“Anthropologists have largely left the global effects of economic globalisation to economists.”
I do not understand why they would take on the seemingly impossible/improbable task of pushing that proposition in the face of tons of evidence to the contrary. Political economy might not have been chic over the last decade in anthropology, but many still concerned themselves with it. One of the few annuals in anthropology continues to be in economic anthropology. There have been countless articles on globalization by anthropologists. Last but not least, David Harvey who fully predicted almost every single detail of the current crisis back in 2003 in The New Imperialism, has been recruited into the anthropology department at either NYU or CUNY (I cannot remember which right now).
So there is a lot that has been going on, but as usual it is also a lot that has simply been ignored, until events external to the discipline mandated a shift in focus.
What I do not think is really very much needed is more micro-level, everyday, narrow focused ethnographies of the kind they seem to call for. Those will give us little bits and pieces of the larger picture, but they will not account for nor explain the whole. Harvey was able to do that, and perhaps mentioned ethnography only once in 300 pages. One of the “lessons” we should have learned at this point is that you cannot do an ethnography of globalization – there is a complete mismatch between scales and units of analysis and temporal spans. So calling people back to political economy is not, and should not, be the same thing as calling for more and more ethnographic tid-bits. Besides, if one really wants insight into everyday practices, other fields such as business and the financial journalists themselves have already produced reams of interviews, snapshots, various accounts on these everyday practices.
I was really praying that when I came to this post I would not see yet another reference to the blasted kula ring and the gift. Come on people, let it go. This is not a neighbourhood garage sale, so stop polishing your old trinkets in the hope that some passerby might catch sight of a faint glimmer of possible silver beneath the rust.
Thanks Lorenz, I needed to “vent".
Comment from: [Member]
Thanks for you comment, Max. This is only a brief summary, so the original text is much more nuanced.
Political economy might not have been chic over the last decade in anthropology, but many still concerned themselves with it.
I suppose they talk about mainstream anthropology, and they do mention that there are anthropologists working with this.
Why don’t you like the Kula reference? Don’t you think it’s relevant?
Sorry Lorenz, I tried commenting before but there was a problem with the site. I don’t know if this will get through, so I will be brief.
I am absolutely certain that one can make a great many things relevant, including the kula ring. I don’t know that it efficiently and succinctly explains ceaseless capital accumulation or the commodification of everything, as well as others have, and more recently.
I am suspicious of any appeals to anthropological tradition…you know, this discipline that protests against ‘essentialism’ until it comes to its self-definitions.