Echoing neoliberalism, since the 1980s anthropology has abandoned its disciplinary authority and confined itself to recording the understandings of individuals. What are the consequences and how might we reverse this?
Neoliberalism rejects specialist thought as inevitably flawed, and so abandons the partial certainty that its models and frames can offer. All that matters is the perceptions and understandings of economic actors: the Free Market. This mentalistic individualism is echoed in anthropology by forms of postmodernism, which also reject specialist thought. All that matters is the perceptions and understandings of people in their everyday lives: the Native Point of View. As the crisis challenged neoliberalism, many in the discipline are beginning to challenge its anthropological echoes. This panel is part of that challenge. It considers what the discipline lost when it embraced that mentalistic individualism, what is worth recovering and how we might do so as we face the task of analysing the spreading uncertainty and disquiet that the crisis engendered. We offer two aspects of such consideration. Firstly, in the 1970s different schools of thought were flourishing in anthropology, with their different understandings of the social world, the processes that shape it and the questions we can ask about it. Do any of these seem especially timely now? Secondly, areas of anthropological interest have changed over the past thirty years, shaped by the changing prevailing winds in the discipline. Might any of these areas look different if the prevailing winds changed?