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Edited by James G. Carrier
Chapter 12: Distribution and Redistribution
Thomas C. Patterson Both anthropology and economics were constituted as disciplines in the context of a debate that began about 1750. This discourse is concerned with the rise of modern capitalism and its impact on peoples in both the core and peripheral areas of its development. One explanation of the difference between the two fields asserts that economists have sought to account for these changes in terms of universally applicable models of human nature – for instance, that human beings are naturally economising – whereas anthropologists have stressed the importance of culture and its shaping effects on behaviour, both individually and in the aggregate (Geertz 1984). As Joel Kahn (1990), Heath Pearson (2000) and others have shown, the inter-relationships of anthropology and economics are actually more complicated, and both contain in different ways elements of the dialogue among the diverse strands of liberal, romantic and Marxist social thought. Kahn further notes that concerns about cultural otherness manifested in both fields in the late nineteenth century occurred at a historical moment when traditional communities in both core and peripheral areas were being enmeshed increasingly in capitalist social relations and transformed differentially. One should add that new cultural identities were also forged in the process. A concern with the inter-relations of production and distribution has been an important feature of this debate. From the eighteenth century onward, classical political economists, including Karl Marx, based their arguments on the labour theory of value, distinguishing between (1) the amount of goods required to sustain the members...
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