Anthropology and Economy by Stephen Gudeman

By Stephen Gudeman

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It speaks to the need for deficit spending to counteract the loss of producer and consumer confidence. Viewed from an anthropological distance, both sides look similar, because they see economy through the lens of markets. Both presume that growth is necessary for welfare and happiness. Both want to see rising productivity that yields higher standards of living and an increase in the circulation of goods and services. Both sides agree that trade is good, more trade is better, and that people are rational.

When strength is traded between houses the recipient house feeds the workers. The laborer is supported by immediate strength from the receiving house while his stored strength is expended; the hosting house provides strength for the expenditure of work while it receives strength that will replace its base. The meaning of the exchange is displayed when laborers are fed a cooked version of the food they are harvesting. Sometimes they are given a small portion of the raw harvest on which they are working in addition to the meal.

I found the same gesture in Colombia, but there it was a different food, the potato and sometimes beans. The main crop – rice, potatoes, maize, and beans – was talked about as having special strength and being needed in order to work. For example, in Colombia, one person said, Maize is basic, it provides all the strength – for humans, chickens and pigs. It all comes back to maize. The basics are the support of one and the family, from breakfast to dinner to clothes. They are all products of the land.

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