DescriptionEconomy, as production, exchange, and consumption, is profoundly cultural--involving meanings, beliefs, and values. It has its own mythology and even, where images like the ""invisible hand"" are invoked, a kind of theology. Economy is also social. And what is social is also political. In gift, trade, or seizure, power relations are always to be found. We assign value. We commodify. Practices such as blood vengeance, toxic waste dumping, slavery, child pledging, or the exchange of reproductive materials all represent the neglected side of economic life-a side of vital concern to anthropologists. These economic processes can scarcely be understood without an understanding of language and kinship, ""race,"" ethnicity, age, gender, class, and so forth.
Economic Anthropology: A Reader on Culture, Value, and Meaning draws on three institutions that anthropology has made familiar--the northwest coast ""potlatch,"" the Melanesian kula, and African bridewealth--to illustrate how economic anthropology has developed and has transformed other disciplines by foregrounding fundamental questions about such concepts as reciprocity, altruism and profit. Successive reinterpretations of these three ""classic"" cases allow the reader of this collection to trace economic anthropology's shifts in direction, as part of broader trends in the discipline: from evolutionism and diffisionism though functionalism, structuralism, neo-Marxism, recent poststructuralism and postmodernism and newer, as yet unnamed, perspectives. The selections in this volume will be chosen to present moral dilemmas of import that transcend specific times or places. Finally, Economic Anthropology: A Reader on Culture, Value, and Meaning will try to redress the harmful mutual stereotyping by which anthropologists and economists have alienated each other in recent decades.