Table of Contents

A Handbook of Economic Anthropology

A Handbook of Economic Anthropology

Elgar original reference

Edited by James G. Carrier

This unique Handbook contains substantial and invaluable summary discussions of work on economic processes and issues, and on the relationship between economic and non-economic areas of life. Furthermore it describes conceptual orientations that are important among economic anthropologists, and presents summaries of key issues in the anthropological study of economic life in different regions of the world. Its scope and accessibility make it useful both to those who are interested in a particular topic and to those who want to see the breadth and fruitfulness of an anthropological study of economics.

Chapter 25: Households and their Markets in the Andes

Enrique Mayer

Subjects: economics and finance, behavioural and experimental economics, economic psychology, methodology of economics, social policy and sociology, research methods in social policy, sociology and sociological theory


Enrique Mayer There are no good models to represent the relationship between household economies and markets. The difficulty starts with the very concept of the household as starkly opposed to the market, which implies that because the household produces by itself what it needs, it does not need the market. Anthropologists who have investigated the household as a unit of production and consumption tend to treat the market as peripheral to the basic organisation of the household. Reading Stephen Gudeman and Alberto Rivera’s (1990) description of the household standing alone and unaided, its members working hard merely to satisfy their needs, gives the erroneous impression that the model household’s goal is autarchy. Economists, on the other hand, distort the concept of a household economy when their models translate the schema of a market economy onto households, which forces the house into the mould of a small firm interacting with the market. In so far as a household differs from a firm, the relationship between household and market is made problematic. Yet pure, market-less households do not exist. We therefore commonly say that the household’s integration to the market is partial. This reveals our perplexity more than it aids our understanding. I am going to argue that there are three spheres of exchange which articulate the household to a larger world. First are the social links the household develops with other households, along which goods flow. Second there is the national market operating with money, which penetrates deeply into the inner...

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