Edited by James G. Carrier
Chapter 5: Provisioning
Susana Narotzky This chapter is about the different forms that provisioning for goods and services can take. Often provisioning is through the market, but in many cases the market is involved only partially, or not at all. Generally, in any society there are several possible paths for the provision of similar goods or services, as when medical care is available from the state, private practitioners, private corporations or a doctor friend. This situation might mean a wider choice for the consumer, or it might express social differentiation and limited access regarding a basic good such as health care. I want to stress the fact that provisioning is a complex process where production, distribution, appropriation and consumption relations all have to be taken into account and where history defines particular available paths for obtaining goods and services. Provisioning is also a useful way to understand social differentiation, the construction of particular meanings and identities and the reproduction of the social and economic system as a whole. The provisioning perspective in its present form stems from the perceived need to link the consumption and the production ends of economic life in order to address vital issues such as food security, housing, health care, education and, more generally, public or collective consumption. Development agencies in the 1980s, and particularly anthropologists, economists and sociologists working for the Food and Agriculture Organization, made the link between food consumption and particular ‘food paths’ (Carloni 1981), which Boserup (1965) had highlighted in her work on the crucial...
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