Skip to main content
Social Sci LibreTexts

7: Economics

  • Page ID
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)\(\newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)

    Learning Objectives

    • Define economic anthropology and identify ways in which economic anthropology differs from the field of Economics
    • Describe the characteristics of the three modes of production: domestic production, tributary production, and capitalist production.
    • Compare reciprocity, redistribution, and market modes of exchange.
    • Assess the significance of general purpose money for economic exchange.
    • Evaluate the ways in which commodities become personally and socially meaningful.
    • Use a political economy perspective to assess examples of global economic inequality and structural violence.

    • 7.1: Economics
      Rather than simply focusing on market exchanges and individual decision-making, anthropologists consider three distinct phases of economic activity: production, exchange, and consumption. This chapter explores each of these dimensions of economic life in detail, concluding with an overview of how anthropologists understand and challenge the economic inequalities that structure everyday life in the twenty-first century.
    • 7.2: Modes and Means of Production
      A key concept in anthropological studies of economic life is the mode of production, or the social relations through which human labor is used to transform energy from nature using tools, skills, organization, and knowledge. This section takes a closer look at each of the three modes of production: domestic production, tributary production, and capitalist production.
    • 7.3: Fair-trade and Informal Economies.
      There are between 20 and 25 million small farmers growing coffee in more than 50 countries around the world. A portion of these small coffee farmers are organized into cooperatives in order to collectively sell their coffee as fair-trade certified. This section examines the fair-trade market as well as the informal economy of the secondhand clothing markets in Zambia in southern Africa.
    • 7.4: Modes of Exchange and Reciprocity
      There are three distinct ways to integrate economic and social relations and distribute material goods: reciprocity, redistribution, and market. Over the past century, anthropologists have devoted considerable attention to the topic of reciprocity. Gifts are about social relations, not just about the gifts themselves.
    • 7.5: Redistribution and Market Economy
      The two remaining modes of exchange, redistribution and market, may appear to be similar to reciprocity. However, redistribution practices that appear to be reciprocal gift exchanges, such as potlatch, ensure the redistribution of goods between groups with surpluses and those with deficits. Market exchange, unlike balanced reciprocity, is regulated by supply and demand mechanisms.
    • 7.6: Consumption and Global Capitalism
      Anthropologists understand consumption more specifically as the forms of behavior that connect our economic activity with the cultural symbols that give our lives meaning.[46] People’s consumption patterns are a large part of their lives, and economic anthropologists explore why, how, and when people consume what they do.
    • 7.7: Political Economy- Understanding Inequality
      Humans are fundamentally social, and our culture is always shared and patterned: we live our lives in groups. However, not all groups serve the needs of their members, and some people have more power than others, meaning they can make the weak consent through threats and coercion.
    • 7.8: End of Chapter Discussion
    • 7.9: About the Author

    Image: Street market in Marsaxlokk - dried goods, 2019, by Kritzolina under CC BY-SA 4.0.

    7: Economics is shared under a CC BY-NC license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

    • Was this article helpful?