Production is exchange: a Maussian perspective on post-human economies
Guido Sprenger (Heidelberg University)
Paper short abstract:
Looking at economies from a post-human perspective reveals that production in many economies is not the exploitation of passive resources, but exchange with non-human persons.
Paper long abstract:
The production of livelihood is commonly portrayed as a collaboration of human beings in regard to non-human, passive resources. However, recent debates on animism have revealed how a great diversity of peoples considers processes of production as exchange with non-humans. What seems to be exploitation of resources can thus be read as the production of agentive beings through mutual collaboration. A major means to do so is to entangle beings into exchanges as processes of giving and receiving which articulate differences and identities, are risky and often unpredictable, and are based on asymmetry and hierarchy. The work of Bruno Latour or Michel Callon allows for considering how a continuum of agentive beings, from objects and impersonal forces to full human and non-human persons emerges through exchanges which aim at the production of livelihood. This is true for non-modern as well as modern societies. However, the recognition of agency and personhood does not exclude relations of hierarchy and asymmetry. I thus critique the notion of a Latourian symmetrical anthropology.
The post human: what is it good for? Anthropological perspectives