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