Cargo Cults - particular kind of commodity — their capac...

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Unformatted text preview: particular kind of commodity — their capac- ity to work. Much of Marx’s economic analysis, and especially his analysis of exploitation under capitalism, begins with this wage relation, and it serves as the basis for his distinction between capitalism and other economic forms. But, Marx wrote, nature does not present, on the one hand, a mass of labor- ets with no control over means of produc- tion or subsistence with nothing to sell but their labor power, and, on the other hand, a mass of capital in the hands of a minority ready to employ labor (or purchase labor power). Thus, labor power is a fictional commodity, as Polanyi was to claim nearly a century later — not in the sense that it is made up but in the sense that it is made, in a historical process. Weber too pointed to free labor as a de fining feature of capitalism, but he saw it as one of several such features. He placed primary emphasis on the emergence and dominance of rational accounting, includ- ing, famously, the growth of a rational “spirit.” But this spirit, and the practice of rational accounting, depended upon the emergence of an institutional complex, in— cluding (1) the treatment of all means of production as “disposable property,” (2) flee markets, (3) rational technology, in— cluding mechanization, (4) calculable law, (5) fi'ee labor, and (6) the commercializa- tion of economic life (Weber 1930). “Freedom,” “disposability,” and ast:alctilability” figure predominantly here, implying that labor, goods, and resources have been “freed” from interpersonal or communal claims and obligations. In such a system land, for example, is no longer considered a collective resource designed to provide a livelihood for all members of the collectivity by virtue of their mem- bership in the group. Similarly goods are no longer separable into items that are shared within a group of kin or community and those that may be sold to outsiders. For rational acc0unting to be effective, all such goods and resources had to be Seated as subject to account, calculable in terms of quantifiable measures of benefit cost. Indeed, when Weber wrote of the “spirit of capitalism,” he did not refer to the spirit CARGO CULTs «'19 of enterprise, or the search for profits. He pointed out that such spirit and search have been common in many types of society, though generally permissible only in deal- ings with people who lay beyond some social and cultural boundary. “While the search for advantage and profit was not acceptable within this closed circle of kin and community, it was acceptable and ex- pected outside the circle. In Weber’s View, what distinguished the capitalist spirit was the taming of that search for profits and the dissolution of the boundary between insiders and outsiders. That is, within the former circle, social claims to shareable goods and resources were dissolved, and the exchange of goods and resources was subject to a single, quantifiable form of accounting. Outside the former circle, the emphasis was no longer on the highest possible profit, or in other language the quick buck or easy killing, but on the long-term profitability of the enterprise. This required that ex- changes be recursive and that coats (and profits) be calculable and predictable. The “freeing” of land, labor, capital, and other goods and resources for this singular kind of accountability is the result of a complex social history, and theorists like Polanyi were referring to that history when they stressed the “fictional” nature of commodities like land or labor. Much anthropological work on capitalism has concentrated on the social and cultural processes, relations, and problems associ— ated with the development of capitalism in formerly noncapitalist milieus, where com- munity values are other than those that can be registered on a balance sheet. In the process of freeing of labor from land, of resources from the claims of community and kin, and the blurring of boundaries between those inside and those outside, the consequences of capitalist development for such communities are more than theoretical. W'R See also ECONOMIC ANTHROPOLOGY, GIFT EXCHANGE, SOCIALISM, TRADE further reading Dobb 1946; D. Harvey 1982; Marx 1964 cargo cults are MILLENARIAN MOVE- MENTS whose religious beliefs focus on the acquisition of material goods (“cargo”) by 50 CARGO SYSTEM ritual means. Melanesia is the locus ciassicus of these cults, which began in the last quar— ter of the nineteenth century in the wake of colonial domination by the European pow- ers. Beliefs centered on the new relative deprivation of the indigenes and offered ritual means of acquiring Western goods. This was often combined with a belief in the return of ANCESTORS and a coming end to racial domination and antagonism either by the effacement of racial differences or the disappearance of the Europeans. MR further reading Worsley 1968 cargo system is a set of ranked ritual or ritual—civil offices found in peasant com- munities of Mcsoamerica. The offices are linked to saints of the Roman Catholic Church. Each adult male seeks to serve in each of these offices during the course of his life. Prestige, which increases as one mounts the hierarchy, accrues to the hold— ers of cargo, as does the often enormous expense imposed by the obligations of office. The cargo system thus serves as a leveling mechanism inhibiting the differen- tial accumulation of wealth by households. MR further reading Frank Cancian 1965 carrying capacity denotes the factors internal or external to a population that limit its growth within the capacity of the environment to sustain it without irre- versible depletion of natural resources and environmental degradation. LS caste, caste societies In a caste soci- ety groups of persons engaged in specific occupations or with specific characteristics are ranked hierarchically. These ranks are ostensibly based on the degree of pollution incurred by work at the caste specialty or by other group characteristics, and one’s position in the caste scale may be regarded as a reward or punishment for spiritual attainments (see PURITWPOLLU‘I‘ION). India is the most famous [some say the only) caste society. There caste is broken into four great comes: the “twice—born” Brahman priests, Kshatriya warriors, and Vaisiya merchants, and the “once-born" Sudra peasants. Beneath these and offi- cially excluded from the caste system are the Untouchables (Gandhi’s hat-thus, or “children of God,” now self—designated as Dalits, or “oppressed”), who fill the most polluting occupations. Although the Brahmans are universally recognized as the least spiritually polluted caste, there is no absolute consensus as to who is on top or why. For instance, religious renunciants can make claims to special holiness either by showing extraor- dinary asceticism and purity, or by engag- ing in cannibalism and self-degradation or indulging in intoxication and excess (J. Parry 1982; Lynch 1990). Furthermore, the Kshatriya, who tradi- tionally served as rulers, established com- peting axes of valuation for themselves to counterbalance the Brahmans’ claims to pro-eminence (Inden 1990; Heesterman 1985). In fact, Dirks (1987) argued that the Brahmanical portrait of caste was sim— ply a wishful fantasy of priests in a colonial atmosphere that favored the disjuncture between kineg power and religious legitimacy. Among ordinary people, however, the main cornpetitinn between castes remains at a lower level of organization. All the names are divided into multitudinous jott‘s, or local, endogamous occupational groups, that constitute the varied labor force of the society. These fan's can and do contest their relative positions and attempt to rise in the ranks through what Srinivas (1962) fa~ moust called “Sanskritization': emulating the attributes of higher caste groups. Thus, an economically successful lower caste may take up less polluting occupations and hab- its and claim higher caste status. Whether these claims are accepted varies (F. Bailey 1957), but clearly slow upward (and down- ward} mobility in the caste rank of jatt‘ was far more likely prior to colonial censuses, which fixed caste positions immutably in written records. Academic definitions of caste are also not solidified, and fall into two mutually exclusive positions. The first is structural- functional and views caste as a category or type, comparable in many respects to hier- archical organizations elsewhere. In this vein, Gerald Berreman wrote that “a caste system resembles a plural society whose ...
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This note was uploaded on 10/06/2010 for the course ANTHRO anthro 100 taught by Professor Riaz during the Spring '10 term at Limkokwing University of Creative Technology.

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Cargo Cults - particular kind of commodity — their capac...

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