A Cross-Cultural Overview of Balanced and Unbalanced Modes of Exchange
These principles are not mutually exclusive and all may be found within the same society. The market principle is based on the practice of goods bought and sold using money. Profit is a key motivating principle. Value is theoretically based on demand and supply, but supply can be artificially manipulated to value and, therefore, increase profit margin. Market economies are the hallmark of large-scale, industrial groups.
Reciprocity click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced typically results in a continuing sequence of giving, receiving, and repaying gifts. Breaking this obligation to continue the reciprocity is commonly seen as a slight or even a rejection of the other person involved in the exchange. Reciprocity is a binding mechanism in that its continuance helps to hold friends and families together. Reciprocal exchanges generally do not redistribute a society's wealth in a way that causes some people to become richer than others. Rather, they usually result in a circulation of goods and services. There is not a net economic loss for individuals because they ultimately receive gifts in return. Reciprocity requires adequacy of response but not necessarily mathematical equality. In North America, for instance, when adults give a Christmas gift that cost $50 to a five year old child, they do not expect that the child will reciprocate with a gift that also cost $50. If the child reciprocates with a small painting he or she made in school, it is usually considered to be a more than adequate response.
When asking why people choose to buy a new shirt rather than shoes, anthropologists, and increasingly economists, look beyond the motives of Homo economicus to determine how social, cultural, political, and institutional forces shape humans’ everyday decisions.[Carol Tarvis, 2015] As a discipline, economics studies the decisions made by people and businesses and how these decisions interact in the marketplace. Economists’ models generally rest on several assumptions: that people know what they want, that their economic choices express these wants, and that their wants are defined by their culture. Economics is a normative theory because it specifies how people should act if they want to make efficient economic decisions. In contrast, anthropology is a largely descriptive social science; we analyze what people actually do and why they do it. Economic anthropologists do not necessarily assume that people know what they want (or why they want it) or that they are free to act on their own individual desires.
A reaction against deper-sonalized consumption supports regional markets insouthern France where, even though many of theproducts come from far away, the marketers create apretense of personalized production in order to satisfytheir customers’ preferences.
James Carrier, “Introduction,” in A Handbook of Economic Anthropology, ed. James Carrier (Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar, 2012), 4.
Richard Wilk and Lisa Cliggett, Economies and Cultures: Foundations of Economic Anthropology (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2007), 37.
Carol Tarvis,“How Homo Economicus Went Extinct,” Wall Street Journal, May 15, 2015