Category: Anthropology

  • In Rousseau’s footsteps: David Graeber and the anthropology of unequal society

    A review of David Graeber Debt: The first 5,000 years (Melville House, New York, 2011, 534 pages) Debt is everywhere today. What is “sovereign debt” and why must Greece pay up, but not the United States? Who decides that the national debt will be repaid through austerity programmes rather than job-creation schemes? Why do the […]

  • Exchange in a human economy

    This essay was written in August 2008 for a book that subsequently folded. The timing is important, the month of my retirement from the British academy (but not from university life), a month before the financial crash. I discovered it in my folders just recently and find it to be one of the better expressions […]

  • Anthropology’s guilty secret

    A response to John McCreery’s OAC blog post, Theory and method in anthropology: an historical speculation: Thanks for reposting this, John. I don’t expect us to agree on this one, but, despite or because of my training in British social anthropology, I take a rather different view of the epistemological problem. The attempt to separate […]

  • The Origins of Money: 1. Cows and Shells

    BBC Radio 3 talk by me    (15 minutes)     13 June 2011, 22: 45 Listen here The written text may be found below, but look at this description by the producer: “Money. You don’t know where it’s been, But you put it where your mouth is. And it talks.” (Money, by Dana Gioia) The […]

  • The ethnography of finance and the history of money

    Abstract Marcel Mauss was a prolific financial journalist, writing about the exchange rate crisis of 1922-24 at the same time as he was writing The Gift; but he kept them in separate compartments and economic anthropologists have been content to ignore his political writings. The recent emergence of the ethnographic study of finance promises to […]

  • Kant’s relevance for anthropology today

    “The distinctive feature of our age is that mankind as a whole is on the way to becoming fully conscious of itself.” (C.L.R. James) By “anthropology” I refer here not to the academic institution but to a human teleology in James’s sense. We must improve our self-knowledge as individuals and as a species, especially the […]

  • Why we urgently need to bring the concept of society up-to-date

    This post is taken from Disputed Questions: a series of debates organized by Neil Turner for the Open Anthropology Cooperative. I would like to argue for the motion: One of the major challenges of anthropology is the redefinition of the concept “society.” The idea of society started out as a Latin expression for an ad […]

  • An anthropology of the internet

    Is an anthropology of the internet possible? If so, what would it look like? I will attempt a provisional answer here, building on my book about the consequences of the digital revolution for the forms of money and exchange. People, machines and money matter in this world, in that order. Most intellectuals know very little […]

  • The social meaning of the power law

    For some time now I have tried to relate major innovations in science and mathematics to the movement of society in history. At the grandest level of generalization, there are observations such as Oswald Spengler’s when, in The Decline of the West (1918), he contrasted ancient and modern ideas of number in terms of ‘magnitude’ […]

  • Studying world society as a vocation

    Introduction I want to start with Immanuel Kant’s Perpetual Peace: a Philosophical Sketch (1795). He held that Cosmopolitan Right, the basic right of all world citizens, should rest on conditions of universal hospitality, that is, the right of a stranger not to be treated with hostility when he arrives on someone else’s territory. In other […]

The Memory Bank

The two great memory banks are language and money. Exchange of meanings through language and of objects through money are now converging in a single network of communication, the internet.

We must learn how to use this digital revolution to advance the human conversation about a better world. Our political task is to make a world society fit for all humanity.

Prickly Pear Pamphlets
Prickly Pear Pamphlets