A Handbook of Economic Anthropology
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A Handbook of Economic Anthropology

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.
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Chapter 2: Anthropology, Political Economy and World-System Theory

J.S. Eades


J.S. Eades The relationship between anthropology and political economy goes right back to the beginnings of anthropology in the nineteenth century, with the work of Lewis Henry Morgan, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. However, as is well known, the two traditions rather drifted apart early in the twentieth century. Generally, the ‘grand narratives’ of evolution were either rejected as speculation or seen as irrelevant to research. There were many reasons for this: the development of fieldwork by Franz Boas, Bronislaw Malinowski and their students; the belief that pre-monetary and pre-industrial economies had their own dynamics and logics which were different from those of the modern capitalist and socialist systems; and the ascendancy of Émile Durkheim, Max Weber and Talcott Parsons as the main sources of structural-functional and modernisation theory. After the Second World War, the two traditions began to draw together again and grand narratives began to come back into fashion (see Robotham chap. 3 infra). For one thing, there was an increasing overlap in the methods used by anthropologists and historians and in the materials they collected, both in areas where there were relatively few historical records, such as West Africa, and in areas where there was a rich historical tradition, such as Europe and Latin America. Some theoretical traditions such as substantivist economic anthropology also drew extensively on history, particularly the work of Polanyi as interpreted by George Dalton and others (Dalton 1968; Polanyi 1944; Polanyi, Arensberg and Pearson 1957; see Isaac chap. 1 supra). As decolonistion proceeded...

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