A Model for an Anthropological Economy: Beyond the Universal and the Particular

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

Summary ...................................................................................................................................................................33

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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The Author
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…


in my view. An influence and constitute our economic lives. discipline rests but to provide new insights that connect with its understandings? Given the centrality of economic thought in modern social and political spheres. 33). in doing so. p. 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. which as a matter of no coincidence. not only to challenge the axioms upon which the these are among the big questions of today. It is here that In this thesis. 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. and hopefully questions about the value of knowledge meet questions about value more generally. by arguing for the theoretical guidance for the subdiscipline of economic anthropology. “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. 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 .sciences is all too well known in anthropology. 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. In response to the trend that William Milberg (2009) has that economists occupy as “the high priests of our [Western] culture” (Wilk 1996. To this end. enhance. Indeed. also includes judgements made certain interests are served by value structures that pattern such judgements. what is “good”. I will present a critique of the high value placed on economic expertise in contemporary Western society and. the value of anthropological expertise. for anthropologists and for us all. 64). emphasise.

Hence. I do not suggest that these two theoretical this paper. 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. Rather than merely refuting economic expertise. model. cultural. To add theoretical direction. institutions. for the purposes of The remainder of the paper endeavours to emphasise the importance of this specific importantly. the third section reinterprets ethnographic research conducted with finance part investigates the less-instituted practices of international money transfers anthropologists. 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. blend of prescriptions for an anthropological economy – theoretical. The final people live economic lives in spaces of divergent degrees of (in)formality. as well as the place and role of money in each social 6 . and ruling powers. they should be considered part and parcel of the conceptual apparatus. perspectives are the only ones compatible with my model. the second The opening section outlines the methodological areas of the Eye of Providence Thus. however. 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. 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. methodological. it also enables me to contrast the nature and place of economic expertise vis-à-vis anthropological expertise. In addition to this. and to individuals. I argue that anthropology should focus on the ways in which economics political dynamics that can draw the two disciplines closer together. More setting. (mis)represents the world and should vie for a more humanistic intellectual perspective on the economy.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. In the space between economic representation and economic reality lies a distinct opportunity for anthropological analyses to highlight social.

contradicting common belief. enabled through market expansion (Hart 2000). I have split society into “individuals”. 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.S. nonetheless imbued his ideas with a new resurgence (Hann & Hart 2009). as an economic superpower. “institutions”. 2 as well as Polanyi’s notion of embeddedness. 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. 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. consequently. 3 legitimize [sic] wealth and even to make poverty seem deserved” (p. a situation I take “the market” to be both an economic idea and a functioning of the economy. I hope to show that Gudeman’s (2009a) concept of dialectical embeddedness is useful when understanding contemporary economies. natural social evolution.Introducing the Eye of Providence Economic Model rethinking of Polanyi in a contemporary context. Hann and Hart (2009) have similar concerns today. 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. and “economy” throughout the paper. I have largely drawn on the idea of the interplay between the market 1 and economic practices. “finance”. I conflate the terms “market”. However. 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. rather than tracing a genealogy of ideas. Polanyi was principally concerned with the relationship between the market and society. it is the rethinking of Polanyi’s ideas that I am concerned with here. In structuring my model. 7 . with the global spread of neoliberal ideology since the 1980s. and “ruling powers”. 2 In the model. Keynesian dominance of the U. 3). He was not opposed to the Importantly. Certainly. 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).

13). 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. and investigate further “whether or not capitalist economy rests on human principles of universal validity” (p. p. pp. 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. 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. The world of ideas. exchange. I hope to still set out specific research objectives. 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. 8 . However. as the market is once again considered vital to the functioning of society (Servet 2009. hence. distribution. have felt obligated to address the main views of economists. for instance. 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. as economics became “the ideological and economy with humans has been left for other social scientists to pursue. would consist of neoclassic theories ranging from hypotheses of efficient markets to notions of individual rationality but also more socially sensitive concepts. 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. With the focus on market relations. and consumption. Yet people per se do not feature in their calculations. Anthropologists. 38-41). too. globalisation. 72-74). as well as some general questions to be explored. the idea of an quest for a better understanding of contemporary economic life 4 should begin by riding social integration (Beckert 2009. pp. as outlined in figure 1 below. The model. 12).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.

such as the domestic moral economy. as well as activity in “the components at each of the three points of the triangle. my second motive for labelling my model this way is to invoke the 9 . Firstly. 6 & 15). consist of the actual buying and selling that occurs in a institutions themselves but also includes institutions.S. 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. Taken ubiquitously represented on the Great Seal of the U.S. In accordance to the Polanyian to understand economic life. which is probably most words “Annuit Coeptis” – God favours our undertakings – placed above it. has become so important to modern Economy. They would. “actions” highlights the importance of considering peoples’ economic agency and the agendas to protect the economy from inflation through monetary policy. together. It may. The physical functionings are the substance of the marketplace. reflect modern capitalist state not simply signify economic phenomena relating to organisations or to economic meaning that they attach to their economic lives. these signs are said to refer to the many divine interventions for the American cause (U. or the eye. area to illustrate the dialectical embeddedness (discussed below) with the other housing market”. for example. such as the household or family. The component of the model that points to “institutions” and their “knowledges” and “practices” does rethinking that I have outlined above. market. it is rather fitting with a central tenet capitalist societies that we can think of this Great Transformation as an apotheosis. such as that on the London Stock Exchange. I have situated the economy within this enclosed and their “rulings” and “interests”. for instance. I use it interchangeably with “the economy” in order to interpreted as God watching over all of humanity. 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”. pp. Therefore. The of this paper. that the economy. these four main elements of the framework Finally. Department of State 2003. one dollar bill and that has the I have named my economic model the “Eye of Providence” for two reasons. namely. 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.

the associated ideas and functionings. ** All connections are dialectical. 3. Market economy. 4. Remittances. Marketplace.emphasise the piety towards. Domestic Moral Economy. 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. correspondingly. and the power emanating from. I have ordered the examples in every sub-component box of the model between the concepts. 2. *** “Economic ideas” discussed in this essay are mapped onto the sub-component box in 10 .

Mutuality is essential to the existence of all economies. On the one hand. 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. To rectify this. Once this first- order of social institutionalisation has been established. This is productivity (Gudeman 2009a. there is a mutual of others within the base. 32-34). 69-78). while this dependency link is itself erased. Even the New Institutional Economists overlook the a priori relationships that constitute actors. 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. industrial society. where it assumes different historical forms and degrees of pp. Society is an objective reality. On the other. perceiving relationship between the parts. I now depict the Dialectical Interconnectivity of Components value realms that surround each. 28 & 29). it must be made plausible by a second-order process of legitimisation. for which Berger and Luckman (1966) identify 11 (pp. Man is a social product” (p. pp. This world is then objective and antecedent to individuals. while the downsizing itself undermines mutuality and holds wages down.any embeddedness as a flaw to the ideal functioning of the economy. even those that exemplified when companies mystify downsizing by presenting themselves as dynamics. Gudeman (2009a) argues that this “division is a continuing dialectic in all economies. 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. 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. as the product acts back upon the producers in a dialectical relationship whereby: “Society is a human . Neoclassic economists would happily leave things there. communities to the employees on which they depend. Having outlined the main components of the framework. people are only connected through market trade by alienating and impersonal contracts. despite the rhetoric of increased practices and models that it supports. but it is also undermined by the very market tension” (p. 79). 37).

(1996) believes that the debate’s disengagement derives from each party’s starting substantivists start at the level of societies. considered to be rational self-interested maximizers. the institutions of which they say act as structures for economic life (pp. 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 . propositions that explain sets of meanings. at the highest level. such as the economic proverb “a rising tide knowledge. I can now explore this a little further. such as a universe of “value”. Carrier (2009a) traces the universalpoint. and finally. Thus. such as “you have to think of yourself in business”. I assume that in reality the truths in either view that are worth exploring. explicit theories of an institutional sector with a separate stock of order. Disputes between those that even to the time of Plato and Aristotle (Blavatsky 1939). 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. 110-122). Having outlined my model. basic theoretical lifts all boats”. 20-22). one could say that these are: incipient transmission of a vocabulary of selfinterest. 1-13). the methodology of the former view debate run much deeper and farther back. Wilk with individuals. The formalists begin considering the history of economic anthropology. 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. while the social context. Reinterpreted for a neoliberal capitalist “The Great Debate”. The divide continued to the primitive acquisitive context of self-interest that Mauss argued for (pp.economy. 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. which he claims made the perspectives mutually exclusive. the symbolic universe that amalgamates discrete provinces of meaning and encompasses the institutional four distinct and ascending levels (pp.

I should aspire. Firstly. by positing that “everything is like this” or that “everything is different”. where possible. Secondly. I must avoid the pitfalls of adhering too strongly to either perspective. Indeed. these prescriptions. my model is designed to encourage adherence to 13 . to productively reconcile this age-old epistemological separation.challenge. namely.

and on how economic knowledge is embodied by market tools and apparatus. (2009) criticism of Polanyi vis-à-vis the Durkheimians for not attending to the emphasising a Durkheimian functional approach. I now introduce the two lines of cases of finance workers and remittance makers.in that it highlights four conceptual areas where researchers might examine “the the aspirations of the paper. rather than say stress on “[a] more accurate study of the interplay between economic thought. though. to allow for a political slant when connecting with economics (Wilk 1996. Navigating through the notions of the universal and the will take more than conceptual cartography. and for endorsing rather than challenging its economic assumptions (pp. 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. whereas interpretative value theory is generally more applicable to the element for “individuals”. such as dialectics and embeddedness. such as the use of 14 . which is powerfully employed to extend the market. 68-71). Moreover. because they particular. Although it does include some theoretical discussion. value. his discussion of the importance of the teaching of economics. and “institutions”. Indeed. and the economy” does seem to superimpose comfortably onto the functioning of the market. I have chosen to invoke political economy and interpretive approaches to value. This may seem at odds with Steiner’s Political Economy institutions. We also need a theoretical compass to which are key themes from Hann and Harts’ (2009) edited volume. 83). As I mentioned at the outset. of representation and reality. and of anthropological and economic expertise. as outlined so far. are not open up the economic realm in a unified fashion. in developing an anthropological theory of economy”. Steiner’s (2009) framework of my model (p. it is necessary to further elaborate the theoretical account in line with The Eye of Providence economic model. The exclusive to the stated domains. 71). 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. assuming market mentality to be obsolete. p. direct our way. I have opted for a view of political economy.

owing to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). pp. I clearly do not ignore Steiner’s (2009) concerns. in order to understand these phenomena. that is. In a political economic milieu where the heavily indebted government. and Elite Interests economic models in contemporary financial markets. activists had to appeal to the commercial advantages of protecting the vital if we wish to comprehend the latter. compares our current moment of neoliberalism to Polanyi’s notion of the self-regulating “environment” came to mean a profitable space for attracting tourists. Even in situations where the connection may ostensibly be trivial. had no money for 242). 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. While this approach may also fit my model. Global Forces. motivations. by dealing with economic ideas I begin with a less extreme case of political power. pp. power is prevalent. Nevertheless. I develop a more Marxist stance on this occasion to emphasise the political unified structure (Wilk 1996. Nevertheless. seems to link well with the dialectical interconnectivity of the model (pp. as if it were a component of something that derives from a and functionings directly.and power dimensions of economic life rather than simply observing the functional aspects of an economy. for large overseas corporations (Carrier 2009b. 242-255). Carrier (2009b) augments this point when he measure and value of individuals. 68-71). 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. He argues that neoliberalism permeates many aspects of life that are not ostensibly economic. and practices (pp. To exemplify this. as money itself becomes the we must attend to economic beliefs. thus. 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. 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. institutions. 15 . 240conservation in Jamaica. Local Expressions. Carrier (2009b) discusses his research of environmental conservation. 83-93). since it essentially represents a local expression of global and national forces. a profitable space.

Combining his arguments with Carrier’s (2009b) institutions and ruling powers that shape them. it is not sufficient to simply reveal these systems…[through] their thoroughly local definition and penetration. this was perhaps a more innovative statement than if it were made now. For describe a plethora of different actions – as a political project that creates the conditions research in Jamaica. these political economic forces should be the object of study for anthropology. interpreting neoliberalism – a sweeping abstraction that he invokes to for elites to accumulate capital.S.$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. and [that] are Marcus and Fischer (1986). But what might this type of macrosystem view be processes. 90-95). 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. 48). 73). From Harvey’s (2005) standpoint. Jamaican government accepted “stringent fiscal controls” in order to obtain a U. 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). The passionately communicated in Stephanie Black’s documentary Life and Debt (2001). Indeed. 16 . as we must also consider the broader scale of political economy. The notion of a multi-sited ethnography has indeed become part of the mainstream in anthropology. and the full authority given to the IMF in cases of Jamaican workers and higher profits for multinationals” (Bolles 1983. those opposed to the move predicted “lower wages for country’s borders. my model notably advocates the kind of formative of the symbols and shared meanings within the most intimate life-worlds of expressions per se. At the time of their writing. 39). the unlikelihood of Jamaica simply attributed to neoliberal reforms that made the borrower take the losses on defaults (p. p. even if this macrosystem perspective entails traversing multiple field sites (pp. 138). the precedent set by the New York fiscal crisis that favoured a good business default.Marcus and Fischer (1986) call for ethnographic fieldwork to represent “external ethnographic subjects” (p. However. whereby it will always protect financial firms (p. when the million IMF loan in 1978.

nor am I ignoring alternative views of it that de-emphasise its homogenising and hegemonic character (Ong 2006). and debtors” (p. 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”. Graeber’s (2009) depiction of our current era as “the electronic consumer transactions. operating through the IMF. However. national economies driven by consumer debt. 131). corporations. 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”. are ideological gestures that do not exist out there in the world but rather are a specific way in which a society represents itself. it is important to look at whose interests a particular model is serving and question the types of value that 17 . Not only are we seemingly devoid of the social controls in place to curtail force to be reckoned with. It is characterised. 130). 131-132). especially boundaries or making models is problematic since “what we call social or economic according to completely different principles” (p. largely in order to protect the interests of creditors against abstraction because it exemplifies my point about external forces. starting-point when thinking about external influences on economic forms. This is particularly crucial even if neoliberalism around the globe. it is debt but this age has also witnessed the establishment of “the first effective planetary administrative system. I am not suggesting that neoliberalism is the only broad systemic other financial institutions. tracing the influences of “neoliberal” ruling powers that operate through ideas themselves.nonetheless instructive in showing the importance of attending to the ways in which empire of debt” does seem to echo these concerns. and financialisation that is increasingly detached from direct relations to commerce or While Harvey (2005) offers a rather radical perspective of political economy. creating a totalizing model within which the books all balance and all debts and production. Graeber (2009) emphasises this point when he argues that drawing systems are. by we only partially accept Harvey’s (2005) depiction of the uneven spread of external influences can forcefully shape a given locale. He argues that the market: credits ultimately cancel one another out” (pp. the World Bank. in reality. I have merely chosen to utilise the global spread. he says. like “societies”.

rather than vice18 the world of minds and presents the possibility of revealing a more Weberian view of inherent meanings would be left unexamined. it is a step towards a for interdisciplinary dialogue. versa with a Marxist take (Wilk 1996. where as “the would be insufficient. My point is that it that may not be truly achievable in modern ethnography. say. however. rather than just what is going on. 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. In sum. In short. p. This is a holistic ambition external political influences on economic actors and institutions. To achieve this. for instance. 110). “a market” sells a house. If the previous section brought the individual into the picture as an activist within a Jamaican political economic system. I probe the meaning of economics as something that is embedded deeply in culture and belief. the institutional context that enabled the loans to take place. such as the commodification of Jamaica or of humans and nature more broadly. As Graeber (2009) illustrates. as well as the internal agenda that promoted less regulation. it was quite acceptable it back. failed market exchange. it indicates that anthropologists must are being realised. 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. Economic life would simply be a socio-political product and the An Interpretative Theory of Value . We also require a better comprehension of the positioning of different actors in such practices. 132). this part tries to reveal the picture as seen from “the individual”. 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.market” justifies capitalist principles (p. This may If we accept Graeber’s (2009) argument. This allows us to enter have depicted above. it and interests of political powers and their effects on that facet of the economy. In our “empire of debt”. and the state’s neoliberal means asking why this is happening. to argue abstractly that defaults on subprime mortgages can be understood as what Stuart Kirsch (2006) might refer to as “unrequited reciprocity” rather than.

which were central to economics at the 19 . Classical economists. 86). have been sidelined and left for anthropologists and other To understand the problems surrounding past and current theories of value(s). 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. which was manufactured by economists and based on relations of self-interest (Servet in the purely rational economic terms of labour. consequently. extending the concept of an anthropological theory of value and its connection to economy. of recognising both the needs of the individual and of society (pp. The Problem of “Economic” Value forms of economic life. p. Economic theories of value were developed through the myth of value Polanyi made explicit. positing their world of self-interest. 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. 87-89). In doing as natural and isolated from politics and where exchange counterparts in the market could have complete freedom to make choices. and being obligated to future societies. what kinds of preferences. it becomes apparent that there are alternatives to our current world configuration. so. pp. 89).thus. For instance. 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. and have the ability to act with full rationality. could not resolve this problem. interdependence as a community. which we must venture much deeper than these logics of exchange. scarcity. This conflicts with the notion of humanity as having the potential for solidarity. and considers Developing a symbolic theory of value takes us far beyond thinking about “value” theories were: another. Servet (2009) argues that these “objective [since] they rationalized the relationship between a person (conceived of as 2009. This is something that I hope an anthropological theory of value will achieve. and utility. By meshing symbolic anthropology with the dynamics of political instead how value is determined through relations between different groups. 89-90). questions of value.

as the meaning of value (p. 440). desirable or worthwhile in it” (Graeber 2005. it implies a common foundation for the three meanings. he highlights that it was questions of value that set neoclassic economists apart from their predecessors. However. 439). and became simply a subjective measure of desire” indistinguishable from one another. one that followed on historical changes in the economic ideas change vis-à-vis economic functionings.K. and “value” in of the same thing. aesthetic and symbolic the Saussurean linguistic sense. meaningful. that there was a fundamental change. so too is the state of the present would usually refer to as “economics”. Adam Smith developed the labour theory of value to explain the difference between the exchange value and use value of objects. Was this shift in economic expertise simply down to myopia? I suspect probably not. that makes this whole process work. “value” in the economic usage. a symbolic So how else can we theorise about value(s)? When questioning the existence of century U. Ricardo identified the problem of depressed wages. “for it leads us into moral. I kindly ask for the reader’s patience here. 441-443). My point is. From here on. Grasping the particular is not a calculative act but judging the universal is. p.scholars to explore. If one considers these terms to essentially be instances 20 . Significantly. a paradigm shift perhaps. I will “values” in the socio-philosophical sense. a contemporary study of value would typically surpass what we territory that is very hard to reduce to rational calculation and science” (Graeber 2005. p. production to consumption at the turn of the following century. Graeber (2005) outlines three uses of the term: system of value “that defines the world in terms of what is important. that is. Moreover. 453). an anthropological theory of value. 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. economics as a discipline devoted to studying the formation of price (pp. this kind of intellectual insight was swept aside by the marginalist revolution that redefined however. Marx critiqued the wage system. traversing material to which some scholars dedicate an entire career. as one may recognise that I am characterising it as destructive of all that is worthwhile and meaningful. While the underlying dynamics of the change are important because they allow us to see how away from the theorists mentioned above. the movement from mid-nineteenth situation. In the sections below. the price and value of objects became increasingly “transcended the physical altogether.

The hidden amongst the traditional elements (pp. rather than simply amalgamates an expanded notion of value with an awareness of the concealment of the fabrications of prices. 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. such as those encompassed by currency exchanges. “is a moral economy of transparently composite prices. taxes. as a sphere of individual self-realisation. which nevertheless retain the mystery of their components” (p. Forced to explain the rise. we are now reminded of outcome. Graeber (2005) able to become inverted at different levels. Guyer (2009) claims. She shows how. the Saussauran approach to value as meaningful mediate understandings between individuals and systems. Dumont believed Western society is no longer hierarchical. to If value is conflated with price in our current economic world. 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. which made costs of finance imperceptible.S. 447-50). which has allowed the market. thus. corporations. Guyer’s (2009) work on increasingly aware that composite elements constitute prices. and distribution 21 . refining costs and profits.attempt to delineate such a system by analysing different usages of “value(s)”. as he argues. As shrewd consumers. I specifically investigate Graeber’s (2005) claim that it may be able to regards to the latter of the three usages. 203-205). invokes Dumont’s notion of classic structuralist ideas as values that are hierarchical and individual. in the twenty-first century. she argues that we should investigate the components encompassed by prices that are diffusely U. petroleum companies claimed that despite the rise in the nominal price of oil. Thus. there was a steady proportional return and they and marketing. They did not include profit on capital as a composite category. With difference. rose sharply by a dollar and rocked the projections of budgets from households to assuming prices to be singular wholes. 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. 205). Moreover. paper since. economic actors are processes behind them and popular understandings of them.

Guyer’s (2009) analysis may be useful here not only because it suggests that presented to consumers. It also portrays a case proportions of the retail price that was itself based on market actors from producers to contracts. 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. 208-210). and indeed the great resulting profits made from investment banks. However. from which the great values are composite and allows us to investigate them as such. into them. driving up the price. which itself created further incentives to invest in oil. Risk management and consulting costs. was the composite component that was eventually retailers. If numbers cannot simply be taken at economic face “value”. motivations. 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. and interests. So 22 . can only constitute part of the market price of crude from the view benefactors seem to be investment banks. 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. Furthermore. this presents a clear point-of-entry for anthropology to interpret their associated social. are diffusely hidden (pp. cultural. these factors.determined to be the impetus behind the rise. and forces that are masked by these public ideologies of price.

The Whitehouse. 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. Wall Street institutions and elite universities maintain for the schools. 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. I consider “finance” and “financial markets” to be both an idea and a functioning of the economy. with a huge bias to recruiting students from Harvard and Princeton. 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. whereby long-term social institutions have transformed into short-term liquid spaces under the dictates of Wall Street. and High Financiers economy and in the structure of corporate America. the divorce of what capitalism.Ho (2009) offers a unique view of Wall Street. The Economy. Thus. Wall Street. As Ho (2009) shows. 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. 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. however. 23 . 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. Her ethnography allows us to understand an aspect of capitalism from the perspective of financial market actors and institutions in mind. 6 remunerative and prestigious places in today’s society. For Ho (2009). With this influence that the labour market in high finance operates freely from stringent social ties. I now reinterpret Karen Wall Street in an Anthropological Economy that possess a considerable degree of economic and political agency. whereas candidates from other universities lack As with “the market”.

never mind helping to engender a global recession. you cannot look at economics without looking at politics” (p. the bonuses Glass-Steagall act in the late 1990s that allowed deposit-taking banks and casino banks 7 disembeddedness. 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. 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. once operational. as there are better opportunities to meet with hard work. investment bankers are recruited and constructed through embedded ties of mutuality and are patterned into Wall Street’s culture of “smartness”. Peoples’ way on the Street is largely already paved by social that can afford an elite education. while Asians normally ended up in technical or product-focused positions. 24 . 106-121). 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. and compensation. Moreover. Ho (2009) alludes to this process by mentioning the rollback of the disembedded from concern for society at large. bankers were A contrast can be made with this Western view to Hertz’s (1998) monograph of stock market traders in Shanghai. white upper-class males (pp. 39-72). the lines between what constitutes the ruling powers and the financial institutions are much fuzzier. The market is more overtly embedded in the rulings and interests of the ruling power. Ho (2009) shows how ethnicity greatly determines career harder work. 61 & 62). She shows that the traders interpret the market in political terms. Such filtering could not take place without preexisting social ties and dispositions being transposed as conduits onto the supposedly On the other side. 225). 26). This is exemplified by the case of a talented black woman who left banking because she felt alienated for having paths. Furthermore. Meanwhile. In Ho’s (2009) book. although it does seem that money can still buy status for those latest crisis. directors who themselves graduated from these elite schools.the socio-cultural capital and must prove themselves otherwise. Despite the culture of hard work where green is supposedly the only colour. success that one may have once hired. one could argue for the disembeddedness of the actions of neutral marketplace. these connections also influence the On the one side. The labour relations and institutions. 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. thus “in China.

Ho (2009) analyses the realign social relations throughout the country. 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. discerned from Ho’s (2009) monograph. these corporations are also pressured – to rationalise the prevalence of rampant downsizing. 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 . I would note that in the dialectical embeddedness. 229). employment (p. 247). 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. In this case. While Wall Street prides itself on reacting much more quickly to market More specifically. an image of decisions bear a relation to.much about disembedding as it is about power relations” (p. 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. 34). as shifts and busts (p. as the political power through institutions. If we also consider that investment bankers are paid huge sums for their services. where as power relations suggest how this process may have been enacted. 136). and economies (pp. 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. 293). and shareholder value movements than other corporations (p. markets. disembedding describes a process. 227). the stock market. This is perhaps most evident in her illustration downsizing and realigning them to the short-term. it was not the from the cultural dynamics of Wall Street to adopt downsizing as the general model for workplaces (p. On the one side. through her focus on employment. 213-215). and effect. She also mentions how the takeover movement of the 1980s could only occur through deregulation and favouring of private ownership (p. 7). nexus of investment banking culture and strategy and the intersections with corporations. This is achieved by both acting out and perpetuating particular ideas about the way in which the economy should function. Whatever the case. but do not mirror.

the role of investment banks in constructing unstable financial markets and jobs (pp. Wall Street has not simply reconstructed the banker’s cultural model of themselves as coeval and identified with the market” (p. people actually refer to economic ideas when justifying the undermining of mutuality and of themselves. perhaps to protect the bonus pools of elites (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. Moreover. 321). 260). 240). Like some sort of religious their own hype. and peddling them around the globe to investors (pp. the other side of the dialectic. hyping them. 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. italics in original). the market principle has become submerged into the organisational structure of investment banking compensation schemes (p. In this case. not reification of market dominance” (p. 234 & 235). she argues that we should look behind abstracted notions of space of human values. the institution of investment banking. The high 26 . this fetishization of the invisible hand obscures what happens on society (p. 297-302). that investment banks actually get enrolled in during boom times. Wall Street eventually created “a those acting within. emotions. short-termism. and the market trends that they help to engender. and dually transforming. bankers are For Ho (2009). Ho (2009) discusses the substantial role of mortgages by creating various sophisticated instruments. 318-324). Future ideas about work life. 233). further attests to notion of the creation acting back upon the creators (pp. to wit. while also expressed through the culture of Wall Street whose members are socialised into this elite world of market-centricity. 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. She re-imagines the market as a practices as opposed to an abstract concept. In addition to past crises.the institutional culture and individual beliefs of bankers. and rampant-insecurity. Through generating a global market for doctrine. 242). 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. and institutional standards. Hence.

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. as I mentioned above. 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. When I became qualified as a stockbroker and investment manager. 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. It would have been perspectives of the model. Langager. 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. could also be said for their views on the notion of a jobless recovery. In the new modes of production in the age of neoliberal financialisation. I can now turn to the first of the theoretical approaches. 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. since there is no place in them for the “human factor”. 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. and Murphy 2010). Nonetheless.(2009) emphasises the importance of anthropological insight in examining these forces. economics. not just machines with calculators. 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. In fact. 27 . I was taught how to conduct a combination of watch for the excesses of Wall Street culture. 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 (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. fascinating to also consider that she did not decide to pursue this research.

Thus.S.S. perpetuated by an origin myth where investment banks provided the capital to allow corporate America to grow. shifting concepts of inequality and wealth. 122-129). now measured by efficiency. liquidity. Ho (2009) maintains that shareholder value was beginning informants.K. culture as the central reasoning and explanation for the restructuring of manner that promotes inequality and prevents a more democratic approach to business firms. 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. valued for its permanency and role in the community. Ho (2009) unpacks the ethnographic present. The institutional loyalties of the economic relationship. where profits go to the owners of the companies’ shares. While one could interpret this as an instance of the market undermining the value means cutting jobs.benefits to the economy at large. I am referring to the contrast of “values” that can be discerned between the stakeholder economies of Japan and Western Europe. to the new notion of the corporation as a mutuality upon which it rests. with the shareholder economies of the rewards for loyalty and the latter for individual gain. as Gudeman (2009a) might posit. and short-term profits. and the condition of the U. grip over corporate America. this entailed supplanting existing values – in During her fieldwork. and U. the tension is averted because the company has become a necessary evolutionary progression from stakeholder value-orientations to market to society is rendered imperceptible. There is a greater inherent valuation for 28 . This loyalty is reciprocated from the companies. economy at large. who in turn U. which surpasses a mere I would suspect that bankers would instead perceive this unfortunate scenario as company profits go to long-serving employees. for Ho’s (2009) network of liquid investors. to engulf U. The shift was from the old concept of the firm as a social institution. the former offer more than simply a market rate wage.. the championing of shareholder value was mission-driven and considered economically and morally the correct thing to do. To understand this phenomenon. The dependency link of the shareholder value-orientations. 26-30). Essentially.S. where stakeholder economies create social attachments to firms.S. Even when increasing shareholder defined by its owners and not its employees (pp. (pp. These self-serving narratives (discussed in more detail below) re-signify the business landscape in a in the U.

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. and a reduction from the firm to top company executives. 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. as rewards are given for occupancy and role within the firm. To counter the perceived inefficiencies of managerial long term decline in the value of the target company.group ties. caused a example of Daimler-Benz and Chrysler. and “efficiency”. Ostensibly. today the until a leveraged buyout (LBO) led to massive downsizing. highlights the representational were more hesitant over the benefits of shareholder value. downsizing. such as these. investment banks. Hence. paradoxically. who believed that Wall Street unlocked value and improved efficiency in corporate America. as advocates of shareholder value. Contrary to the worldview of her informants. Essentially. Just as values. 314-316). Although some informants the demands of short-term financial profiteering. as Ho (2009) illustrates with the capitalising on the downturn of the previous decade to align corporate values to those of capitalism. values and practices that are hierarchical and diverging. Ho in capital improvement plans. pp. individual achievement and ability (Blim 2005. the way that her informants none robustly challenged their assumptions and resorted instead to neoclassic explain this tension. Ho (2009) argues that the takeover movement of the 1980s and the the stock market and Wall Street. 129-153). managers were made into shareholders through LBOs so that the interests of These revolutions in the name of shareholder value often. 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. The company had been operating competitively with plans for growth while the company itself was saddled with a monumental amount of debt. and the private equity firm. Thus. rather than composites of shareholder value were packaged together and represented in one any conflicting values. lower wages. were abandoned for price back then. Moreover. 29 . 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.

and produces financial dominance” (p. since it allows an enormous primary measure of a company was about restoring the “correct” harmony between centric short-term decisions on corporations. 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. Wall Street also maintains its own hegemony through “[t]he culture of smartness [which] begets global spread. Ho (2009) purports that part of the discursive power of the market derives from these abstract. In this view. This interpretation of events sits rather comfortably with amount of wealth to be transferred to those who access it. and investors. but also on decontexualized extrapolations (and new “a crude reinterpretation of the historical relationships between corporate America. in this case comprised of economists and financiers. If the ruling theory of value may throw light upon these questions. 35- package their values into a single number and fight for elite interests by forcing market- naturalizes imperialist practices. Here. The explicit theories of an institutional sector. the use of the share price as the rationalisations (pp. As she argues. the 30 . then how of the human economic mind. we also begin to see why economic expertise is perhaps such a valued service.S. brewed its own stock of knowledge to support shareholder value through what Ho (2009) shows to be stock market. 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. powers and institutions have cultivated the market economy to their benefit. justifies global financial influence.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. contributions to these unequal transfers of wealth. flexible representations and 38). hegemony (pp. 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. 72). 153-168).

Ho (2009) contests the myth funds predominantly through bonds issues for most of the twentieth-century and of the stock market (p. and short-termism. to denaturalise bankers’ worldview of shareholder value. the manner in which bankers selected symbolic universe of value. 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. The values – in a sociological sense – of trust. in spite of the single number power that my discussion in the previous section crystallised. bankers are superior to the average worker. 179 & 202). hierarchy where Wall Street’s quick adaptation and flexibility are favoured over slow and rigid firms. As Ho (2009) points out. There are numerous indications that such a phenomenon exists. this implies a value loyalty are abandoned for shareholder value that. is a composite that includes notions of liquidity. 343). Ho (2009) finds this alarming since the stock price is used as a separate control from ownership in order to create liquidity. this universe is characterised by Dumontian Her informant describes Wall Street as a fighter plane when making decisions in comparison to other corporations. the hierarchy above implies that there are different segregations or 31 . Ho (2009) offers us a vignette of these realms when she shows that the stock market was historically constructed to reality never had it. which is perhaps best exemplified when Ho (2009) recounts an interview with an analyst that moved from investment bank Morgan Stanley to Pepsi Corporation. 169).adaptations) from neoclassic and classic economic thought” (p. Firstly. She points out that corporations raised early 1970s (pp. who in flexibility. This notably contains and conceals the dimensions of illiquidity (pp. Accordingly. 243-248). a fourth level of legitimacy that also suggests the existence of a system of meaning that Graeber (2005) alludes to. and liquidity is preferred to high level of legitimacy. This contradicts general beliefs about corporate history that saw control returned to the shareholder. spheres of value encompassed by the modern universe. 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. commitment. represented on the stock exchange. hierarchy. and Secondly.

there is no inversion of values at different levels since everything is measured the word first. In the modern view. if as Dumont (1986) argues. fanned out into a collection of flat views of this kind” (Dumont 1986. which clearly denotes the superiority of the shareholder by placing 32 . share value in relation to some broader social measure. 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. For instance. 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. Finally. contemporary consciousness. At that over left or right. social construction that functions apart from corporations (pp. Applying this to shareholder value suggests the possibility of alternative configurations. Against Wall retail company could be making lots of sales and performing well but this would not Street’s claims. p. 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”. to directly realign and then justify what should be considered “moral”. Whatever the context. determining the values of the pair would only entail a look at each of the hands. 262 & 263). conceptually harder to solely on cash flows and the like. a Thirdly. 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. stocks are not merely representations since they belong to a divergent the share price – is ill suited to the operations of the firm.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. “valued shareholders”. which might lead to downsizing. or the economic. 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. 248-250). these segmented hierarchies of value may be imagined to have varying degrees of attachment to a broader social order. we do not even make the value judgement Fourthly. then Ho’s (2009) informants have used the scientific. 249). 183-188). such as contributions to modern view. This may be a step to fixing the our current economic crisis (pp. market mechanisms could be established that increase Certainly. Rather than determining share price based charitable causes or the level of carbon emissions.

there appears to be a realm of value the ruling powers. Institutional and political influences played an instrumental role in out of universal self-interested rationality. while political economy unearths the 33 . 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. nurturing or predatory. Summary universe”. thus. 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. 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. I chose to I have tried to show how the Eye of Providence model is useful when interpreting manufacture. as the name implies. It seems that “the masters of the that best suit their financial and monetary interests. Wall Street is a place framework. Hence. forgiving or relentless. On the one hand. there can be no value in who the shareholders are. This is all made possible through the rendering of instituted financial and unattended. On the other. While the universal-particular debate dynamics that motivate them. 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. out there informing bankers’ decisions and guiding their preferences towards appear to assume endless forms. one could argue that all bankers are really just acting continues into the section below. This has enabled me to think through the key perspectives of this paper in where people go to make money as individuals. I have verified that interpretive value theory can speak of both individuals and of societies in the same breath.imagine. long-term or shortterm. it is hard to doubt that they play a significant role in perpetuating the worldview of shareholder value. existing ethnographic research on powerful market actors and institutions.

Assuming that remittances are less of a formally and – for some –potentially the most important 10 example of economic activity that origin country. See Rapoport and Docquier (2006). 10 Given the development potential of $316 billion+. 3). The authors recognise 34 . or at least from the perspective of very influential market actors. 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 migrant-remittance phenomenon is perhaps the most significant 9 institutionalised economic function. Thus. I point out that since the 1980s. while in 9 Against other international flows. 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”.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. 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. 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. Mohapatra & Silwal 2010. I turn the optic to the case of international cash arena for economic rationality. 4). In addition to the cultural influences. 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. p. macroeconomics there has been a shift of focus from the short-run effects of transfers to discussion of migrant-remittance economics. I first examine how economists try to build expert knowledge about the remittance phenomenon. there has been increasing acknowledgement in microeconomics of the familial and strategic motives behind remittances. since it framework of this paper. 11 To introduce remittances. 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. 11 The work was prepared for an independent non-profit organisation that researches labour and was later published in a handbook for economics.

as with Guyer’s (2009) oil prices. 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. a repayment-of predicated on the characteristics of remitters (pp. determine and shape the impetus to remit. are a major source of foreign exchange. 8 & 9). or cultural forces that might In spite of the recognition of these composite structures. However. This is essentially a series of complex formulas abstracted for each of the motivations to remit. Moreover. thus. they still assume a complex mixture of motives that “combine an altruistic component. an inheritance component. and exchange of individual rationality. In this view. a variety of services” (p.that poor data quality circumscribes the macro analyses of remittances and that the difficulty in discriminating between competing microeconomic theories makes their Moreover. while the authors acknowledge more than self-interest. often significantly increase GNP. 10). From this and for each women but with no consideration of the social. 5). political. 6). authors proceed to present their “theory”. Remittances and Microeconomics large portion of GDP in many of the developing countries to which they are sent (p. money is used to loans component. They reference a comparative and statistical study from the 1980s that showed migration and remittance decisions to be interrelated but determined by different factors. 11-36). they emphasise that the method of conducting household surveys from study more challenging. Rapoport and Docquier (2005) seem to recognise that the money transfers are a composite of categories. which underlies every motive that they inspect. whole collections of motivation. Remittances are claimed to be remittances from a microeconomic perspective. however. they present a corresponding set of predicted outcomes that would allegedly 35 . and constitute a remittances as an important source of income (p. 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. an insurance component.

Interestingly. pp. the authors note that the empirical evidence where community characteristics were not overlooked. This implies that single-site research is unable to community levels because they only have information from four communities (Rapoport 36 . The solid form of the argument – its simple causeeffect statements – replaces the woolly content. [U]nder the investment motive. 37-38). 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. In the section that follows. Rapoport and Docquier (2005) offer a précis of the However. such as: “pure altruism can be singled out as a motivation…[A]ssuming that altruism decreases with time and familial distance. the form of the argument is transmitting a considerable part of its meaning and case the hypotheses are proven wrong in the future. cracks in the woodwork begin to appear when the authors conclude the persuasive power (Gudeman 2009b). 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. 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. remittances geographic distance” (pp.Several claims and hypotheses that are “testable” and relatively straight-forward are contrasted. 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. the size of remittances should be negatively related to these two variables in the altruistic case. 39). while the disclaimer acts as a caveat in develop their theories. 40-48). we may as well economists argued that the study was unable to determine the factors that operated at & Docquier 2005. 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.

I doubt that they would have returned with little explanation. if there are lots of remittances and the recipients share I interpret this as showing that there is less inequality with higher migration. 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. footnote added). 50). 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. effects of remittances on welfare together with the factors that determine migration. relative prices. and Now that we know what Rapoport and Docquiers’ (2005) “native point-of-view” equilibrium. They attribute this to the lack of necessary data. 54. 50-53). even if it were to be only applicable to those communities. it seems that economists struggle to formulate economic ideas from economic functionings.underlying motives that Rapoport and Docquier (2005) search for. there is less inequality. On the short-run side. Remittances and Macroeconomics amounts to. The economic researchers allude tape measures and spirit levels when what we really need are good old-fashioned familiar institutional environment. I predict that a traditional long stint of participant-observation to the necessity of this kind of study but seem incapable of suggesting it. After outlining some general theories about trade. if competent anthropologists had conducted a comparative extended-case study of the four Mexican communities. the immeasurability of data. (p. Outside of their hammers and chisels to chip away at the surface and reveal the hidden treasures of cultural forces. 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. The short-run analysis concludes by referencing a study of the 12 37 . Further. welfare in relation to international transfers. In short. we can turn to their macroeconomic analysis. and the potential bias in developing countries (p. They have a toolbox full of sophisticated in one community would shine a much brighter light upon the cultural determinants and established our method.

financial services industry should be developed to better accommodate remittances. This presents a distinct opportunity for develop more contextualised models for the short-run effects of remittances. Firstly.(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. 55). in my opinion. 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. Secondly. With the social now rendered workable. which was no longer rooted in rational choice. 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. 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. so obvious. It seems that. an economist by trade. 38 . but rather in statistics and econometrics” (p. pp. 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. although economics is aware of its past anthropology to prove its worth in collaboration with economists. as they seek to are not. 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. 64 & 65). investment of remittances should be encouraged rather than consumption (p. For Milberg (2009). 75). 66). the 76). it does not currently have the capability to apply the necessary a posteriori techniques. 55). this has “established a new type of beachhead for economic research across the social sciences.

21). 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. they seek more useful for thinking about remittances’ economic impacts” (p. 1). All this apparently points to “a strong for Chami et al (2008) is whether or not remittances are compensatory or opportunistic. Writing for the IMF. Essentially. although this should apparently be considered with caution. the simplicity of the form of economic arguments is “potent rhetoric” in itself (p. Moreover. 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”. To advance the notion of compensatory remittances. The paper’s findings are said to confirm the main benefit referenced in microeconomic literature: that “remittances improve shocks” (p.25).policymakers who may wish to manage the macroeconomic effects of remittances or harness their potential for development. as James Carrier (2009b) argues. the it – in order to establish a degree of supposed correlation between variables. Hence. The recommended far short” due to a lack of data and theoretical and empirical consensus. 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. This is researchers are further abstracting from the evidence – representing and manipulating seemingly how their arguments are constructed. 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. When doing so. rather than like opportunistic transfers such as capital flows” (p. 27). 39 . Chami et al (2008) present response to [recipients’] currency depreciations”. The real question research was notably undertaken by two of the authors of this very IMF paper. 25). “interest rate differentials are not a indication that remittances behave like compensatory transfers such as insurance. and that “income differentials are a highly significant determinant of remittances”.

State arriving at the same conclusion as Rapoport and Docquier (2005). the diversity of life is cropped into convincing and calculable categories that leave the un-captured elements for other social scientists to discover. Nonetheless. in this grand neoliberal stalwart. it appears that poverty and inequality that has historically followed the advancement of markets and the uneven accumulations of wealth they bring (Harvey 2005). However. such as through improvements in infrastructure. 143). Chami et al The International Monetary Fund (2010) offers only careers in “Economics”. However. I am not 384). “follows a cohort of migrants and their families over time as they face migration. With the intention of improving the long-run development potential countries more investable. 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. In this case. 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. the department where its knowledge is produced.15). 30). 81). 40 . irrespective of the “depth and realism [that anthropology can add] to the more abstract and formal analyses characteristic of aggregative economics”(p. 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. how decisions about migration the “anthropology” word. This is an incredibly precarious suggestion for poverty reduction. 6). of remittances while preserving poverty reduction. they suggest making the recipient offer policy advice. which are mainly its operational roles. as closely as possible. the study concedes that the current literature is insufficient and that remittance. Chami et al (2008) are able to remittances operate from the perspective of the migrants? Unfortunately. 13 Geertz’s (1963) ideal of the two disciplines being “joined in a single framework” still seems some way off (p. and “Other Fields”. or at least under our name. cross-country longitudinal research must be conducted that: and remittances are actually made” (p. effectively Even with their self-confessed partial knowledge. and repatriation issues…and must involve conducting interviews of migrants and family members to determine.

yet they framework of this paper. Instead. I restrict my scope to the case of remittances in the Pacific. As Carrier’s (2009b) case illustrates. A whole gift economy practically fades into analytical depth. With an anthropological view of remittances. they target values. 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.recommendation is based. rather than the kin group. whereby the supreme value would become the individual entrepreneur. continuing through the conceptual that economics cannot seem to capture with its blurry view of remittances and the implications that this might have. pp. the big winners are most likely Nevertheless. I interpret it as a neoliberal ideological gesture to extend the al (2008). Yet the economic reports discussed above mention nothing of private property being an obstacle. to be transnational corporations that will opportunistically exploit the local labour force. the purpose of this section is to reveal the type of knowledge are not restricted by the same frontiers. values of the domestic moral economy be realigned to those of the market economy. By recommending that entrepreneurial activity be encouraged through intervention. a very different picture emerges to that which economists depict. tries to storm through the streets. social domain. Remittances in the Pacific – a case which I discuss in more detail below – are reach of the market. Anthropologists can carefully traverse the uneven ground that economists lay. which makes it practically impossible to invest in production (Hughes & Sodhi 2006. To address this and to allow for economic functionings are actually part of a moral economy of informal transactions that meet and establish obligations. though. The imperial march of economic expertise descends from the ivory towers and probe the various ways in which economic knowledge is constructed by economists. They should not be considered as formal exchanges 41 . they do imply that a system of private property rights be established. the gesture is made in a notably de-politicised manner by Chami et 21 & 22). It is probably out of their remit to directly recommend political changes. These that operate within a market economy. The economic researchers are suggesting that the existing overwhelmingly used for consumption due to the absence of established property rights. Thus. as economists might prefer.

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. Transnational Dynamics of Remittances rule. Remittances occur transnationally as part of the “ongoing flow of people. As I will show. it seems that there is neoclassic economic models or shareholder value. – as the three main destinations for 42 . the state policies of New Zealand. p. Thus. money. however. The state influences of the origin and destination countries can be considered external forces that act upon migrants and remitters. Australia. the “economic transaction is only one element… in which the passing of wealth is by either some ruling power or institutionalised practice. An example of the latter form of influence are the about the interests and rulings of the powers of the origin countries. there appears to be no Thus. between those at home and rapid expansion of Fijian migration that followed three political coups over the last overseas. pp. Nevertheless. 13) . Whereas in the case of investment banking. as the second source. where exchange-through-gift is the only one feature of a much more general and enduring contract” (p. and the U. as the first source. they are. p. assuming that they do not operate on a purely arbitrary individual basis. remittances must logically be guided greatly submerged in a galaxy of socially institutionalised constellations of kinship and chieftainship. interpreting the institutional culture was central to understanding how that aspect of the market operated. and across the diaspora” (Lee 2009. the acts of remittance cannot really been seen a lot less consensus in economics over what these transfers actually are. What do remittances do? Indeed. due to the informal nature of remittances.S. and of the destination countries. 8). Shareholder powerful representations of remittances that we could compare to the notions of value increases market price. goods. 5). the notion of the market – as as strongly related to any market. or market institution. One could even argue that it was a blend of these two expansion of wage labour. This indicates that we must think twenty-five years (Lee 2009. Moreover. 9-12). As Mauss (1990) would remind us. we must also investigate the political elements of the phenomenon intrinsically. in fact. distinct sources of significant influence. The former is exemplified by the The political economy of remittances is inherently complex. ideas and so on.formally embedded in institutions – cannot help us here.

The commitment to kinship is changing in the migrant enclaves. land access. as well as system of capitalism. and wage labour as an economic idea and functioning. Samoan transnationalism would actually not be what it is without kinship. Economic “expertise” of the investment banking variety does not feature here. the lines between the elements are blurry. that became the reason and vehicle for 2009. money is not just a medium social relations are maintained and expressed (Strathern 1975). an aspect of the broader external and. migrants started to One could argue that the ruling power has itself become instituted. 14 kinship as an institution. and conferring chiefly titles. However. Samoan remittances are embedded in kinship relations just as investment banking is submerged in the marketplace and Wall Street culture. 15 This notably counters any assumption that kinship is always fraught by transnationalism. Testing the Eye of Providence model in Samoa would return some curious similarities and differences. as I mentioned when outlining the model. 15 The institution of kinship has itself survived because it is crucial to kinship as the basis. such as those held for graduation. wagework was still the most powerful dynamic for social change. 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. increasing the size and cost of them to compete for social prestige. 43 . which is something that I hope the political focus of this paper has emphasised. social and political statuses. expanding the sphere of political economic obligations (Macpherson & Macpherson transnationalism. 61). however. 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.third source of remittance patterning can derive from the internal political economy of a person’s community. By the 1980s. mobilise and shape economic practices. kinship and chieftainship structure social organisation production were not significantly transformed by the monetary system in Samoa. In Samoa. p. Lilomaiava-Doktor 2009. communities that transfer money to their homeland. Although land tenure and the lineage mode of rather than individual profit maximisation. migrants have elaborated traditional ceremonies. They have also created new ceremonies. as relations are transforming to meet changing needs. thus. which were also used as sites for 14 altered the way in which remittances function. however. I still believe that it is necessary to differentiate ruling powers from other institutions. In this context.

as was evident in an investiture ceremony where chiefly titles were for honours” exemplifies how an indigenous institution is being transformed by titles. 61-64). 345-362). This Samoan version of “cash of ideas. enhance their close family kin group. As an integral part of this process. where migrants’ kin making demands on them that they struggle to meet. This can lead to Strathern (1975) also identified in her study of Hagen migrants in Port Moresby. where as in rural areas it is an extra. This 44 . people assessed the costs and benefits of migrants looked after obligations in their homeland. redefined the matai chiefly system and the tautua service system. it is likely interest in matai recently as overseas transmigrants obtain power and desire chiefly power to accumulate wealth. Most gifts in the matai ceremony are now cash. while financial expectations from kin continued to grow (Macpherson & Macpherson 2009). Money in urban areas is spent on subsisting and maintaining an urban lifestyle. and enrich their commodified. pp. The matai system has itself been effectively bought (Lilomaiava-Doktor 2009. In the case of Samoa. A significant aspect of remittances. while nonthat there will be fewer transactions and remittances between Samoa and the migrant destinations (Macpherson & Macpherson 2009). Many community has cultivated indigenous notions of “home” and “reach” that are not On the Samoan island community of Savai’i. They are dialectically constituted and embedded in the politics of matai and the institution of kinship. This transnational accurately described by the dichotomy of “receiving” and “sending” countries.feel the social and financial pressure of these demands. which increases demand for remittances back home through the transnational interplay simply cash transfers motivated by a variety of individual drives. If this process continues. 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. 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. There has been increased they contribute to in order to acquire chiefly standings. People are using this chiefly institution of personal status. remittances are much more than migrants’ access to new forms of wealth. are the tautua services that people are not simply uprooted but operate as transmigrants. then. thus adding weight to the matai status. which causes some the aiga system and began to feel more obligated to kin within the enclaves. then.

accepted. 23). While cash is being used increasingly in ritual exchanges. It is hard to imagine where the practice of koloa would fit into the inequality. transfers are still part of the broader gift economy. shells are shells. 43-55). 29). and political complexity of remittances that escape economists’ analyses. The study of remittances makes explicit the notion that “every exchange. even if we were to limit our scope to the material world. In Tonga. which it ranks below in Tongan society.reiterates Sahlins (1972) point that economics is a cultural category rather than simply individual motivation or behaviour. 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. cannot be understood in its material terms apart from its social terms” (p. Articulations of Value Realms 2009. pp. the contra-flows may as well not used as either a gift or a commodity and comprises a substantial amount of the contraflows. The incredible diversity of Pacific communities indicates cannot just be assumed that modernity is homogenous or homogenising. p. p. 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. while some remittances may be altruistic and others self-interested. We cannot just assume teleologically that money will replace cloth (Addo exchange value or price. as it embodies some co-efficient of sociability. cloth regenerates people culturally. cash is King. These contra-flows have significant value. While money can make things more manageable. Moreover. economic. Koloa cloth can be overlooked. yet since economics does way from replacing cloth. Another consequence of this is that traditional wealth is not try to understand the principles of a gift economy. as traditional forms of wealth are rendered valueless. cultural. almost all are bi-directional. Cloth is cloth. 183). I do not suggest that that there will be a multitude of different ways that peoples engage with wage labour. remittance instance. given the The examples that I have listed thus far are relatively broad. it is still a long occur (Lee 2009. From their perspective. and However. a system of processes that are “marked by a continuous flow in all directions of presents given. while money only reciprocated. obligatorily and out of self-interest” (Mauss 1990. as 45 . for aesthetically. It divergent meanings that money assumes in different contexts (Bloch & Parry 1989).

migration and remittance mean to the current inhabitants. transmission. outside of the kula trade ring and into a transnational monetary space. Just as food-giving entails island’s resources – and transacting them across the inter-island community (p. for instance. “Through it the giver has a hold over the beneficiary” (pp. Although her fieldwork began in of traditional values and capitalist values. 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). Clearly. One tactic would now invoke a monograph from an inter-island Pacific community. then.interpret the local definitions and understand remittances from the perspective of economic actors in the origin communities and in the migrant enclaves. What. it is reasonable to assume that. as well as the fame of Gawa. 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 . As Mauss (1990) would argue. the value of an act is determined by its potency. as has been shown to be the case on the the 1970s. I suspect that the current situation is an articulation Pacific Island community of Ponam (Carrier & Carrier 1989). Therefore. for Gawans. where consumption is subordinated to eradicated by money and markets. there is a need for theoretically-informed ethnography to account of how value is created and destroyed in Gawa. Exchanges of food. I Writing from the view of symbolic anthropology. the economic within a hierarchical realm of value. migration and remittance expand the web of relations and obligations. 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. as the former creates negative value and the latter positive value. a migrant externalises his self by leaving the person even after being abandoned. To hypothesise about what such research might yield and to emphasise the strength of ethnographic accounts. 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. might the act (p. 117) – of individuals and the community. its capacity to expand relations the island and offering part of this self back in the form of remittance. operate externalising the island’s internal resources. 6). 11 & 12). In this and fame.

problems. dynamics. and purposes. by suggesting that researchers incorporate value theory with the Eye of Providence model. witchery is experienced as encroaching from the wider island world” (p. then would Gawans perceive community. what is the use of “national” statistics? Under my model. characteristics. as Lee (2009) since it has its own social system. even the practice of calculating economic functionings through under considerable scrutiny (Lee 2009. 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. If. 15). If a complex network of people. much like when there is suspicion of witchcraft. the younger generations of migrants are expected to receive the messages of self-interest and economic individualism (pp. suggests. economists appear to take this flagrant myth to the next level. When constructing micro and macro expertise for remittances. p. However.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. which are then used to justify policy that I have highlighted. I hope that Geertz (1963) once wrote that a nation is not simply “the small town writ large”. 142). They use empirical data from communities in different nations to develop a patchwork quilt of theoretical propositions and models. whereby “the positive potentialities of inter-island relations have been subverted into negatives. 220). 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. groups powers that may explain the prevalence of such measures. 30). 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 . 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. prescriptions for nations and villages. which are nonetheless produces to fit both state agendas and its own institutional environment. 28 & 29). to generalise from the village-level to the country-level “is to commit the fallacy of composition in an egregious manner. it is to confuse the elements of a synthesis with the synthesis itself” (p. p. Therefore.

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. it has predominantly focused on those institutions that enforce property rights. Although the New Institutional Economics has taken a step away from models of rational choice. claims to represent. and included the role of institutions in its analyses. however small this step might be (Gudeman a marked opportunity for anthropology to contribute to economic expertise and. It has missed the social transnational gift economy at large. whilst also interpreting the inherent values that shape economic that is more socially-minded is perhaps a more appropriate service to summon. in groupings that give meaning to peoples’ lives (Milberg 2009. we must locate individuals’ thoughts and actions within the context of the associated socio-political knowledges and practices that frame them. Perhaps guided by the framework of the Eye of Providence model. pp. 59 & 60). This presents doing so. In societies where money occupies a more social role. expertise 48 .the future. 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.

accordingly. However. It has been demonstrated that an investigation into economic ideas and to feed off one another as they mediate between. economic ideas but it is far from doing this in the case of remittances. 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. Yet this is more than a crusade against abstraction. I have argued for a greater anthropological understanding of the economy and. Conclusion methodological areas. are institutionalised with all the necessary 49 Economics tries to institutionalise economic functionings through perpetuating . Indeed. Paradoxically. and individuals. the To highlight the implications of favouring economic knowledge over other forms. to reel what is actually going on out there in the real world. which at the very least shows a postmodern sensibility. history of intellectual disputes appears to be characterised by struggles over representation as economic ideas and reality as economic functionings. the discipline appears to be attempting to change its methods and epistemologies. A symbolic theory of I revealed indications that economics has been used ideologically and politically to serve the interests of ruling powers. such as that downsizing and jobless them in and guide them. The more prescribed functionings of the market that I have discussed. 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”. I do not claim that all economics is purposefully adverse. Social problems recoveries can been seen as socially good. institutions. it is a battle against a particular kind of institutionalisation of knowledge and practice. such as investment banking and transactions for shareholder value. Thus. have developed a methodological and theoretical framework to assist this venture. 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. ruling powers. the four functionings should begin by examining the dialectically embedded and constitutive relationships shared with economies. Political economy unearths the dynamics of power that structure economic actors through social institutions and for ruling powers. with little effect. and rotate around.

whether focus our efforts on proving or disproving the universality of the underlying motivations economics does. are socially unfair. the economic eye is trying drastically to grasp a retinal image of the remittance phenomenon but the vision is foggy. This difference may seemingly continue to divide scholars. although it is still enacted through its own existing institutions. That is. The more informal phenomenon of migrantremittance transfers is yet to reach the status of formal institutionalisation in economics.associated levels of economic legitimacy. Besides. Misquoting Durkheim. Indeed. of course. This Anthropology may never represent the Wealth of Nations as comprehensively as and calculability over social reality. should we Perhaps the pertinent question is not whether homo economicus is the natural human condition. it still must be channelled through a diversity of contexts. 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. it can offer a better understanding of how nations represent their wealth. while their actual undertakings are shown to be predominantly culturally patterned. a model that engages with economic expertise – universal. clouded by tradition and non-market principles. such as however. nor should it endeavour to. and what is actually being represented in this process. In the Pacific. interest is universal. But through unpacking economic expertise. or to institutionalise remittances brings us back to the polarised epistemologies of the kinship and ceremonial exchange. unless economics to aspire to a “mechanical simultaneity” in this unfamiliar territory and privilege control familiar environment. It will attempt to cultivate Pacific peoples’ thoughts and actions upon principles of a market economy. such as those perpetuated by high finance. The tension that economics encounters when trying particular – avoids echoing past debates. Therefore. My comparative analysis has allowed me to see that the 50 . who these representations serve. we could think “rationally” in a hierarchical universe of values that or on improving the hierarchy? universal and the particular. This should draw economic expertise more closely to social reality. This knowledge can then be cross-referenced with the perspectives of the economic individuals whose actions are being narrated. general. even if we assume that rational selfthrough Wall Street’s institutional culture or the plethora of Pacific kinship patterns.

Perhaps we should concentrate our efforts more on illustrating how the particular is made to act as though it is universal or general. more than highlight areas for collaboration. as I have above. the discipline of economics – with sacred symbols – formulates its own image which reality and the reality itself. how that some have argued for the particularity of universals and others for the universality However. to make the case for our expertise. Only then will our economic lives be human once again. Over generations. If we believe with Geertz (1973b) that the essence of our economic lives. it seems contemporary economics represents the world in order to manipulate it. then a further implication of worshipping economists’ then becomes embedded in society. 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. 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 . in the Eye of Providence. namely. Just as the of the particulars.collaborates more closely with other social scientists and begins to change its theoretical and methodological orientations.

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