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Economic Anthropology - the need for a human economics!



Those who are interested in economic anthropology should take notice of Chris Hann's and Keith Hart's collaborative work "Economic Anthropology – History, Ethnography, Critique" (2011). It is written as a critical review and covers the most relevant contributions and debates up to date. Recalling Mauss, Polanyi, Sahlins and Wolf (but also Aristotle, Smith, Marx and Ricardo among many others) the book locates economic anthropology in history, space, politics, scientific and moral discourse. Therefore it shows how(more) the subject emerged both from cultural encounter and colonialism as well as from a more homemade critique of standard economics. Arguing against the neoclassical tendency to distill morality from the economic sphere only to subsume it subsequently under economic growth, efficiency and free-market rhetoric, the authors highlight the world's inequalities and injustices triggered by colonialism, developmentalism and so called liberalism. Above all the authors argue how development discourse had played an important role in excluding the majority of mankind from equal (moral, ideal and material) participation – denying them to become "full citizens of a world whose privileges they can see on television"(p. 120). Today however, at a time where neoliberalism became indeed as rampant as (western) confidence in free-market economics starts shrinking, we all have to redirect our perspectives to face the collective perils and chances ahead. Eventually, anthropologists need to show not only how people organize themselves in an unequal world today, "but also how society might be made more just" (p. 119). Along with this plea for a more politically conscious approach the authors set out the case for a "human economics" able to address both the moral and material needs of humanity, market and non-market, local and global. --- Easy to read, the book contains an ambitious message!


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