory of value must seek to incorporate these factors if it is itself to produce contextual and meaningful representations of “the economy”. have developed a methodological and theoretical framework to assist this venture. the To highlight the implications of favouring economic knowledge over other forms. which at the very least shows a postmodern sensibility. economics appears to be the discipline most at fault of either losing touch or being unable to grasp much of the seem to appear when particular representations become more important to society than economic world and it is anthropologists who constantly try. I do not claim that all economics is purposefully adverse. institutions. it is a battle against a particular kind of institutionalisation of knowledge and practice.accordingly. Thus. such as investment banking and transactions for shareholder value. A symbolic theory of I revealed indications that economics has been used ideologically and politically to serve the interests of ruling powers. to reel what is actually going on out there in the real world. Indeed. such as that downsizing and jobless them in and guide them. The more prescribed functionings of the market that I have discussed. However. Paradoxically. Political economy unearths the dynamics of power that structure economic actors through social institutions and for ruling powers.
The tension that economics encounters when trying particular – avoids echoing past debates. it can offer a better understanding of how nations represent their wealth. Misquoting Durkheim. In the Pacific. But through unpacking economic expertise. This should draw economic expertise more closely to social reality. general. The more informal phenomenon of migrantremittance transfers is yet to reach the status of formal institutionalisation in economics. nor should it endeavour to. a model that engages with economic expertise – universal. we could think “rationally” in a hierarchical universe of values that or on improving the hierarchy? universal and the particular. or to institutionalise remittances brings us back to the polarised epistemologies of the kinship and ceremonial exchange.associated levels of economic legitimacy. while their actual undertakings are shown to be predominantly culturally patterned. I predict that economics will continue strongly evidences the power of the discipline of economics in a well-instituted and economy of the Eye of Providence has reached such celestial heights on Wall Street that investment bankers even interpret their actions in classically economic fashion. Therefore. and what is actually being represented in this process. it still must be channelled through a diversity of contexts. are socially unfair. although it is still enacted through its own existing institutions. My comparative analysis has allowed me to see that the 50 . such as those perpetuated by high finance. That is. whether focus our efforts on proving or disproving the universality of the underlying motivations economics does. interest is universal. the economic eye is trying drastically to grasp a retinal image of the remittance phenomenon but the vision is foggy. such as however. should we Perhaps the pertinent question is not whether homo economicus is the natural human condition. of course. Besides. It will attempt to cultivate Pacific peoples’ thoughts and actions upon principles of a market economy. who these representations serve. Indeed. unless economics to aspire to a “mechanical simultaneity” in this unfamiliar territory and privilege control familiar environment. This difference may seemingly continue to divide scholars. even if we assume that rational selfthrough Wall Street’s institutional culture or the plethora of Pacific kinship patterns. This Anthropology may never represent the Wealth of Nations as comprehensively as and calculability over social reality. This knowledge can then be cross-referenced with the perspectives of the economic individuals whose actions are being narrated. clouded by tradition and non-market principles.
the discipline of economics – with sacred symbols – formulates its own image which reality and the reality itself. more than highlight areas for collaboration. as I have above.collaborates more closely with other social scientists and begins to change its theoretical and methodological orientations. Only then will our economic lives be human once again. Just as the of the particulars. Over generations. it seems contemporary economics represents the world in order to manipulate it. Perhaps we should concentrate our efforts more on illustrating how the particular is made to act as though it is universal or general. anthropologists clearly need to do human eye provides the brain with a representation of reality. expertise – construing it to be an apt view of reality – is that we deny the human aspect 51 . how that some have argued for the particularity of universals and others for the universality However. then a further implication of worshipping economists’ then becomes embedded in society. to make the case for our expertise. If we believe with Geertz (1973b) that the essence of our economic lives. We must find ways to counter what Keith Hart (2009) calls “a of our humanity is being able to recognise the structural similarity between models of dehumanized expert ideology remote from people’s practical concerns and from their ability to understand” and aspire to more socially-minded representations of the economy. namely. in the Eye of Providence.
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