Chapter 17: The Anthropology of Markets
Kalman Applbaum Reviews of the anthropology of markets customarily begin by dwelling on the distinction between physical marketplaces and ‘the market principle’ – or ‘the diffuse interaction of suppliers and demanders’ that determines the ‘prices of labor, resources and outputs … regardless of the site of transactions’ (Bohannan and Dalton 1965: 2; see, for example, Plattner 1989). Thus, a periodic, peasant or open-air market on the one hand, and the global electronic futures market for soybeans or eurodollars on the other. The present chapter also marks this distinction, but with the alternative aim of demonstrating the virtues of phasing out the division for advancing the field. I do not claim to be trailblazing a new path, but to be reporting upon a palpable trend that has perhaps not been explicitly articulated in these terms. It is in the review of select recent market ethnographies that I call to the reader’s attention a de facto bridging, convergence or integration of the two kinds of markets in fact and in theory, or at least the positioning of the two on a continuum, and a decline of the split model as an inspiration for empirical research. In so far as I continue referring to the two ‘types’ to make my point, I shall use the conventional vocabulary of market principle and marketplace, or sometimes more pithily, the abstract vs. the empirical market (Slater 1993). Globalisation and trade concentration Increasingly exchange transactions occurring anywhere in the world can only be understood with reference to external agencies....
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