EASA, 2008: EASA08: Experiencing diversity and mutuality

Ljubljana, 26/08/2008 – 29/08/2008

(W002)

Markets, kinship and morality

Location 18
Date and Start Time 27 Aug, 2008 at 09:00

Convenors

Adam Kuper (LSE) email
Stephen Gudeman (University of Minnesota/ Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology) email
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Short Abstract

Do private interests undermine social cohesion? In this workshop, we explore the dialectics of self-interest and mutuality, and of kinship and market behaviour.

Long Abstract

Following Adam Smith, economists argue that markets are driven by self-interest, which benefits everyone. Since Mauss, anthropologists usually claim that private interests undermine social morality and collective identities. In this workshop, we explore the dialectics of self-interest and mutuality, and of kinship and market behaviour.

Papers

The dialectics of economy

Author: Stephen Gudeman (University of Minnesota/ Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)  email
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Long Abstract

Economy is made up of two value domains that are dialectically connected. The market sphere consists of competitive, anonymous trades. Through competition that enforces rational choice, efficiency in the use of resources, production and consumption is the justifying value and story - for economists. Anthropologists have long explored the mutual or communal domain of economy in which things, services and symbols connect and help constitute identities. These transactions are guided by diverse values, such as equity, equality, and power. The two spheres are found in high market economies and small, "ethnographic" ones, although their relative importance varies. Sometimes they are separate, sometimes they overlap, sometimes they are mutually sustaining, and often they conflict. Energized by competition and the search for profit, however, the practices of calculative reason or rational choice usually burst the borders of a market and cascade into the realm of mutuality where they erase, veil, mystify or appropriate the materials and language of community. In so doing, they debase the conditions of their own existence, with consequences for local subjectivities, welfare patterns, the environment, forms of development, and well being.

Hunting in the Alentejo (southern Portugal): the social and spatial outcomes of 'care' and 'selfishness'

Author: Julia Carolino (CIAUD - Faculty of Architecture of Lisbon)  email
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Long Abstract

The paper takes issue with the moral opposition between 'selfishness' (egoísmo) and 'care' (querer saber) as I have learned it from my informants during fieldwork in Aldeia de Cima, in Southern Portugal. In my informants' view, 'selfishness' and 'care' are attributes of contrasting forms of social conduct, directed respectively towards self-interest and to other people. They pertain to two types of 'growth', epitomised respectively in the wealth of the largest, non-local, landowners (os grandes/'the grand-folk') and the social connections of villagers (os pequenos/'the little folk'). In spite of its self-demeaning appearance, it is the second sort of conduct that is thought to be at the source of social value. This is expressed through an idiom that relies heavily on kinship imagery.

'Selfishness' and 'care' are ideas mobilised in the course of social conflict around changes in land-use, which are perceived locally in terms of an increasing 'closedness', so to speak, of the spatial environment around the village. The paper attends to the spatiality produced by a particular sort of events - hunting events - in which 'the little folk' and 'the grand folk' meet on the land. It accounts for its relationship with emic views of a dialectics of self-interest and mutuality. Finally, it argues that these views play a role in local ideas of social value and the social construction of places.

'We, the Congolese, we cannot trust each other': trust, norms and relations among traders in Katanga, Democratic Republic of Congo

Author: Benjamin Rubbers (Université de Liège)  email
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Long Abstract

Congolese traders in Katanga claim that they cannot trust their peers, customers, and employees. Existing literature about traders in Africa does not enhance our understanding, as it tends to consider trust as depending on the degree of social knowledge. In the Congo, social proximity does not exclude suspicion, nor does social distance necessarily prevent trust. Based on ethnographic fieldwork, this paper aims at developing a more detailed framework. It studies how Congolese traders negotiate two key norms for the building of economic trust - property and reciprocity - with non-relatives, distant relatives, and close relatives.

The moralities of markets: petty trade and merchant associations in the margins of the formal economy in Peru

Author: Cecilie Vindal Ødegaard (University of Bergen)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper explores how traders in urban contexts in Peru negotiate the access to markets - and to land - through the establishment of traders' associations. In particular, the paper is concerned with how trade in this context is based upon an intense cultivation of social relationships, at the same time as competition, distrust and contestations over power are made evident through accusations of corruption against leaders, as well as the use of brujería (witchcraft, or harmful acts). The idea of "markets" has often strong connotations to morality/immorality in most cultural contexts, by being associated with money, the devil or destruction of sociality on the one hand, and modernity, consumption, survival or the participation in society/citizenship on the other. The aim of this paper is to discuss 1) how this moralization takes place in a specific cultural context, and 2) what characterizes the approach of the Peruvian state to these informal economic practices. By reflecting on how practices of reciprocity, exchange and circulation in the Andean context are seen as "fertile" and as reproducing collective prosperity (e.g. making money "give birth", Harris 1995), the paper discusses the moralities of markets in a context where trade is of a more or less informal kind. It discusses how state regulations and interventions are made objects of challenge and contestation among traders, and how the approach of the authorities to these activities varies between silent acceptance, policies of formalization and occasional moves to abolish these practices.

The notion of embeddedness and its relevance in modern market economies

Author: Agnese Cimdina (University of Latvia)  email
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Long Abstract

The social world is present in its entirety in every "economic" action, writes Bourdieu (2005). The originator of such a socio-cultural approach to economics was Polanyi who, by introducing the concept of embeddedness, emphasized the way economies are embedded in society and culture. But while Polanyi argued that all non-market economies are embedded in social, kinship relations and institutions, he tended to see market economy as disembedded.

That economic behavior is heavily embedded in social relations in premarket societies and have become much more autonomous with modernization is depicted by Granovetter (1985) as a common view among social scientists. This view sees the economy as an increasingly separate, differentiated sphere in modern society, with economic transactions defined no longer by the social or kinship obligations, but by rational calculations of individual gain (Garsten, de Montoya 2004).

I find the notion of embeddedness highly relevant in grasping the fluid relation between "the social" and "the economic" in business relations between East and West. The aim of this paper is to discuss the use of embededdness concept in economic anthropology; and to show the relevance of it by analyzing market behavior in modern economies. The key questions to be illuminated are: How entrepreneurs' social ties and patterns of culture shape their strategies in the marketplace? What is the role of kinship in market operations? How meanings people construct about their economic worlds are embedded locally? Scandinavian business operations in the Baltic states between 2000-2006 is the empirical base of the article.

Paying for parenthood: money and kinship in assisted reproduction

Author: Venetia Kantsa (University of the Aegean)  email
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Long Abstract

Drawing on recent research on assisted reproduction in Greece I would like to explore in this paper the interrelation of kinship to time and thus to money.

In the context of assisted reproduction time is always present in relation to age, the ripeness of ovaries, or the number of efforts one has to undergo, while new reproductive technologies are supposed to give the opportunity to choose the moment of becoming a parent, to expand age limitations, to beat time. However, time is strongly related to money. Time is money and money is time, in the sense that the passage of time costs money to people who wish to become parents, while the ones who have money are able to confront time limitations since they can afford better and more expensive treatment. From this perspective assisted reproduction connects the desire for children with the market economy and becoming a parent equals to having the opportunity to pay for parenthood.

Even so, the notion of motherhood as a gift -in Greece ovaries and surrogate motherhood are legally excluded from the market and can only be given as a gift- and the sheer emphasis on the medicalization of the process and the role of the experts hides the interrelation of kinship to market and underscores the fact that kinship, after all, is an expensive product that not all people can afford.

Asymmetric flows of support among siblings and its limits: some evidence from current rural China

Author: Xiujie Wu (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)  email
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Long Abstract

In the age of the market economy in contemporary China, the family income of rural residents depends increasingly on their individual efforts as well as their ability to take part in the labour market or other economic activities beyond agriculture. At the same time, strong notions of the patriarchal kinship system concerning solidarity and responsibility for mutual support, if in need, among siblings (first of all, among brothers) still prevail. Tensions among siblings escalate if the asymmetric flows of support have to be guaranteed over a long period. How do people articulate their claims for and resistance to obligations of support? What strategies are used and accepted for mitigating tensions? What are the consequences for the constant process of division and re-integration within the village community? Based on field material from a village in north China, this paper will explore these questions further.

Kin-group characterisation and competition for local resources in rural Yakutia

Author: Csaba Mészáros (Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Research Centre for the Humanities, Institute of Ethnology)  email
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Long Abstract

In Yakutia people are often described by moral values uniformly characteristic of their kin-groups. This special kin group character can be inherited by individuals, and is in the focus of local communication, creating a system of rumour. Relying on a 10-month fieldwork, by the comparison of two village communities I exemplify two different ways of how this system of characterisation is used to regulate the competition of villagers for local resources (such as hayfields, fishing ponds) and state benefits (salary jobs, pension). One of the communities is not divided along lineage lines, because here cooperation and the feeling of togetherness are practically restricted to nuclear families. The system of kin-group characterisation only aims to secure one's positive evaluation, without attaching peculiar moral values to him/her. Thus, this system of rumour results in a type of communication where moral values are either beneficial or detrimental, generating a socially divisive village community, where individuals participate in a sharp competition for symbolic power. In the other village the still effective and meaningful lineages divide the community, but by the help of a more complex communication on kin-group characters, the competition for symbolic power is relatively balanced, resulting in a fairly integrated and cooperative village community.

Markets and moralities in Danish housing cooperatives

Author: Maja Hojer Bruun (Aalborg University)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper explores the interplay between private interests and communal ideology in cooperative apartment buildings in the city of Copenhagen. Which values, structures and practices have enabled the cooperative housing movement to flourish for decades in a market economy and in an urban context where the ideology of community is not always matched in the residents' day-to-day activities? And what do current moral debates about market prices and critiques of alleged nepotism reveal about the cohesion of the communities? The understanding of social values and exchanges within the cooperative movement points directly to the balancing of individual interest and social obligation in human behaviour as described by Mauss in The Gift. It calls for further theorizing about the complex interplay between market and kinship behaviour.

Cooperative housing is a property form that traces its intellectual and historic ties to the rural cooperative movement in Denmark, one of Europe's oldest. Here small and large producers cooperated, irrespective of size, and egalitarianism has remained a key feature of cooperative housing ideology. Current political and economic forces in Denmark are increasingly challenging this ideology. External challenges include a right wing government promoting private home-ownership and introducting new fiscal policies, rising house prices, and new possibilities for obtaining loans in separate cooperative flats. Internal challenges include favouring kin and friends when allocating attractive flats, money paid "under the table", and tenants' temptation to make an individual windfall profit from selling at market prices the flat they bought for 'cheap' money.

European kinship and the emotional economy

Author: Patrick Heady (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)  email
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Long Abstract

A fundamental question for this workshop is whether pragmatically motivated choices by autonomous individuals can lead to cooperation. The alpine and Russian country-dwellers amongst whom I have conducted field research would strongly agree that they can - both vigorously asserting that the need for mutual assistance produces the actual behaviour. In the alpine case they use this idea to explain why, since the arrival of late-twentieth-century prosperity, they no longer cooperate much; while in the Russian case they use it to explain the continuing high levels of cooperation between kin and neighbours. Data collected for the KASS (Kinship and Social Security) project confirm that the long-term decline of peasant agriculture in Europe has been associated with a decline in local and kin-based cooperation.

However, the ethnographic data also shows that, though rationality certainly comes into it, this is not simply a matter of rational choice. Cooperation involves emotional commitment to specific patterns of social relationships - patterns that are conceived of as enduring through time. These models of kinship and cooperation differ greatly between societies - including between European societies. I conclude the paper by reviewing evidence that differences in the local patterning of kinship ties are associated with different responses to recent economic changes.

Private enterprise and the ethos of the collective era in China: the case of a Chinese craft industry

Author: Geoffrey Gowlland (London School of Economics)  email
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Long Abstract

In this paper I consider the themes of morality and community in the context of the renewed legitimacy of private enterprise and of the family as economic unit in post-collectivist China.

My case study is the production of "zisha" craft pottery in a township of the Jiangsu Province. In the 1950s, production was centralised in a single cooperative factory. This marked a break in the perceived closure of knowledge that characterised the pre-socialist system known as 'one household, one pot': the factory established a community seemingly out of a void, and created ties that cut across class, background and gender. In that context, an ethos of sharing was established, whereby the knowledge of masters was made available to all.

The reintroduction of private enterprise, following the late 1970s economic reforms of the country, is perceived by artisans as a return to the past. Households and individuals are once again in competition, and learning craft secrets once more takes place in the privacy of homes. Yet artisans also strive to uphold the ethos of sharing of the era of the collective factory, even though this might go against family interests. I argue that not only is there a tension between this ethos and new forms of competition within the community of practice, but also that it is precisely the ideals and morality of the cooperative factory that are invoked in discourses on legitimacy and tradition aimed at creating divisions between artisans.

Lace or string: the moral conundrums of entrepreneurship

Author: Nicolette Makovicky (University of Oxford )  email
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Long Abstract

Tracing the production and trade of bobbin lace made in the provincial town of Banská Bystrica and in two nearby villages, Špania Dolina and Staré Hory, this paper examines the moral conundrums of lace making as small-scale entrepreneurial activity. Lace making arrived to this area with German, Bohemian and Croatian immigrants, particularly miners, in the 16th century. Despite having been produced as a commodity in the local area for centuries, fieldwork conducted in 2003-2004 showed that a stigma was attached to commercial activities and this stigma compelled lace makers to employ socially and geographically extended networks of kin and personal contacts in order to secure an income. Craftswomen had to negotiate between the workings of the market economy to which they were bound as producers and consumers, and the obligations of a moral economy to which they belong by virtue of kin and social relations. Examining domestic production in contemporary consumer society, this paper sheds light on the continuing importance of the household for the creation of social and material value. It examines how two forms of economic thinking and practice associated with domestic production - 'community economy' (Gudeman 1996) and 'house economy' (Gudeman and Rivera 1990) - have endured and adapted to the political and economic changes of the post-socialist period. These form normative frameworks for the creation of moral and social value and promoting ideals, practices and identities which at times are at odds with the entrepreneurialism fostered by market activities.

The market logic of illegality in southern Italy

Author: Valeria Siniscalchi (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Marseille)  email
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Long Abstract

The paper concerns the economic practices and representations of southern Italian workers employed by small-scale sub-contactors working for north and central Italian firms. I examine how local ways of working, kinship and other forms of social relations between workers and workers and between workers and employers, articulate with classical market behaviours. Particularly significant is the illegality, or semi illegality, of many of the practices concerned; these enable workers and employers to construct social contexts insulated from the framework of the law. Social science has tended to consider practices that contravene the law in terms of exploitation, resistance or of what neo-liberal economists label as « flexibility ». Instead, I argue that these islands of illegality produce specifics forms of mutuality and market organisation with their own creative « situated » logics.

'Great transformation' of agrarian tolerance in post-peasant Eastern Europe

Author: Juraj Buzalka (FSES Comenius University)  email
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Long Abstract

Most of Eastern Europe has departed from agrarian times quite recently through state-socialist modernization. Despite its modernist attempts, state socialism managed to reproduce and even strengthened many elements of rural life, such as the role of kinship and religion, and these elements became crucial for post-socialist development, including current transformations resulting from the integration of Central and Eastern Europe into European Union. I employ the concept of 'agrarian tolerance' in order to discuss the pre-capitalist patterns of co-existence in unevenly developed Eastern Europe today. This tolerance is manifested in the activities of ordinary people who avoid nationalist participation, practice their faith with and provide social assistance to others regardless of group membership. These people show conviviality in everyday life, trust their neighbors as well as religious and community leaders, form cultural clubs, organize community events, take part in actions often considered 'illiberal' by urban intellectuals. They also employ economic practices at which the individual profit is 'embedded' within community, religion and kinship. On the basis of fieldwork in south-east Poland, I argue that the agrarian tolerance has survived socialism and post-socialism, however, under ongoing 'great transformation' that is being applied in the post-peasant setting, consisting of rural social structures, traditionalist narratives and agrarian imaginary, this agrarian tolerance is being suppressed by the artificial tolerance as introduced through EU discourses and policies, fostered by elites and generated by the demands of the market. At this point it is necessary to discuss the ambivalent 'embedded' alternative religion offers for cohesion.

Moral economies in a modern world: kinship, morality and power among the Boatmen of Varanasi (Banaras), India

Author: Assa Doron (Australian National University)  email
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Long Abstract

The concept of moral economy has generated a lively debate across various disciplines in the social sciences. According to James Scott, the right to subsistence and the notion of reciprocity are central features of moral economies found in pre-capitalist agrarian societies. With the introduction of the modern state and market economy that these moral economies were disrupted, generating resistance and rebellion by the poor against such intrusions. In this paper I draw on Scott's model and examine the way in which a moral economy becomes a strategic tool for a marginalized group of boatmen in the city of Varanasi to appropriate and re-work the ritual space along the riverfront of the city. I demonstrate how under specific ideological and material conditions moral economies not only persist, but are reinvigorated to accommodate the changes of modern-day market affected societies. Such moral economies are largely based on oral tradition, community consensus, and kinship networks, in which boatmen attempt to defend their customary rights and practices to perform rituals, ferry tourists and pilgrims and earn their livelihood from the burgeoning ritual economy of Varanasi. Further, using ethnographic data, I suggest that we must apply the moral economic model in a critical manner that is sensitive to the social inequalities and internal divisions and struggles within the boatman community itself. Such considerations raise broader questions with relation to notions of domination and subaltern resistance in contemporary India.

Stressed responsible subjects: market, state and moral obligation and the paradoxes of the economy

Author: Susana Narotzky (Universitat de Barcelona)  email
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Long Abstract

The proposed paper stems from a 10 year long project on "reciprocity as a human resource" and on "forms of responsibility regulation in informal economic and political processes". The research team has compiled a wealth of ethnographic material that I will compare in order to address several theoretical questions about the articulation of 1) different forms of moral obligation (responsibilities), 2) the accumulation and the reproductive aspects of economies (growth and sustainability) and 3) the production of social cohesion (regulation and institutionalization). The paper will examine tensions between state and market forms of regulation and other morally regulated systems of production and of household provisioning of resources including care.

I will draw on the analysis of paradoxical concepts such as "commodity fetishism", "fictitious commodities" and "social capital" in order to highlight the centrality of a theoretical twist obscuring the dialectics of self-interest and mutuality in standard economic models. Questions addressed are:

How are mutual responsibility bonds that convey the transfers of resources (material, emotional, knowledge) produced? What are the diverse frameworks of these economic moralities? When, how and why do the practices and material transfers supported by various moral responsibilities collapse? What are the effects of this for social cohesion?

It is increasingly obvious that the debate on economic processes and social cohesion needs to include aspects of what has been variously termed "économie solidaire", "community economies", "care economies", "moral economies". This paper wants to contribute to such theory building.