All posts by Focaal Web Editor

Tijo Salverda: Aiming to keep capitalist accumulation in check: The role of the global land rush’s fiercest critics

This post is part of a feature on “How Capitalists Think,” moderated and edited by Patrick Neveling (University of Bergen) and Tijo Salverda (University of Cologne).

Following the concurrent 2007/2008 financial crisis and the global food crisis, investors’ appetite for (agricultural) land around the world has increased considerably. As a consequence, rural residents have been pushed off their lands, or their movements have been restricted because of new forms of enclosure (White et al. 2012), leading to an outpour of concerns about the “global land rush.” Critics such as international peasant movements, NGOs, journalists, (activist) scholars, and, in a more ambiguous way, international governance institutions have campaigned against the negative consequences of investors’ appetite for land. In particular, campaigns by GRAIN, Via Campesina, Global Witness, and Oxfam have increased awareness among the public. The extensive number of academic publications also demonstrates the scholarly attention devoted to the issue (e.g., Anseeuw et al. 2012; Borras 2016; Zoomers et al. 2016).

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Hadas Weiss: Reflections on Moishe Postone’s legacy for anthropology

As anthropologists, we strive to speak up for the often marginalized and underprivileged populations we study. Aiming to do so rigorously by heeding the structures that create and reproduce the injustices we witness, many of us have found our way to the critique of capitalism by Karl Marx and his followers. Moishe Postone introduced cohorts of anthropologists and others who were drawn to his cross-disciplinary courses at the University of Chicago to Marx and critical theory. While his writings have inspired scholars and activists worldwide and across the social sciences and humanities, Postone had also paved a path from Marxian theory to empirical critique that ethnographic fieldwork is well poised to accomplish.

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Eeva Kesküla: How capitalists think about labor dynasties and corporate ethics

This post is part of a feature on “How Capitalists Think,” moderated and edited by Patrick Neveling (University of Bergen) and Tijo Salverda (University of Cologne).

This contribution looks at the implications of how capitalists think about corporate ethics and moral obligations in monoindustrial towns. I present the cases of two mining towns in Estonia and Kazakhstan that share the history of honoring labor dynasties. In both settings, during the Soviet period, labor dynasties had a special place in company histories and grandfather-father-son working together were celebrated through stories in newspapers, awards on miners’ professional holiday, and photos on the mine’s noticeboard. Ideologically, dynasties represented a “labor aristocracy” that was to replace the prerevolutionary hereditary aristocracy, and such workers were to serve as examples to others (Tkach 2003).

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The Life of Viktor (An Easter Folktale from Central Europe)

Editorial note: This text was submitted by a colleague who wishes to remain anonymous; he has informed us that “this version of Viktor’s tale has been embellished in accordance with conventions of the genre (but also beyond them); at the same time, experts have ascertained that this version is not to be confused with the “fake news” that became so widespread in this era; all personal names and place names have been verified; they are real and authentic.”

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Georg Materna: “Two tribes of capitalists”: Neoconomists and politiconomists in a Senegalese marketplace

This post is part of a feature on “How Capitalists Think,” moderated and edited by Patrick Neveling (University of Bergen) and Tijo Salverda (University of Cologne).

Research on capitalism commonly distinguishes between neoclassical economics and political economy. If neoclassical economics have dominated scientific debates since the 1930s at the latest, the nineteenth century view was that of political economy, with Karl Marx providing a powerful critique thereof. Both theories influence scientific reasoning until today. Yet, could both also elucidate the quotidian behavior of “normal” people in ethnographies of everyday life in the twenty-first century?

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Patrick Neveling and Tijo Salverda: How capitalists think—about belonging, moralities, global entanglements, and historical social processes, for example

This introduction is part of a feature on “How Capitalists Think,” moderated and edited by Patrick Neveling (University of Bergen) and Tijo Salverda (University of Cologne).

Given that nowadays most people live in societies organized according to capitalist principles and given that few oppose those principles fundamentally, capitalists may well constitute the world’s largest ideology-based formation. Most anthropologists have undoubtedly had encounters with capitalists, who occupy positions in all social strata. Yet, apart from the “usual suspects” such as CEOs, elites, leading politicians, and other members of the transnational capitalist class, our discipline pays little, and certainly not enough, explicit attention to the many who equally support and/or benefit from capitalist principles—be they ordinary employees in governments and in the private sector, subalterns with native title claims, or even social welfare claimants (for the varying scope and scale of anthropological research so far, see Friedman 1999; Kalb 1997; Neveling 2015; Rose 2015; Salverda 2015). Continue reading

Marc Edelman: Sacrifice zones in rural and nonmetro USA: Fertile soil for authoritarian populism

Sacrifice zones—abandoned, economically shattered places, with growing social and health problems—are spreading in historically white rural areas and small towns across the United States. Rural decline, rooted in economic restructuring and financialization, exacerbates racial resentment and fosters regressive authoritarian politics.

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