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This project emerged from a conversation on the e-mail listserv of the Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania (ASAO). Kate Barclay and several other participants on the list were debating about the role of business in contemporary Pacific Islander societies, and wondering about people who have managed to make their engagements with capitalism work for them while also managing to retain the material and cultural benefits of their noncapitalist social lives. How might people manage to gain some of what they want from capitalism – greater wealth, access to health and education services, and wider life opportunities – without losing the valued aspects of their culture and social relationships? Fiona McCormack galvanized Kate into proposing the topic for a working session at the next ASAO conference, at Honolulu in early 2011. The large room was full of people interested in the topic, some of whom then committed to produce papers for a joint publication. The discussion was wide ranging and intense, covering topics from development and the complexities of making projects work, to notions of personhood and sociality, and how these change in the presence of capitalism. We worked on our papers for a year and came together again with drafts at the 2012 ASAO meeting in Portland, Oregon. This time the discussion was even more penetrating as we worked through the ideas in more depth, and by the end of the day the participants were much in need of some of the excellent local beer and oysters. Once we had the drafts together Donald Wood, the Research in Economic Anthropology series editor for Emerald, came on board and we started working toward this publication.
Purpose – The authors introduce the chapters of Engaging with Capitalism with a discussion of anthropological and other social theory about peoples’ approaches to…
Purpose – The authors introduce the chapters of Engaging with Capitalism with a discussion of anthropological and other social theory about peoples’ approaches to capitalism, especially peoples with vibrant noncapitalist social systems, such as are found in Oceania.Approach – The introduction is in the form of a review of anthropological and other social theory about interactions between capitalism and noncapitalist social systems.Findings – The theoretical literature has tended to dichotomize capitalist and noncapitalist societies. While heuristically it is useful to contrast capitalist and noncapitalist social systems, in practice once societies come into the orbit of capitalism people adapt elements of capitalism to suit their aims. Furthermore, societies generally considered thoroughly capitalist also include noncapitalist features. So it is more accurate to think of societies as involving a mix of capitalism and noncapitalism, and the nature of that mix is part of what makes each society distinct.Social implications – The theoretical dichotomization of societies as capitalist or not, with capitalism understood as being universal, and noncapitalism understood in general terms such as gift economy, is prevalent in public imaginaries. Domestic social policy and international development assistance are often based on this dualistic understanding. Such programs could work better if they were based instead on an understanding that each group of people has a dynamic economic system, which includes capitalist and noncapitalist elements that interact in ways influenced by their history and locality.Value of paper – The chapter provides a conceptual scaffold for thinking about the ways people engage with capitalism.
Purpose – To critically assess engagements with capitalism in coastal fisheries development, considering their success or otherwise for coastal villagers.Approach – Using…
Purpose – To critically assess engagements with capitalism in coastal fisheries development, considering their success or otherwise for coastal villagers.Approach – Using field research and written reports of projects and the concept of “social embeddedness” we analyze two fisheries development projects as local instances of capitalism.Findings – Coastal peoples in the Pacific have been selling marine products for cash since the earliest days of contact with both Europeans and Asians. Since the 1970s, there have also been fisheries development projects. Both types of engagement with capitalism have had problems with commercial viability and ecological sustainability. One way to understand these issues is to view global capitalist markets as penetrating into localities through the lens of local cultures. We find, however, that local cultures are only one factor among several needed to explain the outcomes of these instances of capitalism. Other explanations include nature, national political and economic contexts, and transnational development assistance frameworks. The defining features of “local capitalisms” thus arise from configurations of human and nonhuman, local and outside influences.Social implications – Development project design should account for local conditions including: (1) village-based socioeconomic approaches, (2) national political economic contexts, (3) frameworks that donors bring to projects, and (4) (in)effective resource management.Originality/value of paper – The chapter builds on the experience of the authors over 15 years across multiple projects. The analysis provides a framework for understanding problems people have encountered in trying to get what they want from capitalism, and is applicable outside the fisheries sector.
Purpose – The authors conclude the “Engaging with Capitalism” volume with a discussion of social theory focusing on the implications of the volume for practices in…
Purpose – The authors conclude the “Engaging with Capitalism” volume with a discussion of social theory focusing on the implications of the volume for practices in international and community development.Approach – This chapter draws together some of the key themes in this collection to identify the development implications of the efforts of local communities to socially embed their engagement with capitalism and markets to better serve their socioeconomic and cultural needs. Discussion is informed by the literature on social embeddedness of economies, critical development theory, and the authors’ ongoing empirical research in rural Papua New Guinea.Findings – There is growing recognition within anthropology and geography of the enduring influence of indigenous social and economic practices and values and their capacity to condition the introduced market economy and capitalist economic practices. The chapters in this collection, from the “Engaging with Capitalism” sessions of the 2011 and 2012 ASAO conferences, speak to this issue directly by exploring how indigenous forms of socioeconomy interact with introduced capitalist and market processes to influence sociocultural and economic change at the local level.Research and social implications – The challenge for development researchers is how to conceptualize local engagements with capitalism, and to identify how such concepts and concerns might be applied in development practice to better serve the needs of local communities. We outline some key principles that could be incorporated into development planning to make development projects more sustainable and better tailored to the needs of recipient communities.