Anthropological and linguistics articles from University of Western Australia

Friday, July 06, 2007

Book review: The Humbled Anthropologist (review by Marcia Helene Hewitt)

review of The Humbled Anthropologist by Marcia Helene Hewitt

This is an excellent book for anyone who would like to understand economics
from the anthropological perspective, that is, that the market principle isn't
operative in many cultures. In today's capitalist economy market principle
dominates and governs the distribution of the means of production, where the
buyer and seller strive to maximise to get their money's worth.

In many other societies, the Western Australian aboriginal culture to be
specific, reciprocity is the general rule, which is social exchange between kin
or another close personal tie. There are three degrees of reciprocity:
generalised, balanced, and negative.

1) How closely related are the parties to the exchange?
2) How quickly and unselfishly are gifts reciprocated.

The Humbled Anthropologist goes into stories from Pacific islands where
reciprocity is the main form of economic exchange.

Polany also stimulated the comparative study of exchange and several
anthropologists followed his lead.

Marcia Hewitt