ANTH 100 Economics as a Cultural System.docx

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23 Apr 2012

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Economics as a Cultural System
January 30th, 2012
- What is the purpose of food production?
According to the slow food movement, agriculture is about relationships (between humans and
between humans and the environment) Industrial agriculture focuses mainly on production
- Food is about a lot more than subsistence
If it was, we would just eat the same thing every day = we don’t = we relate it to culture
A pleasure comes from growing own food = becomes a way of life
- Perspective on economic systems
Economic studies parts of production exchange, consumption. This approach can make
economics appear to be naturally occurring systems with their own laws and patterns of
In an anthropological perspective economies are fundamentally cultural learned (as is
kinships, as in languages everything)
- Ethos: moral tone of a society, what is right what is wrong?
- Basic patterns of distribution (exchange)
Reciprocity: giving with the obligation to return equal value
Redistribution: group giving to one person or office which is later redistributed to all or
some of the group
Market exchange: buying and selling goods via a centralized market
1. Reciprocity:
- Generalized all help together, to create relations (ex. Marriage)
- Balanced: giving people certain things well thought out and if the things given back are not
equal may cause tensions
- Negative (unbalanced): no balance causes tension, destroyed relationships
- Agricultural society, no real market
- Strangers are seen as not relations as you do not have a history therefore you can rip them off
as they would rip you off
- Reciprocity and social scale: builds relationships (not sharing? No good is reciprocal society =
evil) = moral obligations
2. Redistribution:
- Ex. A potlatch is a ceremonial redistribution of wealth affirming the status of the chiefs who host
- Different than reciprocity as there is a focal person (chief) who makes a decision on what to do
with something
- When a person decides to give back = this shows respect therefore they get loyalty
- We see this in societies with chiefs, royals, monarchs
- Redistribution and social scale: since this requires power you can have a larger scale
(something in “charge”) that helps out everyone from a pot of everyone money. They do not
give back = evil, lose everything morally
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