Chapter 1: Collective economic actors
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The for-profit business corporation is a central institution of the modern capitalist economic system. Yet until recently its inner workings have received relatively little ethnographic or theoretical scrutiny within anthropology. A key task for future economic anthropological research is to bring this institution into ethnographic and theoretical focus. As anthropological corporations — a conception dating back at least to Maine’s 1861 work, Ancient law — these collective actors can be conceived as culture-bearing social groups, operating in accord with communal, as well as economic, principles, and participating in the broader movement of culture. Such a conception contrasts with, and perhaps complements, the approach to corporations from economics, with its emphasis on rational individual actors, as well as with Marxist-inspired political economy, with its emphasis on class struggle. Nor is the anthropological corporation identical to the legal corporation, important as the law is to the operation of modern for-profit business corporations.