Anthropological Enquiries into Policy, Debt, Business, and Capitalism: Volume 40

Cover of Anthropological Enquiries into Policy, Debt, Business, and Capitalism
Subject:

Table of contents

(14 chapters)

Prelims

Pages i-xi
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Part I: National and International Policy

Abstract

This chapter examines the manner in which a disaster-affected population of artisanal fishers relocated inland to new sites following the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 experienced and adapted to problems of water quality, scarcity, sanitation, and drainage. While numerous studies of conflicts over water tend to focus on issues of equitable access (see Anand, 2011), this chapter seeks to link the problem to the contested priorities driving land and resource use and access. I show how inland relocation negatively impacted households, making it harder to sustain livelihoods due to distance from the coast, while imposing new costs including that of commodified and scarce water, locational deficiencies, and the structural weaknesses of new housing. Placed in a historical context, the problem of water can be seen as an aspect of the long-term problem of ecologically unequal exchange pitting local artisanal fisher communities against an aggressively state-supported commercial fishery sector. The continuity I seek to hone in on is the pattern of imposing costs on fishers while enabling the alienation and privatization of coastal resources. Taking water not only as a vital substance presenting questions of access and quality but also as a problem of drainage and effluence enables a fuller consideration of how the unequal distribution of costs on poorer populations became legitimized in the name of recovery. At the same time, the chapter also highlights the manner in which fishers refused to remain docile subjects of power and used their agency and autonomy in adapting to and sometimes refusing the terms of relocation.

Abstract

This chapter outlines and critiques Japan’s Furusato Nozei tax program from an economic anthropological perspective. This chapter first introduces the socio-political organization of taxes together with the social-scientific paradigms that have been brought to analyze taxation within anthropological thinking. The chapter then outlines Japan’s tax history and the Furusato Nozei, or Hometown Tax program, before critiquing the program on the basis of these social science and anthropological. This critique confirms the validity of evaluating this Japanese tax program in its orientation and operation from an anthropologic viewpoint, while also calling into question the validity of such an approach to taxation from a broader societal view, thereby contributing to a new area of research within the Anthropology of Taxation.

Abstract

Global/national policy planning is guided by economic methods and predictions of growth, where indicators of success are measured according to a dominant view of progress and sustainable development. Yet, despite widespread ratification of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous Peoples remain unrepresented in this dominant view. The structural and historical forces informing global policy thus inadvertently produce a pathway of development that is characterized by political, economic, and social exclusion where Indigenous Peoples’ agency, heritage, and culture remain marginalized. I argue that socio-cultural nuance (“the complete story”) is critical to policy planning if we are to honor the principal aim of the Sustainable Development Goals – “leave no-one behind”. This and other policy frameworks need an approach that is neither framed by Eurocentric objectives nor bound by measurable indicators. This requires consideration of Indigenous Worldviews in a way that mediates diverse social, economic, and political factors. In this chapter, I examine the limitations in current policy consultation practice, with a specific focus on the extractive industries sector, and examine the ways in which engagement with Indigenous Peoples’ “complete story” might inform policy in the pursuit of a sustainable development that leaves no-one behind and creates a bridge between dominant and marginalized forms of knowledge.

Part II: Cost and Debt

Abstract

Social studies of price-setting are generally focused on the production of prices in the markets. This chapter is about the different types of prices and the exploitation of one price type for commercial purposes. The twofold nature of prices (technical and rhetorical), consolidated here in a recommendation algorithm, is defined, through an ethnographic case study of start-up company in France, from 2014 to 2015. The price is thus considered as a good in itself, which not only has to be produced but sold (and not always by honest means), opening the way to an anthropological critique of the “reality of prices.”

Abstract

Granting mortgages to customers likely to become insolvent was widespread in Spain during the housing bubble that burst in 2007, resulting in an unprecedented rate of home repossessions. The practice was usually legal, but if power relations, structural determinations, and asymmetrical access to information are taken into account, it appears abusive and socially harmful. Several sorts of people were involved in it: bank staff who, under pressure from managers, took advantage of their long-standing relationships with customers; real estate agents and mortgage brokers who saw a business opportunity in people’s aspiration to home ownership; and investment banking executives who devised sophisticated financial products aimed at masking risk. For them, selling risky mortgages was not only a profitable business but also a way to comply with norms, values, and expectations at play in their social settings. This chapter will show how mortgage lending and its evaluation as wrong or acceptable by actors in different social positions has a relational nature, and is based on diverging moral economies that guide economic action in the framework of neoliberalism.

Abstract

This chapter explores the role of student loan debt in the lives of American students and graduates in Wisconsin, US. The total amount of student loan debt in the United States is now at a record high. While debt is considered an integral part of a “forced timeline” toward a greater good, namely the American Dream, it is at the same time a disciplinary mechanism binding individuals to their families in various ways. While most anthropological research on college students and debt has not focused explicitly on student loan debt, this chapter offers insight into a phenomenon currently affecting more than 44 million Americans.

Part III: Business and Capitalism

Abstract

Milkerie1 worker cooperative was created after a yearlong labor fight against a factory closure announcement. By creating the coop, Milkerie’s workers set out to prove that if workers were given more decision-making power in the economy, it would be possible to create a more inclusive economy that values worker labor and provides them wage-based livelihoods. This chapter describes the historical conditions that the cooperative emerge, shaped its business model and governance structure. If cooperatives are believed to propose an alternative to capitalist enterprises, the case of Milkerie shows how the market pressure turns activism, that is, various types of unpaid voluntary labor, into simple jobs, that is, activities codified by task description and time frame, limiting the possibility to re-imagine the economy collectively.

Abstract

Do business owners hold capitalist beliefs – relative to non-business owners? Using Latinobarómetro survey in Latin America, we find that business owners tend to see the market economy as the only system by which a country can become developed. They also tend to give a lower rank to Fidel Castro, and tend to believe that sole private investment in sectors like hospitals and pensions are good for the country to develop as soon as possible. But, business owners do not see foreign capital as good in industries such as mining, electronics, household appliances, automobile, telecommunication services, and infrastructure. They also do not see foreign investment as beneficial for economic development of the country. In addition, they are less willing to adopt some new technologies.

Abstract

This ethnographic study explores how local and global forces influence a unique set of self-employed people in Havana’s tourism industry – dance instructors – and how these circumstances drive the strategies and rationalities they use to navigate socioeconomic transformations. Cuba’s recent history of economic crises, the decline in welfare assistance, and an array of market-driven economic reforms have driven many Cubans to search for incomes in Havana’s lucrative tourism industry. Global circulations of people, wealth, and ideas shape the opportunities Cubans find in this type of work. Furthermore, strict state policies and regulations, in conjunction with underlying systems of oppression, hinder and constrain Cubans who work in tourism-based ventures. Building on theories of neoliberalism and tourism, we discuss how Cuban dance instructors develop professional skills, standardize their activities, and address global consumer desires/demands while simultaneously drawing from collectivized social norms cultivated under Cuban socialism. These hybridized formal/informal business tactics reveal how self-employed Cubans are positioned between socialist configurations and the capital-driven tourism industry. These innovative socioeconomic logics are also critical in understanding how people living in centrally planned economies, some of which are socially marginalized because of patterns of inequality, gain access to and participate with contemporary modalities of the global economy.

Part IV: Economic Behavior and Theory in Brazil

Abstract

The second decade of the twenty-first century finds Brazil racked by a series of scandals that are extreme even by world standards. This chapter presents an explanation for one of the behaviors that have produced these scandals. Specifically, it is the offering of bribes to public officials by individuals or companies that stand to benefit from contracts to perform public services and, furthermore, the paying of kickbacks to the officials if the contract is awarded. I liken this behavior to the making of vows to the saints in the “popular” or “folk” form of Catholicism – and other popular religions that accept its basic premises – and the fulfillment of the promise if and when the otherworldly being provides what the petitioner requested. Part 1 of the chapter examines an election for mayor of the city of Fortaleza in 2012 in which the office was “bought” for what seemed to be an exorbitant amount of money. I hypothesize that this is to be explained by the anticipation of the city receiving government contracts to build a soccer stadium, a rail system, and other projects related to the 2014 World Cup. In Part 2, I examine Brazil’s religions beginning with popular Catholicism, to show that the normative way of gaining something desired from a supernatural – be it the restoration of health or the recovery of a lost item – is to offer it something it values and then fulfilling the promise if and when the petitioner receives what was requested. I contend that this important religious pattern continues to provide the template for the secular behavior that is being judged to be corrupt by standards other than those found in the religiously based worldview of many Brazilians.

Abstract

This chapter deals with different perspectives and structural transformations between capitalist society and indigenous ways of life. I approach the A’uwẽ-Xavante myth of the theft of the jaguar’s fire, one of many versions of the story of the bird-nester, which Lévi-Strauss interprets as the acquisition of culture through cooking technique. I compare it with Proudhon’s study on property as the theft of collective force which he treats as the groundwork of the manufacturing process in capitalist society. This highlights the difference between Proudhon’s ideal mutualism, based on free access to means of production and polytechnic education, and the A’uwẽ-Xavante’s acquisition of power and its technical reproduction. Proudhon’s mutualism envisages auto-organization of collective force in cooperative work favoring its collective appropriation by the workers; while in the A’uwẽ-Xavante way of life, there is an off-centered collective force from which technical acquisition is redistributed. In common with Proudhon’s ideal labor mutualism, A’uwẽ-Xavante’s ways welcome outsiders to their means of production of people; but unlike Proudhon’s, this welcome is not for free: they have to prove their generosity and personal commitment to the game.

Index

Pages 243-249
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Cover of Anthropological Enquiries into Policy, Debt, Business, and Capitalism
DOI
10.1108/S0190-1281202040
Publication date
2020-06-09
Book series
Research in Economic Anthropology
Editor
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-83909-659-4
eISBN
978-1-83909-658-7
Book series ISSN
0190-1281