Accepted Paper:

The dialectics of economy  


Stephen Gudeman (University of Minnesota Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)

Paper short abstract:

Economy is made up of two value domains: market and mutuality. Markets are home to competitive, anonymous trades: their central value is efficiency. In the communal domain, which is home to diverse values, goods and services mediate social relationships. The two spheres are separate, dialectically related, and intermixed.

Paper long abstract:

Economy is made up of two value domains that are dialectically connected. The market sphere consists of competitive, anonymous trades. Through competition that enforces rational choice, efficiency in the use of resources, production and consumption is the justifying value and story - for economists. Anthropologists have long explored the mutual or communal domain of economy in which things, services and symbols connect and help constitute identities. These transactions are guided by diverse values, such as equity, equality, and power. The two spheres are found in high market economies and small, "ethnographic" ones, although their relative importance varies. Sometimes they are separate, sometimes they overlap, sometimes they are mutually sustaining, and often they conflict. Energized by competition and the search for profit, however, the practices of calculative reason or rational choice usually burst the borders of a market and cascade into the realm of mutuality where they erase, veil, mystify or appropriate the materials and language of community. In so doing, they debase the conditions of their own existence, with consequences for local subjectivities, welfare patterns, the environment, forms of development, and well being.

Panel W002
Markets, kinship and morality