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Ann. Rev. Anthropol. 1978. 7:347-77 Copyright © 1978 by Annual Reviews Inc. All rights reserved

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Stephen Gudeman
Department of Anthropology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455

Recent years have witnessed an explosion of contributions within economic anthropology. In fact, the field is expanding so rapidly that a splintering into a disparate collection of topics seems imminent; nonetheless, some contem­ porary trends may be discerned. The formalist-substantivist debate, that piece de resistance, has not disap­ peared from the annals, but the old theatrics and puffed-up rhetoric have been replaced by more sober studies. For some anthropologists the two positions represent valid but distinct explanations of behavior which are to be juxtaposed (49) or joined (8). On the formalist side there has been one effort to trace out the theoretical implications of the perspective and extend its explanatory power to all behavior (93); others have attempted to fuse formalism with different theories ( 1 3, 14); and some of the younger formal­ ist contributors have presented fresh empirical studies (79). But the substan­ tivists have not been quiescent theoretically (18) or empirically (52). Then to complement the debate, at least one Marxist has provided an "outsider's" view on the entire battle (95). A glib and traditional division of the field into two (or three) opposing perspectives, however, scarcely exhausts the range of recent contributions. Markets and marketing, long underdeveloped areas of study, have received special theoretical and empirical notice (3, 1 5, 98, 99). A central theme here concerns the limitations and virtues-when applied to exotic data-of mar­ ket models, whether derived from neoclassical economics or economic geography.

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The problem of the relation between ecological and economic, or social, explanation also has set of)' a diversity of reactions among anthropologists: some appear to embrace the notion of ecology as explanation of cultural phenomena (7, 12, 58, 101.); some reject it in favor of more pur-ely social interpretations (27,90, 100); others are puzzling out the relations ofthe two ( 1 1, 14, 64, 92). But surely the most remarkable occurrence of the past several years has been the swift and important impact which Marxian thought has had upon anthropology (6, 45, 74). In the strictest sense many of the Marxist contri­ butions only touch upon "economics," the major emphases being to deter­ mine the structure of total social formations and to rework Marx's ideas in light of new ethnographic materials. Nonetheless, partly as a result of the Marxian influence, two relatively new directions in economic anthropology have emerged. The work of Frank (40,41) underscored the fact that seem­ ingly isolated native and peasant economies are often decisively influenced by an unseen but larger s.ystem which encompasses them. This "center­ periphery" perspective on local economies is now often linked to a second viewpoint, an historical one, which itself takes on many hues. In a narrow version historicity may imply only that economic stasis is not assumed, while in an expanded one it may signify sequential determinism. Thus, in one recent batch of studies on peasant economies, special emphasis has been given to the historically changing relation between the impinging society and the local area being investigated (10, 1 1 , 5 1 , 100); by contrast, some anthropologists still choose to consider regional groupings as being rela­ tively isolated, if not timeless, entities (8, 58). On a grander scale Goody (46-48), in a series of studies, has been attempting to understand the inter­ woven historical impacts of environment, technology, and political orga­ nization on various African tribal groupings. His explanatory framework may be questioned (50, 106), but the work will force reevaluation of some of the well-known eqUilibrium studies of tribes in this geographic area. An even broader viewpoint O]rl center-periphery development and relations is presented in the important historical and theoretical works of Wallerstein ( 1 08), Amin (1), and Emmanuel (32). If upheaval has charactt:rized the past decade in economic anthropology, even more does it mark the recent history of economics proper where an important controversy has been raging. For years some economists pecked at the theoretical foundations of neoclassical or marginal economics (24, 66, 82). In 1 960, however, the central pillar of marginalism was attacked on logical grounds by Piero Sraffa ( 103). It was the Sraffa contribution above all which set off the argument. Sometimes this debate is two-sided, with the neoclassical school ranged! against the so-called neo-Ricardians and Marx­ ists; sometimes it becomt:s a three-cornered controversy when Marxists specifically separate themselves from the neo-Ricardians.

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Annu. Rev. Anthropol. 1978.7:347-377. Downloaded from by Universidad Catolica de Temuco on 04/02/12. For personal use only.

For anthropologists there appear to be several implications of this tur­ moil. First, if Sraffa and the other neo-Ricardians are correct, the bulwark of the formalist approach may now be severely damaged, in so far as formalist methods are based upon neoclassical theory. Second, the contro­ versy has led to a re-reading of the classical school in economics; indeed, to understand the place of the recent contributions it is necessary to return to Adam Smith and Ricardo. A reexamination of some of the assumptions of classical thought, however, raises important issues for anthropology. Lastly, the new contributions in economics present a fresh perspective on production and distribution. (By distribution is meant how the total prod­ uct in a society is apportioned to different social positions, in what quantities and for what purposes.) For anthropology the task which follows from adoption of this perspective is to locate and specify culturally different patterns of distribution and to determine the forces which underlie them. This review, therefore, bears a trisected purpose: 1. to introduce a current and crucial controversy in economics that revolves about the determinants of distribution patterns; 2. to describe aspects of the historical background of this controversy and to engage certain of the deceased economists in a dialogue with contemporary anthropology; 3. to propose for anthropologi­ cal economics a new "analytical framework, which focuses on production­ distribution, and to survey, within the context of this perspective, some recent ethnographic work.

A reconsideration of the Wealth of Nations (97) is useful both in light of the current economic controversies and anthropology. First, an under­ standing of Adam Smith's failure to analyze properly the distributional problem brings into sharp relief Sahlins's (89) provocative argument con­ cerning household economies, subsistence, and the production of surplus. The work of Smith also occupies a central position in a recent study by Dumont (28); in fact, Dumont analyzes the very passages I shall consider. But more important, Dumont's work represents a sociological attack-in parallel to the economic critiques-on the cultural assumptions of modem economics. To add to this pasticcio, Sahlins (90) in yet a newer work argues much the same as Dumont, although he does not explicitly examine Adam Smith. Let us sort out these interwoven themes. Published within months of each other, the recent works of Sahlins and Dumont complement one another. Initially we might observe that this theoretical conjuncture of two anthropologists itself exemplifies their very thesis that the individual as sociological datum is no more than a culturally



specific, historically determined conception, and not a universal. The works of both are social facts. Sahlins divides anthropological modes of understanding into cultural r�ason and practical reason, the latter including both utility and praxis theory. SUbjecting major a.nthropological theories to a searching critique, he finds hidden in nearly all of them a reliance on practical reason as explanation of cultural phenomena. Extending the critique to Marx, he discovers that praxis theory also is underlain by an anticultural view. Praxis or productive action is said to precede, in various senses, symbolic or cultural thought. Sahlins even reaches what at first seems to be a strange conclusion, that Marx's vision of the actor is culturally limited. Marx envisions man in general as embodying bourgeois and rational qualities; not only is this configuration limited to a single set of cultures, even there it is an ideological delusion. Thus, neither utility nor praxis theory is truly capable of grasping meaningful cultural differences. Dumont's terrain is different; he focuses on certain economic thinkers as exemplars of a developing ideology Contrasting holism to individualism or substantialism, and hierarchy to equality or independence, Dumont finds that the latter halves of the preceding pairs are characteristic of modern Western society and its predominant ideological expression, economics. Again, that which was supposed to be universal is exposed as a local, historical development. Given that the formalists presume the rationally acting, naturally maxi­ mizing individual to be the: "real" datum and initial point of analysis (8, 76, 93), Dumont and Sahlins have registered an important brief against a large segment of anthropological economics. Their critique parallels, of course, the original substantivist attack by Polanyi and his followers. But there is an irony here in that Dumont takes as being typically Western any elemen­ tal or substantial as opposed to relational view of society. Might we, there­ fore, understand the substantivists' actual focus on social transactions in opposition to their proclaimed interest in substantive material things as the theoretical contradiction which emerged in the course of their attempt to gain a sociological understanding of other economies? Regardless, it is principally the formalists who must provide an answer to the sociological critique. A second implication of both Sahlins's and Dumont's theses is that the development of an economic anthropology must be undertaken with cau­ tion. Being a way in which we explain ourselves to ourselves (Sahlins) and an ideology (Dumont), the "economic" is no more than one culture's self­ reflective, at times self-del;eptive, category; thus it constitutes a bar to the cultural understanding of others. Again, this argument parallels the old substantivist point about the structural "embedding" of the economy within

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society; but it is more, for both authors deploy Dumont's term "encompass­ ing," and this is a word which pertains to the cultural level. For Dumont hierarchy encompasses other values in India; for Sahlins kinship encom­ passes other sectors in non-Western societies. Both argue, however, that the economy encompasses other domains in modern society, and it is this fundamental experience which distorts our understanding of other systems. Sahlins and Dumont do bid us develop an anthropological economics but one which surmounts our culturally defined categories. In Dumont's exposition Adam Smith occupies a crucial position, for he was the first of the classical thinkers and therefore helped set the develop­ ment of the economic ideology. Perched in the centerpoint of Dumont's analysis is Smith's theory of value, for this theory embodied "an unfettered individualism" (28, p. 84), a view not immediately apparent in Smith's predecessors. One important aspect of this theory is that it based value upon substance (embodied labor) rather than on relationships. For Dumont this is indicative of an elemental rather than an holistic ideology. Adam Smith's perspective brought to the forefront relations between men and objects rather than between men and men. One of the enduring puzzles posed by the Wealth of Nations resolves about the fact that Smith actually proposed two theories of value; perhaps for this reason economists of diametrically opposed positions have been able to call upon his work for support. According to the first definition, value designated the quantity of labor contained in an object. By the second, value was defined as the quantity of labor which an object could command or purchase, that is, the amount oflabor for which it could be exchanged. (This second definition now is sometimes known as a wages or subsistence stan­ dard of value.) Dumont's interesting point is that this dual definition was not simply an error in economic logic-as Ricardo (80, pp. 13- 1 4) and others were to claim-but was linked to the individualistic ideology which Smith was expressing. Dumont's analysis is complex but boils down to something like the following. In accord with the thought of his epoch, Smith was concerned to argue from a supposed state of nature to civilized society. His first conceptualization of value, the substantial or individualistic one, was re­ vealed most clearly in the presumed "origi!lal" state, where one hunter or one trapper alone brought down a quarry. On the other hand, Smith's recognition of the "observed state of things" (28, p. 95) compelled him to adopt the second, or exchange, formulation of value. The intellectual prob­ lem, then, became to effect a transition from the original to the civilized state. How might the individualistic view implicit in the first definition and deduced from the "prior" state be brought in as an explanation for the modern context and the second definition?

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This was an impossible task; nevertheless, as Dumont shows, Smith attempted to fuse the two formulations of value by taking the first through a series of approximations. Ultimately, however, all Smith could do was to assert that "wages, profit, and rent, are the three original sources of all revenue as well as of all c!xchangeable value" (97, p. 54), whi,�h is an elaboration of the second or exchange definition, and that these three sources are themselves measured by labor (97, p. 52), which is the first definition. Smith never succeeded in showing how the two assertions were actually linked. For Dumont this discrepancy in the argument illustrates that Smith's thesis had a pronounced ideological underpinning, a point also made some time ago by Joan Robinson (84) and Thorstein Veblen (107). Thus Dumont provides a sociological explanation for what always has appeared to be an illogical a.rgument in economics. For his purposes he is content to rest the analysis Iilere. We, however, may pick up the theme and carry it into a more strictly economic domain. One consequence of his ideological preconception was that Smith proposed a nonintegral or nonre­ lational theory of output allocation. We might label it an "assemble the parts" view of distribution. First, let us retrace somt: of the steps. In one of Smith's most famous examples, he argues that in "that early and rude state of society which precedes . . . the accumulatilon of stock" (97, p. 49), the trapper of beaver and the hunter of deer will exchange their catch according to the amount of time they have expended in the hunt. Of course, there is a confusion here between the ought and the is, between the morally desired and the actual -a difference of which anthropologists are acutely cognizant. But there is also a second assumption, an assumption which places Smith's narrative firmly within the realm of fantasy. In no real society does unassisted labor create commodities. Beavers are usually trapped, and someone must build these traps, while the hunter surely will utilize some weapon of destruction or instrument of encircleme:nt. More, trapper and hunter while chasing the quarry must possess a stock of food on which to subsist. Both the food and the equipment, however, mUist have been produced by a prior labor process, which in tum was undertaken using food and equipment, and so on in an infinite regression. In no instance does pure labor without the aid of a prior accumulation yield an object. (Of course, the mythical world, not bounded by material conditions, constitutes an exception. In the Garden of Eden original man had only to pluck his sustenance. Perhaps this well-analyzed story might also be interpreted as the charter for a labor theory of value.) False though it may be, Smith's oft-told tale is important precisely be­ cause it provides the terminal point or model conditions under which his two measures of value correspond. If the value of a good is equal to the amount of labor for which it can be exchanged (definition two), and if this

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labor is the only "factor of production" (definition one), then the two measures-labor commanded/labor embodied-are equal. Once the Fall from this blissful state has occurred and accumulation takes place, the two measures are no longer identical, although under special conditions they may be proportional (equal proportions of capital to labor across all industries). The distributional question which arises, therefore, is what is the link in the modern context between the two stan­ dards of value? For example, if labor embodied (definition one) is measured by price, the amount by which the price exceeds replacement costs, profit, and rent is the wage. The wage itself, however, represents the amount received for a previous object (definition two), and this not only contradicts the initial assumption that price measures labor embodied, but leaves unex­ plained the place of profit and rent. The conundrum appears equally when we reverse the assumptions. Let labor commanded by an object be measured by price (definition two). This price will purchase a certain amount of labor which can become embodied in a new object (definition one). The price of the new object, however, will need to cover not only wages but profits and rent; its price or labor commanded (definition two) must exceed the cost of its labor embodied (definition one). This not only explodes any equivalence of the two measures but allows the relation between wages and prices as well as the roles of rent and profit in price formation to remain unspecified. The puzzle then is to determine in what fashion the three "component parts" (97, p. 52) of price-wages, profits, and rents-are connected. How does the level of one of the components determine that of the others? How does one account for the relative values of the three "original" or independent sources? This is the crucial distributional problem which remains unsolved in the Wealth of Nations, perhaps for the reasons adduced by Dumont. Thus, with the exception of a few asides (97, pp. 56, 67), Smith be­ queathed an atomistic perspective on price and distribution, what I have termed an "assemble the parts" view and what Sraffa (102, p. xxxv) has labeled an "adding up" theory. A central contribution of Ricardo was to begin the advance from a descriptive to a relational view of distribution. Curiously, within anthropology an analog of Smith's perspective has been offered. Sahlins (89) has proposed a new theory of surplus production that is based on the work of Chayanov (9). As an aside, we might note that Sahlins's imaginative reworking of Chayanov has led several would-be scholars to confuse Chayanov with Sahlins, when in fact they ought clearly to have differentiated them, as Sahlins (89, p. 88) himself was careful to do. In essence, Chayanov proposed a theory of output for the peasant household, a theory which can be phrased thus: output settles at that point where the last unit of product (its demand satisfaction) is balanced by the last unit of input (the drudgery of labor). Using this theory Chayanov was

Annu. Rev. Anthropol. 1978.7:347-377. Downloaded from by Universidad Catolica de Temuco on 04/02/12. For personal use only.



Annu. Rev. Anthropol. 1978.7:347-377. Downloaded from by Universidad Catolica de Temuco on 04/02/12. For personal use only.

able to suggest that output differences among Russian peasant households were primarily caused by the consumer to worker balance, for this ratio would help determine the degree of satisfaction gained per incrlement of labor added. Now Chayanov's theory fits solidly into neoclassical econom­ ics, being a variant of thc� modem theory of the firm. Indeed, similar formulations can be found in the current economic literature on peasants (70, 96), and one economist, after readirig Sahlins, resurrected Chayanov's theory without apparently realizing it ( 104, pp. 107-8). I am not myself persuaded by Chayanov's model (5 1), but in the discussion which has thus far taken place (2, 30, 34" 35, 69), the distinction between Chayanov's marginalist stance and SahIins's antimarginalist interpretation has not been recognized. (The parallel drawn bc�tween Chayanov's theory and modem mi­ croanalyses of the firm ought to be qualified in at least one respect. Econo­ mists purport to measure costs and outputs in equivalent, money, terms. The inputs of wages, raw materials, and equipment are all converted to a common gauge, while the product output-which physically bears no re­
semblance to the various inputs-is also measured by a money standard.

Regardless of the validity of this process, it enables the analyst to search for that point at which the last input matches the last output, both measured similarly. By contrast, Chayanov would have us balance units of raw labor --quantified as drudgery-w,ith These, however, are noncommensurate measures. Seemingly concrete, in fact Chayanov's solution is vacuous and abstract. It becomes determinate and explanatory only if a cultural calculus relating drudgery to satisfaction may be assumed a priori; blilt if this is so, then it is the cultural scale-the symbolic intent-which must be the object of inquiry. The constitution of the system cannot be determined from the behavior of its components so long as the behavior of the elements remains theoretically underdetermined or dependent upon the system itself. But let us return to Sahlins.) Stripped of the entrancing language and reduced to its essentials, Sah­ lins's thesis amounts to the following. Posit first that a household economy (the Domestic Mode of Production) has a set per capita consumption level. The efforts of individual laborers, as influenced by their household's con­ sumer-to-worker ratio, will then adjust to meet this essentially unvarying level. (Note the difference: for Chayanov, output varies by household capac­ ities and desires; for Sahlins, at least initially, household output is set by summing up per capita consumption requirements.) Now assume that this base household level is inserted into a system which has a political super­ structure and that the polity, in order to be supported, compels each household to produce an e�:tra amount of output. Sahlins never explicitly states it in this fashion, bult together the two uses-domestic subsistence



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plus political surplus-determine total output. Given this model Sahlins is able to suggest ways in which the size of the extracted portion expands and contracts in accord with the development and devolution of the political superstructure. Such a summary scarcely does justice to the insights that Sahlins offers, but it is sufficient to raise the distributional question which he does not pose: what is the relation between the size of the surplus extracted and the consumption level of the household? In fact, Sahlins has advanced a nonintegral, component part theory of output. He has proposed, as did Adam Smith, an imaginative anthropological fable, although the two stories differ. The hiatus in Smith's view of distribution is connected to his supposition of a temporal progression from natural to civilized society, while the disjuncture in Sahlins's is linked to his partly spatial, partly reified, and certainly false juxtaposition of domestic and political society. To be sure, the Sahlins contribution represents an important, indeed marvelous, advance over the surplus cum distribution arguments of a prior decade (16, 55, 75, 77), but the lessons of Ricardo have yet to be assimilated.

An anthropological economist once remarked that ethnoeconomic analysis ought to begin "with Malinowski, not Ricardo" ( 1 7, p.2 1), but such a statement seems hard to justify. Besides, Ricardo displays a Mozartian elegance compared to Malinowski's rambling functionalism. Following Dobb's (25) excellent study, three strands, perhaps stages, of thought may be distinguished in Ricardo. In his Essay on Profits (8 1), published in 1815, Ricardo proposed a com (Le. wheat) theory of value. The Essay will command most of our attention. Later, however, in his Principles 0/Political Economy (80), Ricardo switched to a more general labor theory of value. Lastly, in his final papers (8 1)-as Sraffa ( 102) has illuminated­ Ricardo became preoccupied with a difficult issue concerning changes in distribution and their relation to apparent changes in prices. This problem will receive little notice here, though it is of capital interest to economists and bears directly upon Sraffa's own work. In the Essay Ricardo figured rent and profit in commodity terms, making no mention of their monetary equivalents. For Ricardo this was a simplifica­ tion which highlighted the principal feature of his argument, an argument which had a practical focus: the debate on the Com Laws in Parliament. Later, when Ricardo began to treat money itself as a commodity, he aban­ doned this method, but the simplification is not without interest for an­ thropologists. By calculating with a single commodity Ricardo was able to reveal clearly some of the basic distributional relationships in the economy, and such relationships-in suitably expanded form-may have applicability



outside the class-based socic!ty to which Ricardo attached them. One prob­ lem often posed for anthropological studies is that of determining how to compare, within a single soc;iety, production processes and products which are unlike. Ifno currency is used, what common standard can be deployed? Alternatively, if a money is used, but it enters the local system through cash sales, how valid is it to utmze externally set prices in order to compare productive efforts performed for internal purposes? The delightful paradox then is that Ricardo's foundation work in modem economics-an essay which (somewhat erroneously) gave rise to the expression "the Ricardian theory of rent" and which focused on the most price-conscious society yet to have existed-was itself written without reference to money prices! The method must tantalize anthropologists. The logic of Ricardo's argument makes best sense when the polemical or ideological context within which he was writing is kept in mind. In the Essay Ricardo focused primarily upon agriculture. He first assumed that no rent is paid on land alild that both real wages and the methods of production remain constant as a given land area is cultivated. Given these conditions he was able to show that the rate of profit is set automatically, and he proceeded to argue that profits in all other industries must, under competitive conditions, adapt to this level. Agriculture'S pivotal position, Ricardo held, owed itself to the fact that farm products as worker's subsis­ tence enter into all other production processes, but agriculture does not utilize the products of these other trades. Therefore, given competition the rate of profit in the economy is determined by the one independent in­ dustry, agriculture. It follows that if the Com Laws had a crucial effect on agriculture, they had a crucial effect on the entire economy. Although Ricardo was to abandon the argument in this form, echoes of it occur in Sraffa. Ricardo's thesis concerning the determination of the rate of profi t in agriculture was ingenious. [n his most complete example Ricardo calcu­ lated profit, wages, and capital all in quarters of wheat. To begin, he assumed that a given amount of seed yields a certain volume of product. If from this product is subtracted the capital advanced (consisting of the seed and wages), the remainder is profit. The rate of profit, then, is the ratio of the profit to the capital, both stated in commensurate, commodity terms. Thus, with a given wage level and specified production conditions, profits and the rate of profit are determined automatically in agriculture, and ultimately in the economy. When Ricardo turned to the place of rent, he was able to show that profits and rent are related antagonistically. He argued that rent is a differential subtraction from the total product, determined either by the extensive or intensive margin. In simplifi,�d form, as cultivation is extended to new areas,

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less fertile land is tilled. The last unit of land taken in. being of poorest quality. "pays" no rent and thus determines the rate of profit. The various differences in product output. given equal applications of capital and labor over the entire land surface. become the differential rents paid for the better units of land. The rate of profit is equivalent for all units of land. but it falls as poorer and then poorer land is cultivated. Ricardo concluded. therefore. that over time rent "is in all cases a portion of the profits previously obtained on the land. It is never a new creation of revenue. but always part of a revenue already created" (8 1. p. 18). The revolutionary gap separating this conception from that of Adam Smith must be recognized. With bold insight Ricardo demonstrated that rents and profits are linked inversely. Unlike Adam Smith he proposed an integral or relational theory of distribution. A parenthetical note may here be appropriate. In recent years ecological explanations have invaded economic anthropology; yet I would hold with certain structuralists (63, 90) that the environment in itself is only a mean­ ingless, though certainly a living, entity. The environment never "has an effect" as such; the effect of environmental changes and variations is always determined by the patterned constitution of the locally occupying culture, and this is a point illuminated by Ricardian thought. A differential rent is not a natural or given economic category; rather, it is a category of capital­ ism which-unlike the return on capital or wages paid to labor-takes account of certain environmental differences as they become relevant for a particular type of economy. A differential rent is the ecological category par excellence of capitalism, the way in which nature becomes important for, grasped by, and understood within a specific economic pattern. Here is a lively illustration that ecological studies ought to be based upon an under­ standing of the existing economic mode ( 109). (It should be added, however, that the word ecology did not appear in English until 50 years after the Essay; it was hardly a term of interest to Ricardo!) Concerning the determination of the wage or subsistence level, the third element in distribution, Ricardo had little to offer. In one respect the wage level occupied a pivotal position in his argument, for if the Corn Laws were repealed, and if agricultural goods were imported at a lower price, then the cost of real wages would fall and profits would increase. (Profits also would rise because less fertile land might be withdrawn from cultivation.) Implicit in Ricardian thought. therefore, was a second inverse relationship, that between wages and profits (8 1. p. 26). But unlike the rent-profit relationship, Ricardo had little to offer concerning the determinants of this second distri­ bution. Indeed, one must underline the difference for Ricardo between the rent/profit division and the profit/wage division. The former is technically determined. once other conditions have been set, but Ricardo-the premar-

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ginalist-made no claim that final increments of capital or labor determine profits or wages. Instead, and this was quite central to his argument, Ricardo assumed the existence of an independently determined subsistence level. More, in the Essay h.e supposed that his level was given by a force outside society, by nature, for in this context he wrote of "the nature of man" (81, p. 1 5). Precisely this reasoning, however, brought Ricardo perilously close to Adam Smith. Smith invented the category "rude society" to have a founda­ tion on which to build his labor theory of value; perhaps, insofar as rude societies were thought to be closer to nature, this was also a natural law argument. Ricardo was rather more straightforward, but he too ultimately appealed to nature as causative agent, and compared to his social and systemic treatment of rent and profit, Ricardo's discussion of the subsis­ tence level is disappointing. This one extracultural assumption, however, was crucial within the overall argument, for when the differential effect of rent has been eliminated, the rate of profit is determined automatically when the wage rate is set. Profits and wages are related, but had Ricardo been an anthropologist he might have queried: what determines the subsistence level -nature or society? The Principles was brought out 2 years after the Essay and includes many points of interest to anthropologists, including an emphasis on distribution, a bias toward viewing the economy from the standpoint of agricultural production, and the assumption of a class-based society in which a land­ owner received rent not as at "reward" but in virtue of property ownership. Ricardo also became more preoccupied with the problem of the effects wrought by a change in the distribution pattern. He was considering situa­ tions in which equilibrium and stationary states were not to be assumed, a further theme not thoroughly taken up by the marginalist school of eco­ nomists or the formalists in anthropology. More important, Ricardo switched from a corn theory to a labor theory of value, with the result that profits were no longer seen to be dependent on what happened in agricul­ tural production. Rather, profits were said to depend upon the proportion of labor needed to provide the workers' subsistence (80, pp. 48-49, 1 26). Nevertheless, this view once again led to the conclusion that the rate of profit is dependent upon an already determined level of real wages. Thus, Ricardo continued to speak of the "natural price of labor" (80, p.93). Still, his argument acquired a new twist, for he now perceived that this level is culturally determined, depending, as he phrased it, on the "habits and customs of the people" (80, pp. 96-97). The causative agent finally was demystified and brought within the realm of society; however, as an­ thropologists are poignantly aware, to invoke custom and tradition is not to explain. In a nutshell Ric2lrdo ended with a relational view of distribution

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-profits, wages, and rents are linked inversely-but not a determinant theory. What for Ricardo was the independent variable or given fact, cul­ tural authorship of the subsistence level, remains to be explained by an­ thropologists, a challenge they have scarcely taken up or even perceived.

Sraffa's 1960 volume (103), the result of more than three decades of work, added special fire to a debate in economics that had begun a few years earlier (53, 54). Certainly the work represents an important attack on neoclassical economics (57); yet its reception among Marxists has been equivocal (94). Some view it as a positive advance (25, 67), but others see it as a return to pre-Marxian conceptions (2 1, 22, 88). One of several points of contention is that the Sraffa equations operate primarily at the level of prices or exchange rates; the method does not commence with the thesis that labor creates value, although it also does not contravert that thesis and at certain stages can be reduced to a "simple" labor theory of value. Nonetheless, this seeming divorce of exchange rates from labor value is apparently too hereti­ cal for some Marxists to accept. My view is that the general perspective ofthe neo-Ricardians (3 1, 85, 86) offers much to an anthropological economics, although the argument of Sraffa clearly is not directly applicable to all economies and the method itself must always be culturally embedded. As a critique Sraffa's argument is rather different from prior attacks on neoclassical economics, for he has attempted to demolish the central con­ cept of the marginal productivity of capital. In simplified terms, within standard economics profit is said to be determined by the marginal return on the final or marginal unit of capital. This means that the concept of a rate of profit implies a prior "quantity" of capital upon which such a rate may be calculated. Sraffa demonstrates, however, that it is impossible to distinguish capital as a measurable entity which is prior to a fixed rate of profit. The measured size of capital is itself dependent on the rate. But if the reward determines the value of the factor as much as the value of the factor determines the reward, then in no meaningful sense can capital be considered to be a real and independent substance. The very basis of mar­ ginalist theory has been cut from beneath it. Marxists, of course, might well consider that Sraffa has only demonstrated logically what they have long known, that the capital concept is primarily a screen, an apology, masking the underlying reality of exploitation. Anthropologists might also want to interpret Sraffa as providing further confirmation of their perception that an economy is socially constructed, its local interpretation culturally formu­ lated. Economic categories are not given in nature.

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But this is to consider the Sraffa work from the negative side. Positively, Sraffa 1 . Resuscitates Ricardo by providing a solution to his search for a standard of value which would be invariant to changes in distribution., 2. Provides one solution to the Marxian problem of transforming values into prices. 3. Assumes the economy is a circular process in which consumption feeds back into production. The method is thus more closely akin to that of the classical and preclassical writers and to modem input-output tables than to an economics which focuses on the one-way flow from factors to goods. 4. Takes account of the fact that all production ultimately emanates from labor but does not assume that labor is the origin of value. The weight of the analysis lies upon: how commodities produce commodities rather than how labor produc:es commodities. Perhaps Sraffa has taken his predecessors one step fhrther by emphasizing neither the relations be­ tween persons and objects (Adam Smith) nor between persons and per­ sons (Marx) but betwet:n objects themselves! 5. Provides a technical vit:w of production and distribution, thereby pre­ senting a new mode of calculating surplus, and this without reference to money. The method underscores the key problem of specifying distribu­ tional patterns and locating their determinants. For this reader the Sraffa method has illuminated the meaning of the Marxian rate of exploitation (profits divided by wag1es). The Sraffa system, however, was designed specifically for the analysis of capitalism, and several of the assumptions are not valid outside such an economy. Sraffa presumes that there is a tendency for profits to be equalized across all lines of industry, an assumption which is obviously not true of all economies. He also suggests that the distribution of the net product between profits and wages is ultimately determined by the banking system, through the rate of interes.t. Again, this proposition is not valid for most of the economies anthropologists consider, but the general point that distri­ bution is determined outside production-not by marginal productivity­ is, I think, of central importance. Lastly, Sraffa divides all commodities into "basics" and "non-basics"; whether this conception can be fitted to "less complex" economies is questionable. Sraffa unfolds his argument by beginning with simpler contexts and advancing to more complex situations. For purposes here we consider an adaptation of facets of his presentation. Assume first the existen,�e of an economy in which all production is for subsistence (there is no surplus) and in which there are only two production

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processes and products. To give them labels, the two products shall be rice and maize. Each good enters into its own production as means of subsis­ tence and as means of production, and into the production of the other good as means of subsistence. Thus, rice is used in the production of rice as seed and as worker's subsistence; it is employed in the production of maize purely as subsistence. Similarly, maize is used as subsistence for the produc­ tion of rice, and as subsistence and seed for the production of itself. Equipped with hypothetical numbers, this system of production and con­ sumption may be represented as in Table 1. Descriptively, the table is to be read as follows: 400 units (pounds, kilograms) of rice, used as seed and worker subsistence, plus 50 units of maize, for subsistence, yield 500 units of rice; and 200 maize units are produced by 100 units of rice, needed for worker consumption, plus 150 units of maize, required for subsistence and seed. Again, rice enters into the rice system of production as both foodstuff and seed but enters the maize production process only as food; in reverse, maize enters into the rice system as subsistence and into its own production as both seed and food. This is a subsistence system in the sense that inputs and outputs are balanced exactly with no excess or surplus. Thus, rice as input (400 units into rice, 100 units into maize) is matched by rice as output (500 units yielded). Similarly, the 50 plus 150 input units of maize are equivalent to the total maize production. Assume next that this is a continuous system so that at the end of each cycle the two products must be exchanged in order to repeat the process. An exchange rate, restoring exactly the beginning position or the original distribution of products among the processes, will need to be determined. In the example outlined in Table 1 , this unique exchange rate or price can be found by inspection. Two units of rice will need to be exchanged for each unit of maize. Thus, of the 500 produced units of rice 100 will be exchanged for 50 units of maize, and this will reproduce the original conditions of the rice production system (400 units rice, 50 units maize). In maize when the 50 units of output are exchanged for the 100 rice units, this system also will be restored to its initial position. An interesting set of issues emerges if, as a next step, we presume that the system can produce more than it requires for simple replacement. When
Table 1 Subsistence production and consumption Input units Rice Production processes Rice Maize Maize Yield Output units Rice

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400 100

50 150

500 200



the output is in excess of the means of production, the system yields a surplus. If we assume a uniform rate of surplus for both processes, then, regardless of where the excess product first appears, the theoretical problem is to determine how the surplus shall be allocated. The surplus. must be distributed in proportion to the original means of production in order for there to be equal rates of surplus; but to accomplish this the various means of production must first be aggregated through prices. This implies that the rate of exchange or prodUl�t prices must be known at the outset. The rate of exchange, however, is its.elf dependent upon the rate of surplus. It follows that the rate of surplus and the prices of the goods must be determined simultaneously. This new situation may be exemplified by altering the numbers of the prior example. Assume, with the same previous input figures, that a surplus of 100 units of rice is yielded, as shown in Table 2. The problem now becomes that of determining an exchange rate such that the original produc­ tion conditions are reestablished, and both rice and maize achieve equal rates of surplus. Omitting the quadratic equation, the only exchange rate which will satisfy the new conditions is 3 units of rice for 1 unit of maize. Using this price we may, in ilhlstrati on, trace through the numbers for the rice process. Of the 600 units produced, 400 are recycled directly, 150 are exchanged for the 50 needed maize units, and 50 remain as surplus. The rate of surplus in rice is determined by dividing the actual surplus by the total means of production, or 50/(400 + 1 50). The rice rate of surplus is a reasonable one-eleventh, or roughly 0.09. A similar computation can be made for maize, and the s,ame rate of surplus will be found. When a system becomes capable of producing a surplus, it may yield a new type of product, one that uses other commodities in its production but does not itself enter into th,e production of these commodities. For example, the surplus rice might be used (through sustaining workers) to produce such prestige items as "coppers" or arm bands. This possibility of surplus use leads Sraffa to distinguish between basic and nonbasic commodities. Basic commodities are defined as those which enter into the production of all other commodities while nonbasics do not. Steel, for example, is a basic commodity but steel inlays are not. Sraffa assumes that an economy has at least one basic commOdity.
Table 2 Surplus production and consumption Input units Rice Production processes Rice Maize Maize Yield Output units Rice Maize

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400 100

50 150


600 200



At this stage Sraffa also removes wages as a predetermined amount from the input side; wages and profits, or subsistence and surplus, are now both taken from the right hand, output side. In place of the absolute quantities of foodstuffs as inputs, units of labor are entered. These new conditions raise several problematic points for the anthropo­ logical treatment of production and distribution. Basic commodities, it ought be noted, never include the means of subsistence, that is, food for the laborers. Basics are comprised only of those commodities which "produce" other commodities. In the above example, actually neither rice nor maize is a true basic. Each enters into the production of the other only by way of worker subsistence, and worker subsistence is not itself entered as a real item. Thus, some "simpler" economies may have no basics in the strict sense of the term; if this is the case, however, how are the different production processes to be compared and interrelated? One answer is to assume com­ petitive conditions and therefore equalization of both the rate of profit and the wage rate in the different lines of production (83), but this can hardly be a universal solution. Anthropologists, by contrast, might wish to con­ sider using "pure" labor units as the mode of comparison, for in the system, work inputs are directly enumerated in place of the subsistence commodi­ ties. Comparing by way of labor implies that all worker efforts can be reduced to numerical factors of simple, unskilled, homogeneous labor units. I cannot here examine this assumption but will only note that in spite of Marx's well-known discussion (65, pp. 38-46) and the fact that labor is often more transparent in exotic than complex societies, little consideration has been given to the topic by anthropologists (39, pp. 40-41). One analysis of exchange rates by a Marxist anthropologist is cruelly flawed by its failure to recognize and take account of the distinction between dead and live, skilled and unskilled, labor (44). But there is another implication of the latest assumptions. When a packet of subsistence commodities is removed from the input side and replaced by quantities of "un rewarded" labor, the whole of the wage in addition to the profit becomes a "deduction" from the output. The wage itself becomes variable rather than a predetermined "natural" and stationary entity. The result is that the "surplus" in Sraffa's system can be given a different meaning than in Marx's and those of other economists. Ricardo, it will be recalled, neutralized or eliminated the effect of rent by viewing it as a differential subtraction at the margin. Ricardo did not state it this way, but surplus for him was what remained after deduction of the technically determined rent and the naturally given wage. The main constit­ uent of the Ricardian "surplus" is profit. Marx, of course, expanded the definition of surplus to include all forms of extraction above the wage or subsistence level. The Marxian surplus, therefore, includes not only profits

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but also rents, taxes, tithes, and similar appropriations. The Sraffa system, in effect, further expands the category of surplus so that wages are included. Surplus here consists of the excess of material output over material input. To be exact, in order to denote this quantity, Sraffa himself (103, p. 1 1) replaces the term surplus with national income. Regardless, the interesting point which follows is that the distribution of this national income is pre­ cisely described by the Marxian rate of exploitation. What I have ealled the Sraffa surplus is divided into profit and wages. Therefore, the ratio of the former to the latter, or tht! rate of exploitation, is not simply a statement (at the level of prices) about the number of unpaid hours the laborer works for his employer but a nleat summary of distributional pattems in the economy. In this fashion Sraffa exposes the force of Marx's calculation. Even more important, is,olating the Sraffa net income both permits and forces the anthropologist to confront the social question of the determinants of distribution. Consider again the several possible determinants for capital­ ism. In the Sraffa system the rate of profit, the size of profit, the wage level, and the ratio of profit to wages are all interrelated. But which is the deter­ mining element? Sraffa suggests (103, p. 33) that the rate of profit, itself influenced by the extemally set interest rate, is the independent and deter­ mining factor in the system. Institutionally viewed, this would accord a crucial role in the economy to bankers and their expectations. Ricardo, by contrast, supposed that it was the real wage level which is the independent variable in a national economy, and Emmanuel (32) offers a simi.lar argu­ ment, though in the context of international exchanges. Marx (65, p. 1 7 1 ) also spoke of an "historical and moral element" involved in setting the value of labor power. Alternatively, in some instances the absolute volume of profit may first be set. Perhaps this form of determination is true at certain stages of capitalism, when capitalists work to achieve and maintain a certain style of life. If we are willing to apply the perspective outside capitalism, it may indeed be that the determining element often is the volume of the surplus extracted. One anthropologist (87), for example, has argued that it is the absolute "rent"-using that word in an expanded is first determined and extracted; the subsistence return to the "producers" is the residual. A fourth possible determinant is the rate of exploitation (85). To cite this rate as the independent variable may seem puzzling, for the rate is only a statistic summarizing the division between profits and wages. But this division is a sociological fact requiring interpretation. Of the various possible determinants, the :rate of exploitation is the only one that directly represents a relationship. For example, in the present day and in practical terms, the rate of exploitation may be determined by the relative bargaining power and cultural expectations of big business and big labor; certainly there is some indication that this relationship of the bigs has had and is having a profound impact on Western economies.

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Regardless of which solution is correct or appropriate, the important conclusion to be drawn is that at this stage in the analysis of distribution anthopological explanation might, indeed must, take over from neoclassical interpretation. Not only are the preceding solutions nonmarginalist, they require the introduction of a factor external to "economics" proper. It is to the elucidation of the sociological and cultural foundations of distribu­ tion that anthropology ought to be able to contribute. In sum, Sraffa presents anthropologists with that which they lack-a way of conceptualizing and calculating production and distribution-but that which they may accept only upon condition of placing it within a set of historically and culturally determined social relationships. To paraphrase the philosopher, this is a method in search of a society.

The anthropological contribution to the solution of the distribution ques­ tion has been anything but stellar. Many substantivists, in brief, appear to conflate distribution in the physical sense of moving goods from producers to consumers with distribution in the technical sense of product shares (52, p. 87). On the few occasions when the actual distribution process has been considered by substantivists, the proportionate consumer shares have been taken as givens, as custom, rather than as social facts to be explained (7 1). The formalist difficulty in handling distribution is different, for a part of their conceptual apparatus was designed to account for distribution. Em­ pirically, however, some formalists have presented very muddled argu­ ments. For example, one author (78), trying to delineate the elements which account for the nonuniform profits made by peddlers in Southern Mexico, defines a variable which he calls "entrepreneurial ability." This is an im­ puted quality, and to "measure" it the author employs the proxy variable of markup, which itself is the difference between selling price and buying cost. The demonstration, then, consists in showing that "variations in entre­ preneurial ability are significantly related to income" (78, p. 7 1). But the presentation is not convincing, for if the ideological supposition about entrepreneurship is dropped, the only point demonstrated is that size of markup is highly correlated with size of profit, which is hardly an unex­ pected finding! In fact, if cost minimization had been added to magnitude of markup as the proxy variable, then the correlation between proxy and profit would have been perfect. That, however, still proves nothing about entrepreneurship. Nevertheless, such confusion in formalist thought reflects more upon weaknesses in the fundamental theory than in methodological application. The fact that title to property brings a return ought not be confused with the idea that property "deserves" a reward or that the relative



size of the reward is technically determined by the "magnitude' of the factor contribution. Lacking not only consistent discussions of distribution but the armature for analysis, anthropology scarcely seems the place to look for new contri­ butions to the understanding of distribution. Yet some recent work, if not directed to the topic, at least can be interpreted in the context of distribu­ tion. To set the domain in which the issues are to be conceived, however, some brief suggestions concerning a framework for analysis must first be offered. As a starting point, we focus on the production of goods and assume that the technical facts of production are given. The production function, of course, is socially determined, not naturally ordained, although it is also the locale where the environment is first "grasped" by the economy. I presume next that the essential production processes can be interrelated conceptually by way of a homogeneous labor unit. The total or overall outlPut yielded by a system may be designated the "gross product." To obtain the gross product certain material inputs (ex­ cluding producers' consumption) are required. Therefore, as a stage within a continuous process, the gross output must constantly be apportioned between that which needs to be used again and that which may be consumed in other ways. The recycled portion represents the real material costs of production, while the residual, or excess of material output over material input, may be labeled the "net product." The difference between gross product and net product both stands for what the system requires to re­ produce itself and is the first-and a most interesting-instance of distribu­ tion. It is a statement about the efficacy of a culture's production process. Apparently technically determined, in fact the gross product/net product proportion is socially mandated, being prescribed by the local technology which itself is a cultural selection in a given environment. Thus a study of tools, technology, and productivity can be related directly to the pattern of distribution. Might greater attention be paid to equipment, particularly in terms of the proportion, which varies by culture, of the gross product which is devoted to sustaining, augmenting, or diminishing it? Most distributional questions, however, revolve about the division of the net product, and therefore a further distinction may be drawn: the differ­ ence between the "subsistence" and "surplus" portions of the net product. By subsistence I mean that: segment of the product which is consumed by the producers and their d(!pendents in the act of production. I shall not belabor the point that subsi::;tence is a socially defined level, or that this level may change over time, or that subsistence sometimes may be only the residual after a surplus has been appropriated. Nor shall I attempt to delineate the difficult notion of who is a producer. I would emphasize,

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however, the definition's seemingly innocuous part, "in the act of produc­ tion." Only that product portion used to sustain laborers in the activity of production constitutes subsistence. Even the leisure time of workers falls under the rubric of surplus use. It follows that the actual level of subsistence consumption (during production) is in all cases related to productivity, overall output, and the distribution of the output. Adoption of this defini­ tion allows and requires greater scope for an anthropological understanding of distribution. The unoccupied time of the agricultural producer in a household-based economy, which is supported by consumption of a seg­ ment of his net product, is as much a use of the surplus as is the building of Tikal. These are alternative uses of the means at hand. Both require explanation. These definitions must be distinguished from those current in much of the neo-Marxian literature. Linking the term surplus simply to contexts in which producers are exploited-to situations where nonproducers appro­ priate a portion of that which they did not produce-limits our perspective for understanding distribution (23, 29, 72, 73, 87). That the dynamics of an exploitative relationship often lie behind surplus production is not at issue; but exploitation is not a sufficient explanation in that it does not account for all instances of surplus production nor for all the culturally different ways in which the net product may be used ( 19, 20). For example, the exploitation concept cannot be used to explain how and why the actual producer divides his own return between that required to sustain him during production and that needed to maintain him while participating in religious celebrations or earning cash outside his "native" system. Such uses of the net product are distributional facts which demand explanation. Given this framework some of the distributional issues may be assayed. Anthropologists are accustomed to examining systems that are in stasis, those which exhibit nonchanging distribution patterns and relatively un­ changing production levels. Of such self-sustaining formations, however, there are many types. Meillassoux (68), for example, unpacks a dual mean­ ing in "reproduction"-control over subsistence food, which is the basis of physical reproduction, and control over women, the basis of physiological reproduction. Yet there is a third meaning which he leaves unelaborated. The distinctive characteristic of self-sustaining systems is exactly their lack of growth through productive use of the surplus. Reproduction of the producers, with the exception of certain forms of slavery, is a requirement of any system, but strict reproduction of the system itself is the end of certain economies only. The mechanisms by which this is accomplished are not exhausted by examining how control is established and maintained over subsistence foodstuffs and women; attention must be given to the entire distributional pattern and what happens to the surplus.

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Actually these considerations related directly to Sahlins's (89) "imperti­ nent" suggestion that "primitives" may be more affluent than we. Affluence can, of course, have many meanings. Ifwe understand it to refer to a specific standard of living, then clearly "we" are more affluent than "they." On the other hand, if affluence refiers to the fact that a people's desires and goals do not far outstrip their available means, then perhaps they are more affluent than we. Affluence, however, can have a third and more relational meaning, the quantitative balance struck between productive effort and leisure in an economy; this ratio is a function both of the technology and the distribution of the net product between subsistence and surplus . The less of the product proportionately devoted to subsistence, the larger the sur­ plus, which itself can be used to support leisure. Ought we not also label as affluent those economies in which only a small proportion of time is passed in productive effort? Perhaps the Garden of Eden is the best illustration of an affluent, leisured society in this sense, but of real societies Mary Douglas (26) has provided a most interesting example:. Her comparision of the Lele and Bushong is instructive at both the economic and sociological levels. The Bushong ap­ pear to have a higher level of material output than the Lele and in this respect are more affluent. But this material wealth does not come without cost, for, as Douglas shows" Bushong men work some 80% more than their Lele counterparts. Rather than emphasizing, as does Douglas, that the Lele are poor, the Bushong rich, we ought also to observe that in terms of distribution the Lele, by delPressing their consumption level and productive efforts, generate a surplus which is used to support their leisure time and other nonproductive activilties. Is this not affluence? (The Lele also put in less time building their tools. As a result, they experience a lower output per live labor input but save that labor which would have gone into tool making.) Still, the pleasure in reading Douglas's analysis derives from the fact that besides outlining, in nonquantitative terms, the wealth differences, she shows how the two distribution patterns-the diverging levels of subsis­ tence-are tied into contrasting social patterns, which include form of marriage, age at marriage, .md political and authority structures. The differ­ ence between the distribution patterns is not a consequence of rational calculations about marginal products and expenditures nor a result of prac­ tices internal to a separate sector called "the economy" but a function of the encompassing social and cultural matrices. The explication by Douglas seems to me to be quite in line with both the classical and neo-Ricardian perspectives on distribution. Concerning precise quantitative analyses of static distribution patterns and the degree of surplus generated, only a limited amount of information

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is available. Some of Chayanov's (9, pp. 74--7 7, 101) data lends support to the contention that over 50% of the Russian peasant's time constituted use of the surplus. Johnson (59) and Johnson & Johnson (60) have provided data on the Machiguenga of Peru which points to the conclusion that during 46% of a male's time he consumes subsistence, while 56% is the comparable figure for a female. He interprets his data differently, but Brush's (7, p. 132) information on the peasants ofUchucmarca, Peru, suggests that the surplus to subsistence ratio there is about 0.56. Intimations of affluence, as defined by the surplus to subsistence ratio, also can be gleaned from Durrenberger's (30) account of the Lisu in Thailand. But the preceding examples admit­ tedly lack exactness, for they are based on the division of the gross product, whereas subsistence and surplus have been defined as segments of the net product. Elsewhere, for some rural Panamanians, I (5 1) have provided more precise data on the net product division. An unchanging, perhaps affluent, distribution pattern does not itself cause stasis in an economy. To understand such fixity we must look at the way the surplus is used and at its meaning. Leisure is only one of several consumption possibilities. Often the surplus is converted to permanent or perishable wealth repositories. In our own society surplus takes the form primarily of profit, and profit in tum can be divided roughly into two categories: retained earnings and dividends. Retained earnings provide for growth over and above simple reproduction. Their rationale is to increase future profits. Dividends, by contrast, may be converted to items of prestige such as railroad cars (a generation ago) or sports teams (today). Such luxury goods are indices of quantitative success. Perhaps their primary function is to encode this suc­ cess. Yet these indicators of size are not devoid of meaning. According to some local interpretations, profits, hence dividends, represent the differen­ tial spoil won by the deserving victor in a fair competition; for others profit stands for extracted human labor. In other cultures the surplus may convey quite a different meaning. Thus, to equate the consumption of champagne with displays of yams, or collec­ tions of fine paintings with hoards of brass rods, constitutes a theoretical error of magnitude (33), for this is to assume that the semantic content of the surplus generated in distant economies differs little from our own. More, the surplus in other contexts is not always distinguished as an end in itself; it is the time spent in the service of the saints or making large canoes to carry argonauts on their expeditions of trade. To be sure, exotic wealth objects may be measured by the people, yet they are not themselves pure integers, pure graphs on the wall, the "bottom line," for the profit concept does not everywhere mediate between production and consumption. Rather, the meaning of the surplus may be embedded in its concrete specifi-

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cations, the conception in the sensibility; perhaps in some exotic economies thought "does not distinguish the moment of observation and that of inter­ pretation" (62, p. 223). Testament to cultural variability in use, meaning, and appearance of the surplus, but within static contexts, is provided by some recent studies. Watson (1 10) has argued that domestic slaves in Chinese peasant society were nonproductive. They were a form of ostentatious consumption, being sustained by an already produced surplus. This account, of course, lends a different meaning to slavery in China than in those areas where slaves are direct producers (5). In the West African Kingdom of Gyaman ( 105), it is the slaves of Abron chiefs who help produce the surplus which itself is ostentatiously preserved. Compared to peasant China the visible indication of the surplus is here shifted from people to things, but even so the acquisi­ tion of the enduring surplus is indirect. Abron chiefs exploit their captives to produce gold, but the metal is immediately traded away. As Terray (105, pp. 123-24) points out, long-distance exchange, by providing one method for "realizing" the surplus gathered by the chiefs, plays an important role in sustaining the economy. Apparently dynamic, such trade which trans­ forms the appearance of the surplus may do no more than keep a system as it is. The emplaced authority structure is supported through acquisition of "powerful" display goods or goods needed to control the very producers of the surplus. This latter function incidentally raises the question whether goods "used to control" actually constitute not a part of the surplus but a segment either of the reproduction costs or of subsistence. Regardless, the conclusions remain that slaves in Gyaman are not sustained by consump­ tion of the surplus and that external and commercial use of the physical surplus need not lead to growth or a change in distribution. In other contexts, howev(!r, external trade may be associated with surplus diminution or seepage. Hirschfeld (56) argues that the molas made by San BIas Cuna women and sold throughout the Americas bring no pecuniary advantage to the people. Exchanged for less than material value, not to mention the value of the labor embodied, they represent a drain on the locally produced surplus. But this use of the surplus becomes understand­ able if we visualize the mola as a crucial symbol of continuity in a ma­ trilineal society, and if Wt: postulate a Cuna desire for equality in the distribution of wealth. Hirschfeld suggests that when cash-cropping was undertaken by the islanders., Cuna women were prohibited from undertak­ ing productive agricultural work. Even so, the general wealth level grew and thus female time spent on making molas also was increased, with the triple drain this represented in lost productive labor, unremunerated mola labor, and purchased materials. The result, however, was that the integrity of

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Cuna society was preserved; the "differential production of (household) surplus cannot become the basis for economic stratification" (56, p. 1 19). A forced argument perhaps, but the Cuna present an object lesson that to understand how an economy can change in appearance but remain the same dynamically, an examination of the use of the surplus is required, and that to grasp the meaning of the surplus, in the sense of what it does, how it fits, and what it represents, the perspective of a cultural economics is essential. As suggested by the Cuna data, systems in which the distributional pattern is changing are common. Of this form we may distinguish at least three varieties. 1. There may be a direct augmentation of the surplus through broaden­ ing of the population base of the economy itself. Friedman (42, 43), in his reinterpretation of Leach's (6 1) Kachin material, has proposed something of this order for certain stages of the Gumsa/Gumlao cycle, as has Sahlins (89) for the growth and decay of Hawaiian chieftainships. In such econo­ mies the distribution pattern does not change for those already within the system but does for those newly brought in (usually by political means). These same data also suggest that the productive process goes through long-term cycles of expansion and contraction; in order to understand the economy it must be set into a temporal framework. 2. The surplus may be augmented through a change in distribution of the product between surplus and subsistence. With constant output, the surplus can be increased by depressing the real standard of living of the immediate producers; or the living standard of the workers can be left alone and the surplus product expanded by increasing the labor effort. Such patterns of augmenting the amount extracted from the same population may have been true of the Kachin (42, 43) and Hawaiian (89) productive modes, as well as certain stages of feudalism ( 108, p. 37). 3. The magnitude of the surplus and the entire distribution pattern may be affected by a change in production methods. Anthropologists have paid scant attention to this possibility, despite the avowed interest in technologi­ cal change (4). Leaving to one side technological "devolution," a poor word for an interesting process, we might distinguish two forms of productive changes. Some alterations in the productive process have the effect of reduc­ ing the time needed in actual production but of requiring a similar effort as before in producing the means of production. This form of change could result from a shift in tools used or from a reorganization of the production techniques. To be distinguished from this type is that form which leads to a reduction of time needed while producing the means of production but not to a diminution of effort in actual production. The Siane substitution of steel axes for stone implements (5 1, 91) is an instance where both changes

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occurred at once. The Siane: actually used the technological shift to increase their surplus product which in turn they converted to nonproductive activi­ ties. All these examples, however, serve only to present distribution by install­ ments, as if it were fragmented. Fortunately, M. I. Finley (36-38) has provided a lively and overall description of the early Greek and Roman economy (1000 B.c.-500 A.D.). Even though no quantitative data are in­ cluded in it, the historian's account encapsulates so many ofthe distribution issues that a brief analytical summary is illustrative. Finley shows that agricultural production was the basis of thc�. ancient economy, although other productive activities also were undertaken. The "economy" itself, however, was encompassed within the political order; to own land one had to be a citizen, and conversely landowners (rentiers) devoted their time not to productive activities but to political administra­ tion. This political siting of the economy was so pervasive that, Finley claims, even credit crises were caused by political, not economic, distur­ bances. Further, one central and consistent aim of political policy was precisely to assure that the bulk of the populace received its subsistence
�� .

This, then, was the siting of the distribution pattern. The surplus itself was given primarily a political meaning. Three uses of the agricultural surplus were of central importance: holding offices, giving liturgies, and paying taxes. Political offic�:-holders were supported by consumption of the agricultural surplus deriv�:d from their lands. In addition, in classical Greece, aristocratic households performed important but nonproductive social services, such as financing the construction of public buildings or holding games. All such al;ts were termed "liturgies." Compulsory, hon­ orific, evincing a competitive element, and often directed to the religious sphere, such liturgies, Finky remarks, were one method for equalizing the burden between rich and poor in a democratic state. But liturgies were also a mode of realizing the surplus, of turning it to tangible effect; and liturgies afforded a way for the immediate producers to participate ideologically in the consumption of the surplus (45, pp. 68-69). Taxes as a form of surplus use also represented a political encompassment of the economy. Here Finlt:y reveals an ordered set of connections among taxation, support of the military, the collection of booty, expansion of the Roman Empire, the harnessing of a larger agricultural surplus, and the receipt of more taxes. When, during the later Empire, the overall population base could no longer be expanded, the circular series of linkages was broken. Nevertheless, more taxes were gathered in this time, and the burden grew for those within the system. Thus the late period witnessed a shift in the



distribution of the net product. This alteration in distributive pattern was made possible by the dominance of the political sphere, but paradoxically the shift itself may have contributed significantly to the Empire's fall.

For some years, implicitly and explicitly, we have been asking of ourselves, what is the relation between anthropology and economics? The answer, it appears, must have at least two dimensions. As an empirical field, an­ thropology offers new domains for the application of economic concepts, with all the possibilities this affords for the expansion and emendation of the entrenched wisdom. But what ought to be stressed, and has only become most apparent from the Marxist contribution, is that anthropology's great­ est offering-and here its role is complementary to that of history-lies in its capacity to elucidate different economies as systems. Certainly an­ thropologists have been able to illuminate different economic mechanisms -gift-giving, reciprocity, marketing behavior, forms of agriculture-but so far they have been less successful at conveying the concept that different total or systemic economic configurations exist. Such an ethnographic shortcoming, however, is partly an indication of a weakness in the theoretical apparatus, and this relates to the second link between anthropology and economics, the conceptual overlap. At what point does sociological information enter into economic explanation? An­ thropologists have nibbled at this question in different ways. The catchall concept of the "embedding" of the economy in society is a part answer, as is the notion of the role of the mode of production within a total social formation. For the followers of utility theory the solution is provided by the economic postulates of individual choice and maximization, assumptions which either are expanded to apply to all social behavior or are said to derive from the observation of "natural" or precultural man. Compared to these several perspectives my own framework lacks elabo­ ration and elegance, but it does originate in time-honored and recent theory. My view begins with a focus on production-distribution. The productive process is cyclical or set in time; indeed, this temporal dimension of produc­ tion is implicit in the factual observation that any productive system-aside from that in the Garden of Eden-is dependent upon a previous accumula­ tion, or the saving of past labor. But the productive process is also culturally specified, and by examining allocation of the product, we gain an important understanding of the dynamics of an economy. It follows that a central question is, how do we apprehend a pattern of distributive outputs? I have

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argued for the rejection of the neoclassical, marginalist view whic�h would reduce the explanation of distinct cultural patterns to individual motives, although as normative or prescriptive tools the notions of choice and oppor­ tunity foregone are valuablc�. I have suggested, too, that the Marxian notion of exploitation provides a foreshortened view of the variability of distribu­ tive patterns, and I have hinted that exploitation as explanation of distribu­ tion is posited on a unidimensional view of human nature. By contrast to the economists, anthropologists can offer a total or rela­ tional view of distribution, and this in a double sense. On the one hand, we may, and must, ask again why subsistence, rents, or taxes settle at certain levels, but it must be granted that these are elemental or atomistic type questions and the answers ,are to be sought in the context of the total, and culturally unique, distribution pattern. On the other hand, this form of understanding does not require the assumption of "cultural cocoons," of mutual unintelligibility among economies, for distinct distribution patterns are themselves to be comprehended as transforms of one another. Being cultural selections from the: possible afforded by nature, patterns of output
allocation constitute a serit:s of comparable structures embracing different

material contents. Thus economic distributive patterns and their determi­ nants are to be understood anthropologically but this only by deploying all the tools at our command: distribution as a meaningful system, distribution in light of social forces, and distribution as a structure-a structure, how­ ever, which is forever subject to the vicissitudes of nature and history.
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