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FocaalBlog is associated with Focaal: Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology. It aims to accelerate and intensify anthropological conversations beyond what a regular academic journal can do, and to make them more widely, globally, and swiftly available.

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Conversations on the Left

  • David Bozzini: Gabriella Coleman on the ethnography of digital politics – part 2

    David Bozzini is a research fellow at the Graduate Center, CUNY, where he is researching on Eritrean deserters movements and on the resistance to digital surveillance. He co-edits Tsantsa, the journal of the Swiss Ethnological Society. Gabriella Coleman is an anthropologist and holds the Wolfe Chair in Scientific and Technological Literacy at McGill University in… more...

  • David Bozzini: Gabriella Coleman on the ethnography of digital politics – part 1

    David Bozzini is a research fellow at the Graduate Center, CUNY, where he is researching on Eritrean deserters movements and on the resistance to digital surveillance. He co-edits Tsantsa, the journal of the Swiss Ethnological Society. Gabriella Coleman is an anthropologist and holds the Wolfe Chair in Scientific and Technological Literacy at McGill University in… more...

  • Zoltán Glück: Of politics and crowds: A conversation with Susan Buck-Morss

    This interview with Susan Buck-Morss took place at the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center on May 12 2015. Buck-Morss is Distinguished Professor of Political Philosophy at the Graduate Center and has been a towering figure in continental theory since her publication of The Origin of Negative Dialectics in 1977. Her books include… more...

  • Ida Susser: From the underground resistance under Franco to Podemos, with Vicente Navarro

    Vicente Navarro is a leading analyst of the history and origins of the financial crisis in Spain (and Europe in general) and an economic adviser to Podemos. His book There Are Alternatives (Hay Alternativas: Propuestas para Crear Empleo y Bienestar Social en España), written with economists Juan Torres and Alberto Garzón, became an inspiration to… more...

  • Zoltán Glück: Archive of a Radical Geographer: Neil Smith’s Papers—An Interview with Don Mitchell

    In 2014, Don Mitchell was a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Advanced Research Collaborative, at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). His primary project during this time was to sort through the large collection of papers, files, clippings, and correspondences left behind by Neil Smith after his untimely death in… more...

  • Zoltán Glück: Focaal Interview with David Harvey – Part 2

    The Conversations on the Left project by Focaal opens its series with an interview with David Harvey, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Geography at the CUNY Graduate Center. David Harvey’s works have had a profound impact on the direction of leftist social science over the past four decades. A few months before this interview, in May 2013, an impressive… more...

  • Zoltán Glück: Focaal Interview with David Harvey – Part 1

    The Conversations on the Left project by Focaal opens its series with an interview with David Harvey, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Geography at the CUNY Graduate Center. David Harvey’s works have had a profound impact on the direction of leftist social science over the past four decades. A few months before this interview, in… more...

Features

Engaging Capitalism

Anthropology and capitalism: Beyond gifts versus markets

Editors: Don Kalb & Patrick Neveling

Capitalism is in crisis. And anthropology is at the forefront of the public’s ongoing critical engagement with that crisis.

The present seems to resonate with an earlier moment in the 1970s, when Northern anthropology sought to engage with politics and the public through the institution of the “teach-in.” On the one hand there was a turn toward primitive communism and “societies against the state;” on the other was the development of structural Marxism and political economy within the discipline.

What shifts in anthropological enquiry does the current moment compel us to make in order to effectively translate our critiques of capitalist reality to critical publics today? We see updates on Marxian, anarchist, Maussian, and other theoretical traditions. In the line of an established communitarian trend in economic anthropology, quite a few anthropologists find alternatives to the capitalist state and economy in microforms of gift-giving and alternative circuits of exchange. We also see new ethnographic studies of the micro-rationalities of financial operatives who have allegedly brought this crisis upon us.

This FocaalBlog theme section features eight contributions from a strong and well-attended session at the 2013 AAA in Chicago that wanted to advance on a slightly different genealogy—that of historical and global anthropology in the tradition of Wolf, Mintz, Worsley, Leacock, and others. Such an approach primarily draws its analytical and political force not from a focus on micro-rationalities or subaltern moralities but from engagements with the changing nature of profit, accumulation, and class that underpin capitalist (re)production itself.

Here, gifts and commodities are seen not so much as two morally opposed systems but as shifting and temporary outcomes of the variable integration of people and places in a globally evolving capitalist system of social relationships. It also sought to bring back the overriding issue of power and counter-power by looking at matters of class, populist confrontations, and the vexed subject of the state.

In short, this session sought to explore the ways our discipline can generate realist analyses of capitalism beyond “the good, the bad, and the ugly.”

Contents