This new book Economic Anthropology lays out the most sophisticated history and practice of economic anthropology. The authors, two important scholars with rich ethnographic experience – Chris Hann and Keith Hart – show how anthropologists have contributed to understanding the three great questions of modern economic history: development, socialism and capitalism. In doing so, they connect economic anthropology to its roots in Western philosophy, social theory and world history.
Up to the Second World War anthropologists tried and failed to interest economists in their exotic findings. They then launched a vigorous debate over whether an approach taken from economics was appropriate to the study of non-industrial economies. Since the 1970s, they have developed a critique of capitalism based on studying it at home as well as abroad.
Hann and Hart aim to rejuvenate economic anthropology as a humanistic project at a time when the global financial crisis has undermined confidence in “free-market” economics. In their intellectually stimulating book, they argue for the crucial relevance of predecessors such as Marcel Mauss and Karl Polanyi, while offering an incisive review of recent work in this field and setting out the case for ‘human economics’ focused on addressing both the moral and material needs of peoples and societies.
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