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…


the value of anthropological expertise. and hopefully questions about the value of knowledge meet questions about value more generally. 33). discipline rests but to provide new insights that connect with its understandings? Given the centrality of economic thought in modern social and political spheres. enhance. not only to challenge the axioms upon which the these are among the big questions of today. in my view.sciences is all too well known in anthropology. also includes judgements made certain interests are served by value structures that pattern such judgements. in doing so. which as a matter of no coincidence. An influence and constitute our economic lives. what is “good”. 64). for anthropologists and for us all. emphasise. To this end. I reveal how anthropology of value can mark out the limitations of economic expertise – embedded ideologically in our social knowledge and practice – by negotiating those areas of life that currently fall outside of the rubric of the discipline of economics but nonetheless 5 . It is here that In this thesis. I will present a critique of the high value placed on economic expertise in contemporary Western society and. 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. by arguing for the theoretical guidance for the subdiscipline of economic anthropology. In response to the trend that William Milberg (2009) has that economists occupy as “the high priests of our [Western] culture” (Wilk 1996. Indeed. 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. 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. “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. p.

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. 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. as well as the place and role of money in each social 6 . This comparative analysis not only shows anthropologically how undertaken by remittance-makers to contrast economists’ understandings with that of workers to reveal the influence of culture in a formally instituted environment. perspectives are the only ones compatible with my model. I believe that we must go beyond simply arguing that the world everywhere is different and that universal principles do not hold up in reality. I do not suggest that these two theoretical this paper. institutions. the second The opening section outlines the methodological areas of the Eye of Providence Thus. cultural. and ruling powers. blend of prescriptions for an anthropological economy – theoretical. (mis)represents the world and should vie for a more humanistic intellectual perspective on the economy. To add theoretical direction. methodological. Rather than merely refuting economic expertise. More setting. I argue that anthropology should focus on the ways in which economics political dynamics that can draw the two disciplines closer together. they should be considered part and parcel of the conceptual apparatus. however. connection between economic knowledge and anthropological knowledge. it also enables me to contrast the nature and place of economic expertise vis-à-vis anthropological expertise. In addition to this. model. In the space between economic representation and economic reality lies a distinct opportunity for anthropological analyses to highlight social. 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. and to individuals. The final people live economic lives in spaces of divergent degrees of (in)formality.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. Hence.

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

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

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

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

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

Carrier (2009a) traces the universalpoint. I do not revisit the formalist-substantivist debate but invoke it only to demonstrate the model’s capacity to draw together these divergent views. which he claims made the perspectives mutually exclusive. such as “you have to think of yourself in business”. Reinterpreted for a neoliberal capitalist “The Great Debate”. Thus. Wilk with individuals. 110-122). Having outlined my model. 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 . 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. The formalists begin considering the history of economic anthropology. propositions that explain sets of meanings. the methodology of the former view debate run much deeper and farther back. while the social context. such as a universe of “value”. the symbolic universe that amalgamates discrete provinces of meaning and encompasses the institutional four distinct and ascending levels (pp. I can now explore this a little further. (1996) believes that the debate’s disengagement derives from each party’s starting substantivists start at the level of societies. 1-13).economy. Disputes between those that even to the time of Plato and Aristotle (Blavatsky 1939). one could say that these are: incipient transmission of a vocabulary of selfinterest. such as economics. at the highest level. explicit theories of an institutional sector with a separate stock of order. and finally. 20-22). The divide was perhaps most pronounced when it manifested as the opposing force between the two schools of thought that comprised As I alluded to in the introduction. the institutions of which they say act as structures for economic life (pp. considered to be rational self-interested maximizers. basic theoretical lifts all boats”. such as the economic proverb “a rising tide knowledge. The divide continued to the primitive acquisitive context of self-interest that Mauss argued for (pp. I assume that in reality the truths in either view that are worth exploring.

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

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

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

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

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

rather than vice18 the world of minds and presents the possibility of revealing a more Weberian view of inherent meanings would be left unexamined. This is a holistic ambition external political influences on economic actors and institutions. 132). My point is that it that may not be truly achievable in modern ethnography. the institutional context that enabled the loans to take place. “a market” sells a house. 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. and the state’s neoliberal means asking why this is happening. versa with a Marxist take (Wilk 1996. such as the commodification of Jamaica or of humans and nature more broadly. rather than just what is going on. it indicates that anthropologists must are being realised.market” justifies capitalist principles (p. however. In sum. If the previous section brought the individual into the picture as an activist within a Jamaican political economic system. We also require a better comprehension of the positioning of different actors in such practices. In our “empire of debt”. this part tries to reveal the picture as seen from “the individual”. This allows us to enter have depicted above. it is a step towards a for interdisciplinary dialogue. This may If we accept Graeber’s (2009) argument. To achieve this. I probe the meaning of economics as something that is embedded deeply in culture and belief. failed market exchange. In short. to argue abstractly that defaults on subprime mortgages can be understood as what Stuart Kirsch (2006) might refer to as “unrequited reciprocity” rather than. As Graeber (2009) illustrates. as well as the internal agenda that promoted less regulation. for instance. Economic life would simply be a socio-political product and the An Interpretative Theory of Value . 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. it and interests of political powers and their effects on that facet of the economy. say. where as “the would be insufficient. it was quite acceptable it back. 110). better understanding of the forces that shape economic life and a further opportunity Leaving things there would do no justice to the dialectical relationships that I political dynamics that constitute economic ideas themselves. p.

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

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

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

motivations. into them. It also portrays a case proportions of the retail price that was itself based on market actors from producers to contracts.determined to be the impetus behind the rise. this presents a clear point-of-entry for anthropology to interpret their associated social. these factors. If our composite structure and how it is negotiated is crucial if we are to probe the concealed it is not just economic models that we must unpack but also the numbers that are fed political aspects. was the composite component that was eventually retailers. 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. and indeed the great resulting profits made from investment banks. 208-210). and forces that are masked by these public ideologies of price. which itself created further incentives to invest in oil. driving up the price. Furthermore. Guyer’s (2009) analysis may be useful here not only because it suggests that presented to consumers. However. from which the great values are composite and allows us to investigate them as such. and interests. cultural. So 22 . If numbers cannot simply be taken at economic face “value”. Risk management and consulting costs. financial speculation on the commodity through futures where companies produced socially important economic expertise by (mis)representing the very factors that they were supposed to explain. are diffusely hidden (pp. can only constitute part of the market price of crude from the view benefactors seem to be investment banks.

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 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. The Whitehouse. Wall Street.Ho (2009) offers a unique view of Wall Street. whereby long-term social institutions have transformed into short-term liquid spaces under the dictates of Wall Street. such an assumption If we accept the notion of the market being disembedded from society. the divorce of what capitalism. 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. 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. Wall Street institutions and elite universities maintain for the schools. 6 remunerative and prestigious places in today’s society. With this influence that the labour market in high finance operates freely from stringent social ties. As Ho (2009) shows. 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. Thus. however. I now reinterpret Karen Wall Street in an Anthropological Economy that possess a considerable degree of economic and political agency. The Economy. For Ho (2009). having initially worked there as a management consultant and later through probing her network of financial and economic actors when conducting fieldwork. whereas candidates from other universities lack As with “the market”. 23 . Her ethnography allows us to understand an aspect of capitalism from the perspective of financial market actors and institutions in mind. 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. and High Financiers economy and in the structure of corporate America. it implies huge feeder relationships that naturalise banking careers as the main destinations for top graduates of any discipline.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

38 . 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. Secondly. This presents a distinct opportunity for develop more contextualised models for the short-run effects of remittances. 55). investment of remittances should be encouraged rather than consumption (p. 64 & 65). the 76). 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. but rather in statistics and econometrics” (p. 66). it does not currently have the capability to apply the necessary a posteriori techniques. so obvious. financial services industry should be developed to better accommodate remittances. as they seek to are not. an economist by trade. 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. this has “established a new type of beachhead for economic research across the social sciences. 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. 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. For Milberg (2009). 55). which was no longer rooted in rational choice.(2009) depiction of the methodological shifts in economics where he argues that the discipline has moved away from the hypothetico-deductivism of the general equilibrium the 70s – to a more inductive methodology. With the social now rendered workable. in my opinion. pp. Firstly. 75). It seems that. 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

in the Eye of Providence. Over generations. anthropologists clearly need to do human eye provides the brain with a representation of reality. If we believe with Geertz (1973b) that the essence of our economic lives. Only then will our economic lives be human once again. more than highlight areas for collaboration. namely. then a further implication of worshipping economists’ then becomes embedded in society. Just as the of the particulars.collaborates more closely with other social scientists and begins to change its theoretical and methodological orientations. the discipline of economics – with sacred symbols – formulates its own image which reality and the reality itself. as I have above. to make the case for our expertise. Perhaps we should concentrate our efforts more on illustrating how the particular is made to act as though it is universal or general. 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. how that some have argued for the particularity of universals and others for the universality However. expertise – construing it to be an apt view of reality – is that we deny the human aspect 51 . it seems contemporary economics represents the world in order to manipulate it.

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