Production, Consumption, Business and the Economy: Structural Ideals and Moral Realities: Volume 34

Subject:

Table of contents

(22 chapters)
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Introduction

Pages xiii-xx
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Purpose

This conceptual paper examines the claim of ahistorical, transcultural universality in aspects of Enlightenment thinking as it has been embedded in the assumptions of classical economic theory. Specifically, with respect we query to presupposing rationality and maximization, that all nations are on an evolutionary course to betterment conceptualized as development and progress.

Design/methodology/approach

Using historical data, examined from a cross-cultural perspective, the arguments put forth in England in the late seventeenth century to justify the enclosures and private property, that led to revolution, are shown to have introduced new institutions, including private property, entrepreneurship and self-regulating markets.

Findings

Maximizing behavior is shown to be the result of successive generations being socialized under the new institutional arrangements that, conflated with modernity, were then taken to the Americas and South Asia as part of British colonial/imperial expansion.

Theoretical implications

When economic theory is examined in its cultural and historical context it is just one of a large number of possible cultural patterns.

Practical implications

If contemporary economic and social institutions, and the behaviors they produce, are but one of a number of alternative possibilities, many of the problems facing so many can be rethought and perhaps ameliorated with new institutional arrangements.

Purpose

This paper delineates the proprietary contest developed around a highly valued prestige item: a silver roofed tankard owned by a Romanian, Gabor Roma man.

Design/methodology/approach

The author applies “methodological fetishism” (Appadurai, 1986, p. 5), the perspective of things-in-motion, as well as the biographic method to interpret data collected during 31.5 months of multi-sited anthropological fieldwork carried out in the Transylvanian Gabor and Cărhar Roma groups.

Findings

As the tankard in question crossed the borders of three Transylvanian Roma groups, and thus went through the processes of de- and re-contextualization three times, it is characterized by a transethnic/transcultural biography. This paper pays special attention to the agency associated with the tankard (the social and economic practices, processes and emotions it caused or influenced), the transformations concerning its symbolic properties, and its movement between various social contexts and value regimes. Furthermore, it examines how the analysis of these issues contributes to a deeper understanding of prestige relations and consumption, morality and business ethics, and measures of success in two Transylvanian Roma groups.

Originality/value

This paper reveals how subjects create, manipulate, and represent their identities, and social and economic differences through the construction of commodity biographies and ownership histories interpreted as symbolic pantheons. By combining the terms of Marcus (1995) and Fowles (2006), it argues that analyses based on multi-sited fieldwork focusing on commodities crossing cultural or social boundaries, and their transnational/transcultural biographies, should be defined as multi-sited commodity ethnographies.

Purpose

This paper furthers the analysis of patterns regulating capitalist accumulation based on a historical anthropology of economic activities revolving around and within the Mauritian Export Processing Zone (EPZ).

Design/methodology/approach

This paper uses fieldwork in Mauritius to interrogate and critique two important concepts in contemporary social theory – “embeddedness” and “the informal economy.” These are viewed in the wider frame of social anthropology’s engagement with (neoliberal) capitalism.

Findings

A process-oriented revision of Polanyi’s work on embeddedness and the “double movement” is proposed to help us situate EPZs within ongoing power struggles found throughout the history of capitalism. This helps us to challenge the notion of economic informality as supplied by Hart and others.

Social implications

Scholars and policymakers have tended to see economic informality as a force from below, able to disrupt the legal-rational nature of capitalism as practiced from on high. Similarly, there is a view that a precapitalist embeddedness, a “human economy,” has many good things to offer. However, this paper shows that the practices of the state and multinational capitalism, in EPZs and elsewhere, exactly match the practices that are envisioned as the cure to the pitfalls of capitalism.

Value of the paper

Setting aside the formal-informal distinction in favor of a process-oriented analysis of embeddedness allows us better to understand the shifting struggles among the state, capital, and labor.

Purpose

To provide an overview of the Japanese publishing industry and to compare it with the publishing industry in the United Kingdom to see whether similarities and differences are industry- or culture-specific.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper provides detailed descriptions of the activities of the three main players in the Japanese publishing industry (publishers/editors; distributors; and booksellers). This tripartite structure of the industry encourages divide-and-rule mechanisms also found in the Japanese advertising industry. At the same time, a comparison with the UK publishing industry reveals certain structural differences between it and the Japanese publishing industry.

Findings

Three developments that have affected trade relations in the UK publishing industry (retail chains, literary agents, and mergers and acquisitions) do not have such great impact in Japan. In Japan, wholesale distributors are extremely powerful – something not noted, but possibly overlooked, by Thompson for the UK publishing industry. Comparative material between Japan and the United Kingdom, as well as across industries within Japan, suggest certain cultural influences prevail in the organization of Japanese publishing.

Research limitations/implications

The Japanese publishing industry appears to operate under certain cultural constraints that inhibit cross-cultural comparison, while enabling cross-industry comparison within Japan. Why this is so needs further research. Can the parallels between advertising and publishing industries be extended to other forms of cultural production in Japan? In particular, the way in which money is circulated within an industry has an influential effect upon its structure.

Practical implications

A useful source of information for practitioners and academics interested in the functioning of a non-Western publishing industry. The paper also provides food for thought for those interested in trying to better the organization of publishing in Japan and/or the United Kingdom.

Originality/value

A hitherto undocumented comparative study in English of the Japanese publishing industry.

Purpose

This paper uses the case of Islamic banking in Amman, Jordan, to assess the wide moral range of expectations, levels of satisfaction, and means of evaluating banks’ “Islamicness.”

Design/methodology/approach

The information is gathered from interviews conducted during over 21 months of ethnographic research and one month in participant observation and research access as an intern at the Middle East Islamic Bank (MEIB) in Amman, Jordan.

Findings

I found three modes for evaluating “Islamicness” when actors decide whether or not to become customers of Islamic banks.

Research implications

These modes demonstrate that Islamic banking is no longer the cultural protectionism of a relatively homogeneous community of Muslims. Rather it is a fraught and tense field for actors’ debates about types of moralities in the markets and modes of moral assessments of “Islamicness.”

Originality/value

The amplification of the individual and individual choice and authority in the moral assessments of Islamic banking may ultimately serve to unseat prior dichotomous theoretical framings of morality’s presence or absence as “Islamic” or “not Islamic” and “good” and “bad.” By unleashing to individuals the construction of morality in the markets, moral rights and wrongs, and moral evaluations, fragmentation of moral consensus in market practices will occur.

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to offer theoretical and methodological guidance for ethnographers of finance and financialization. It critiques the notion of financialization as a macro process and argues for more in-depth ethnographic studies of professional financial actors.

Design/methodology/approach

The author analyzes existing ethnographies of financial “elites” and “non-elites” and draws on his years of employment at two contrasting British retail stockbroking firms. The concepts of “identity” and “self” are used to analyze the ways in which professional financial actors are shaped by their activities and working cultures.

Findings

The processes through which financial actors are constructed and the consequent ways in which they come to understand their professional selves are influenced by a variety of dynamics: occupational and organizational cultures and practices, the nature of the work itself, technological development, and social interactions with colleagues.

Research limitations/implications

The paper demonstrates the situated nature of financial action and suggests that future research grapples with these dimensions.

Originality/value

The application of an ethnographic perspective to British retail stockbroking and the method of “ethnographic reflection” evoked to achieve this are new contributions. The broad analysis of ethnographies of finance through the lens of identity offers a fresh view of the literature. The paper may be of interest to those wishing to study stockbrokers, financial actors, and financial organizations, as well as those in the social sciences, more generally, who are interested in the micro-dynamics of organizations, financialization, and capital circulation.

Purpose

Make a contribution on company business models and typical reactions to economic crises.

Design/methodology/approach

Media-analysis-based case study.

Findings

Crisis is handled through drawing on a strategy deriving from the typical features of the company; through the crisis these features are even intensified.

Research limitations/implications

Multinational companies are complex and only transparent to a small degree; the empirical data therefore rests on a database with articles.

Social implications

Social implications can be seen at the BMW as a functioning example for social partnership as a form of economic embeddedness at the societal level.

Purpose

This paper analyzes changes in property rights, land uses, and culturally based notions of ownership that have emerged following privatization of communal land in a Samburu pastoralist community in Northern Kenya. The research challenges the strict dichotomy between private and collective rights often found in property rights literature, which does not match empirical findings of overlapping and contested rights.

Design/methodology/approach

Part of a long-term ethnographic project investigating the process of land privatization and its outcomes, this paper draws on in-depth interviews and participant observation conducted by the author in Samburu County in 2008, 2009, and 2010. Interviews focused on how land is being used post-privatization as well as emerging social norms regulating its use.

Findings

Privatization privileges male household heads with powers including rental, sale, and bequeathal of land. However, informal rights to land extend to women and other household members. Exercise of legal rights is frequently limited due to knowledge and resource gaps. New rules regulating land use have emerged, some represent sharp divergences from past practice while others support shared access to land. These changes challenge Samburu cultural notions of individuality, reciprocity, and shared responsibility.

Practical implications

This research illuminates complex changes following legal shifts in property rights and demonstrates the interactions between formal laws and informal social norms and cultural beliefs about land. The result is that privatization does not have easily predictable outcomes as some theories of property would suggest.

Originality/value

Empirical investigation of the effects of legal changes enables fuller understanding of the implications of policy changes that many governments are pursuing privatization with limited understanding of the likely effects.

Purpose

This paper seeks: (1) to understand householding as an economic survival strategy by viewing new, historical, evidence in light of previous work on the theme, (2) to fill gaps in the historical and anthropological literature on prewar Japanese farming villages that have resulted in an incomplete conceptualization of the household as a unit of production and consumption, and (3) to improve the overall comprehension of peasant behavior vis-à-vis questions about moral economy, ecological adaptation, and risk-taking.

Design/methodology/approach

The essay relies on information gleaned from a detailed 1935–1936 one-year diary of a small-scale farmer, published in 1938.

Findings

The prewar Japanese farming village was far more than a collection of households linked by sharing and reciprocal ties. It was not only a place where households as economic units of production and consumption were central, but one where individuals strived to obtain whatever they could, whenever they could. It appears that small-scale prewar Japanese farmers were as likely to take risks and to experiment in order to improve their lot as any other peasants around the world.

Originality/value

It adds to the understanding of prewar Japanese farming villages by presenting valuable historical data that has previously been unavailable in English. It also helps to better situate Japanese peasants in the context of global peasant culture and society, and improves understanding of developmental processes – especially in the case of 20th century Japan.

Purpose

Although there have been many articles and books on street vendors, ambulant and fixed, around the world, and many works written about them in Mexico, little has been done on the ubiquitous ambulant beach vendors in tourist centers.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper offers an analysis of the backgrounds, levels of contentment, and aspirations of 25 women beach vendors interviewed in Acapulco in 2010.

Findings

A third of the women beach vendors had fathers who were peasants, and others had grandparents who were. Thus the article shows light on the fate of some of the offspring of a dispossessed peasantry. Far more than half of the women vendors were very content with their self-employment vending wares on the beach, a few because they could set their own hours, and a few because they had no boss. Other’s contentment was linked to the fact that they could help support their children. Part of this help meant keeping them in school. This was true whether the women were married, widowed, or abandoned. Not all were content, however, and this underscores the importance of their income to their households. Most of the women, though not all, had aspirations for more education and better work, whether in the formal or the informal economy.

Social implications

The women can be seen as marginalized because of their current poverty, and many because of past poverty leading to a lack of educational opportunities when they were young. They value education for their children.

Purpose

The research aimed at explaining women microcredit repayment delay when loans are not granted on any joint liability group nor any other scheme based on social capital or financial collateral.

Design/methodology/approach

Previous research showed that greater female autonomy is associated with bearing fewer children and the former could be correlated to a higher loan repayment rate because of social and financial benefits for the household. Female autonomy proxied through the number of children and its square is regressed on the number of weeks of repayment delay in an OLS model as well as in a multilogit model that identifies borrowers according to their credit status (regular, delayed, and delinquent).

Findings

We found that more autonomous women, those bearing less than four children, repay credit more promptly and are less likely to switch into the delinquent credit status.

Research limitations/implications

Economic variables need to be complemented with some specific characteristics of the borrower, as they have a role in explaining women’s repayment delay.

Originality/value

The research provides an alternate explanation about why women repay loans when a microcredit institution does not rely on a lending methodology based on joint liability groups.

Purpose

This study examines employment dynamics of youth in the central highlands of Guatemala. It is during late adolescence and early young adulthood that rural youth explore and settle into occupational structures that often define their economic lives and the region’s economic outlook. However, the occupational orientations of this group are poorly documented.

Design/methodology/approach

The study used a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods. A three wave longitudinal design with six-month intervals was implemented. Households were identified using random sampling based on household maps. Two individuals per household were interviewed, a female adult and a younger woman/man between 15 and 25 years old in 451 households. In-depth interviews also were conducted with 25 individuals.

Findings

Youth occupational choices were associated not only with their health, income, and standing in their household, but also their self-image, sense of independence, and control. Nonfarm jobs were found to be most attractive to youth, who identify them as more “modern” and urban jobs. The study documents shifts from farm to nonfarm jobs, gender dynamics, the impact education has on jobs for youth, and health correlates of employment and unemployment.

Originality/value

Most characterizations of employment patterns in rural areas of Guatemala focus on the “head of household,” while overlooking the diverse job activities of other members of the household. The study not only addresses a population that is often understudied but also provides a longitudinal perspective to understand job switching and youth ideas of a “good” and “better” job.

Purpose

Mayan towns in the Guatemalan highlands hold periodic markets on specific days of the week. A market is attended by local townspeople, by peasants residing in the town’s hinterland, and by vendors bringing wares from other towns. This study aims to determine the effects of physical, environmental, and cultural differences on the number of vendors that are sent from one Guatemalan town to a periodic market in another.

Design/methodology/approach

To understand how these markets are integrated, a gravity model is developed, examining the flow of vendors from 85 towns of residence to 15 market towns. In this model, the flow of vendors from one town to another is a function not only of physical distance, but of ecological complementarities, of linguistic differences, of road access, and of demographic endowments.

Findings

Results show that traveling vendors in these periodic markets do indeed integrate Guatemala both ethnically and ecologically, serving as a place in which different ethnic groups meet and bring in products that cannot be produced locally. Results also suggest that participation in markets is part of a diversified set of activities used by rural peasants to support their households.

Purpose

This conceptual paper examines and evaluates patronage and clientage as a system of interrelated dyadic exchanges between unequals through which goods and services circulate, flowing both up and down through stratified societies. The parties involved may be in different places socially and geographically.

Design/methodology/approach

Data are presented for Brazil from the period of the Old Republic beginning in the 1890s, through the end of the Military Dictatorship in mid-1980s, and finally to the present, ending with today’s conditional cash transfer programs. The data are examined against the background of a 15th century book, O Livro da Virtuosa Bemfeituria (The Book of the Virtuous Benefits), written by a Portuguese Prince influential in the expansion and discoveries as a guide for princes and great lords that is used in the paper very much in the way that Adam Smith’s writings are used for most economic behavior today.

Findings and implications

There are striking parallels over this long historical period in the behaviors referred to as patronage and clientage that may be conceptualized as an older (traditional) way of ordering the flow of goods and services (distributing them), alternative and parallel to market mechanisms that have, and continue to operate in Brazilian society.

Social implications

Patronage and clientage are often-misunderstood behaviors, sometimes referred to as corrupt, that alternatively may be explained and understood as part of a still viable and operational socio-cultural system that goes back to a period before the colonization of Brazil.

About the Authors

Pages 409-413
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DOI
10.1108/S0190-1281201434
Publication date
2014-09-16
Book series
Research in Economic Anthropology
Editor
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78441-055-1
eISBN
978-1-78441-055-1
Book series ISSN
0190-1281