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Lecture 24

ANTHR101 Lecture 24: Chapter 11 (Lecture and Textbook)

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Brent Hammer

Chapter 11 Why Do Anthropologists Study Economic Relations? Culture contributes to the way human beings organize their social lives Social organization the patterning of human interdependence in a given society through the actions and decisions of its members How Do Anthropologists Study Economic Relations? 40 years ago, Lewis noticed that the Somalis and the Boran lived next to each other in semiarid scrubland (Eastern Africa) and herded the same animals, but the Somali and Boran were very different in social structure the Boran engaged in much less fighting and feuding Humans are able to meet their everyday material needs through social organization reciprocal relationship with the environment What are the Connections Between Culture and Livelihood? Our physical survival depends on our making adequate use of the resources around us, our culture tells us which resources to use and how to use them Economic anthropologists study the many variations in human livelihood that anthropologists have found in different societies Economic anthropology the part of the discipline of anthropology that debates issues of human nature that relate directly to the decisions of daily life and making a living (Wilk) Making a living encompasses what is generally considered to be economic activity doing what is necessary to obtain the material things (food, clothing, shelter) Economy maximizing utility obtaining as much satisfaction as possible for the smallest possible cost o Western perspective and is based on the assumption of scarcity (Utilitarian view) o Assumes that economic analysis should focus on individuals who must maximize their utility under conditions of scarcity o An economizing individual is supposed to set priorities and to allocate resources according to those priorities this is what economists mean by economic rationality To accept this view implies that economic anthropologists should clarify the different priorities set by different societies and study how these priorities affect the maximizing decisions of individuals who live in those societies Others regard this way of thinking as ethnocentric o This view of economy focuses on institutions Complex, variable, and enduring forms of cultural practices that organize social life o From an institutional point of view, a societys economy consists of the culturally specific processes its members use to provide themselves with material resources therefore, economic processes cannot be considered separate from the other cultural institutions in which they are embedded and by which they are sustained Anthropological study of economy and economic life requires a holistic approach How Do Anthropologists Study Production, Distribution, and Consumption? Economic activity is usefully subdivided into 3 distinct phases: o Production involves transforming natures raw material into products useful to human beings o Distribution involves getting those products to people o Consumption involves using up those products When analyzing economic activity in a particular society, anthropologists tend to differ in the importance they attach to each phase o Distribution is the key economic activity to what develops into capitalism o Marxs theory argues that its production
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