Lecture Week 5

Lecture Week 5 - Economic Anthropology The main function of all human societies is to provide for the needs of their members This is why all of

Info iconThis preview shows pages 1–3. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Economic Anthropology The main function of all human societies is to provide for the needs of their members. This is why all of them have economies, or economic systems. Economic system (economy) consists of the norms governing production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services within a society. However, people in different cultures have different sorts of economic behavior and make different economic choices. These choices are embedded in their cultures. Economic anthropology studies the institutional and cultural arrangements within which these choices occur and the factors that motivate economic choices in different cultures. It studies economics in a comparative perspective. Anthropology contributes to the study of economics by offering the cultural or social context of the economic behavior. Economic anthropologists are concerned with two main questions: (1) What motivates people in different societies to produce, distribute or exchange? and (2) How are production, distribution and consumption organized in different societies? Many economists think, or used to think, that humans always make rational choices aimed at maximization of their economic benefits. Anthropologists have proven that there is more to human motivation than this. From our point, an economic and rational man, is supposed to work indefinitely, because his wants are infinite. This may describe Europeans or Americans, but it is not at all a part of human nature. Besides, the notion of economic benefit, which allegedly always guides human behavior, is limited even in our society. People everywhere make rational choices based on their needs and their guesses about the future. But culture, values, and institutions provide the framework within which these choices are made. For example, Western culture places an extremely high value on wealth and
Background image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
material prosperity. Those who can achieve high levels of wealth and consumption are held up as role models. Other cultures may have different attitudes. Enjoyable use of leisure time is only one of the ends toward which humans may expend effort. They may also direct their energies toward increasing social status or respect. In Western societies, social honor and respect, which scholars call prestige, is primarily tied up with increased consumption and display of goods and services. But in some other societies, prestige is associated not with individual display of wealth, but with generosity and the giving away of goods to others. Those who have much more than others may be considered stingy, and they may lose rather than gain prestige. Conspicuous consumers and stingy people become objects of scorn. Thus, we cannot assume that people’s choices are motivated only by material well-being as we understand it. The job of economic anthropology is to describe and explain these cultural variations. For most of the people economy has something to do with money, and institutions such
Background image of page 2
Image of page 3
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

This note was uploaded on 04/29/2008 for the course ANTHRO 104 taught by Professor Bowie during the Fall '08 term at Wisconsin.

Page1 / 9

Lecture Week 5 - Economic Anthropology The main function of all human societies is to provide for the needs of their members This is why all of

This preview shows document pages 1 - 3. Sign up to view the full document.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Ask a homework question - tutors are online