- Karl Polyani defined 3 basic modes of distribution/exchange.
3) Market exchange
- In most societies we find a mix of all three of them, but sometimes there ae cultutres
who have one single system out of these three.
- Informal exchange of goods and labour.
- Basis of small scale most non-market and non-industrial societies, but common to all.
- Powerful form of exchange that creates and emphasizes social relationships.
- Marcel Mauss (1872-1950) - The Gift(1923). This is an ethnology of cross-cultural gift
- Gift economies of small-scale societies contrasted with commodity exchanges.
- Explores the way that the reciprocal exchange of objects between groups builds
relationships between humans - no such thing as a free gift.
- It is a very powerful form of transaction and it can be used in many strategic
- Distinguished between 3 obligations:
- Giving: the necessary initial step for the creation and maintanence of social
- Receiving: for to refuse to recieve is to reject the social relationship. - Reciprocating: in order to demonstrate ones own prestige, honour and wealth.
- 3 main types:
1) Generalized: Someone gives and expects nothing immediate or equal value in return.
Signifies close social relationship.
2) Balanced:someone gives and expects return of something of equal value. Signifies
social distance. Lack of reciprocation can harm social relationship.
3) Negative: Exchange where one parties intends to benefit at expense of other.
Minimum amount of social trust/ relationship. Example: Cattle Raids.
THe Kula Ring
- Kula exchange is a complex system of gifts and counter gifts whose rules are laid
down by custom.
- Kula valuables are non-use items traded purely for the purposes of enhancing one;s
social status and prestige.
- Exchanges establish strong ideally lifelong relationships between exchange parties.
- Important chiefs can have hundreds of partnered while less significant have fewer than
- Melanesians carefully distinguish between gift exchange (Kula) and market exchange
- Goods(or services) move from the local level to a center.
- controlled through a hierarchy of officials who may consume some of the goods.
- Eventually goods are redistrbuted- that is, they flow in the reverse direction, down
through the hierarchy and back tot he local.
- Often serves purpose of social security, making sure all members of group of basic
necessities to survive. - Act of leveling mechanisms: sshrink gaps between rich and poor and help to limit
- Example: SOcial welafacre programs, like public health care or Employment
- Potlatch is a gift giving festival and primary economic system practices by indigenous
peoples of the pacific Northwest Coast of Canada and the USA.
- Rituals in which sponsors (assisted by members of their communities) gave away
resources i exchange for greater prestige.
- Banned by europeans because it was seen as “irrational and wasteful”. Barrier to
- Shown by anthropologists to be adaptive response to alternating periods of abundance
- In capitalist economy, market principle governs distribution of means of production.
- Law of supply and demand.
- Transaction are made with labour, goods and services bought with money.
- No lasting social relations between producer and consumer.
- Karl Polanyi - European states(ENgland) were first societies to have market
principle as primary force driving production and exchange. Market Society.
- Consumption: Acquisition and/or use of goods.
- Can serve to meet basic needs, or to highlight identity and or social status.
- Consumerism is a social and economic order that encourages the purchase of goods
and services in ever-greater amounts. - Conspicuous consumption is the spending on money on goods in order to display
- Many non-industrial societies limit consumption to subsistence goods, and discourage
conspicuous consumption through informal social control - taboos and rumors, gossip