Tag Archives: Capitalism

Leo Grob: Ruptures, Consolidations, Continuities: Reconsidering Global Economic Processes since 1945

This conference report was first published in H-Soz-Kult; the full conference program can be found here.

The 1970s increasingly move into the spotlight of contemporary history research. The decade is often portrayed as one of profound change, a radical rupture driven by watershed moments such as the oil crisis or the end of the Bretton Woods system of fixed currency exchange rates. This is not only the major take on the decade in recent publications by historians such as “Nach dem Boom” (Doering-Manteuffel and Raphael 2010) or “Age of Fraction” (Rodgers 2011), but also a well-established analytical approach across the social sciences and humanities (some of the most widely cited works in this regard are Harvey 1990, 2005). The international conference “Ruptures, Consolidations, Continuities: Reconsidering Global Economic Processes since 1945,” held at the Centre of Global Studies at the University of Bern, thus was a timely project to engage this paradigm. Over two-and-a-half days, researchers from the social sciences and the humanities came together to question the big “-isms” of 20th century-periodizations, such as Fordism, Post-Fordism, Keynesianism, and Neoliberalism.
Continue reading

Lesley Gill and Norbert Ross: What’s class got to do with it?


Unsettled by Donald Trump’s bigotry and xenophobia, liberal pundits have struggled to understand his improbable anointment as the nominee of the Republican party. Many have sought answers in the experience and behavior of the white-working class, the bedrock of Trump support. Why, asks the New Yorker’s James Surolecki, would any working class person support Trump. Surolecki believes that part of the answer lies in the appeal of Trump’s nativist rhetoric. For William Galston, writing in Newsweek, working class whites vote for Trump because they “seek protection against all the forces that they perceive as hostile to their way of life—foreign people, foreign goods, foreign ideas.” And wary of Trump backers and their potential for violence if the Republicans lose the presidency, Salon’s Michael Bourne locates white working class anger in “1960s-era legislation for promoting the interests of immigrants and minorities over their own, just as they blame free-trade policies of both parties for sending their jobs offshore.” According to Bourne, they are either the hapless “victims of American progress or a bunch of over privileged bigots.”
Continue reading

Joe Trapido: Epochs and continents: Potlatch, articulation, and violence in the Congo

This post is part of the Modes of Production feature moderated and edited by Patrick Neveling and Joe Trapido.

From the sixteenth century onward, European trading networks grew ever more extensive. In some places, they displaced or directly subjugated the indigenous population early on. In others, merchants entered trading relationships with locals. In some parts of Asia, these traders interacted with forms of social organization that had affinities with Europe—dense populations with large merchant classes, and states that extracted tribute over large areas (Wolf 1997: 73–101). In other places, power and resources were distributed according to very different rules: in particular, wealth was more directly related to the person. This is not to say that these places lacked markets or currency;  they often held large markets and had an amazing diversity of objects for mediating transactions, but these objects are better seen as an element of, or adjunct to, the value of the person. I am calling such societies human modes of production.1
Continue reading

Samuel W. Rose: Marxism and mode of production in the anthropology of native North America

This contribution elaborates on the relevance of the concept of mode of production in understanding contemporary North American indigenous populations. While examination of Native American peoples played a crucial role in early Marxist thought, Marxist theory has never been popular in examinations of North American Indians and has even been rejected by many indigenous intellectuals as ethnocentric, colonialist, and otherwise irrelevant to the political interests of indigenous peoples. This discussion has two parts: first, I briefly discuss the history of Marxist engagements with Native American anthropology, showing how this engagement played a crucial role in the development of anthropological and Marxist theory. In the second part, I draw from Elizabeth Rata’s (2000) concept of neotribal capitalism to discuss the relevance and advantage of mode of production–based analyses to Native North America.

Continue reading

Rachel Smith: The “hidden abodes” of temporary migration programs

Organizations such as the World Bank have repeated what has been called the “migration development mantra.” In this, remittances appear as a panacea—or “wonder drug” (Green 2015)—for economic development, while in real world interactions “social remittances” import liberal ideals such as “work ethic,” “financial literacy,” and democracy. Thus, this “mantra” reflects a neoliberal revival of 1960s modernization narratives (Glick Schiller and Faist 2010; Wise and Covarrubias 2009) with which it promotes temporary worker programs in particular, as they facilitate the return of the migrant and remittances and thus (it is assumed) greater economic development in the area of origin.
Continue reading

Joseph Trapido: Music, ritual, and capitalism in west central African history

There was a strong relationship between music and political-economic power in the precolonial Congo basin. This was because music was an integral part of a ritual nexus that dominated social life. Those who controlled the ritual nexus became rich and powerful, and controlled trade between locals and an expanding capitalism (MacGaffey 2000). Here I will show how music was important to this interface.
Continue reading

Andrew Green: Negotiating musical and capitalist divides in San Cristóbal

The literature on sustainable livelihoods in the field of development studies emphasizes the importance of fostering diverse sources of income for economic entities like individuals, families, and communities (Chambers and Conway 1992). Especially in rural areas, economic actors often cope with shocks and stresses by spreading their bets, using different forms of capital (such as human, economic, and physical) to produce specific livelihood strategies (Scoones 1998: 6–8). Some (see O’Brien Bernini 2015) have recognized the relevance of this approach to music making. Continue reading

Leah O’Brien Bernini: Capitalism and resistance in professional Irish music

Professional musical artists continually respond to and interact with the neoliberal social formation through the hegemony of the commercial music industry.1 This post presents findings from my doctoral study investigating the complex, entwined relationship between commercialized traditional music and neoliberalism in Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The four-year ethnographic study engages over eighty prominent professional Irish traditional and Celtic musical artists and related industry personnel. This post suggests domination in the music industry is primarily achieved and reinforced through exclusion. This is accomplished by restricting access to three forms of capital identified by Bourdieu (1986): cultural, economic, and social, which correspond with the three modes of domination: ideological, material, and status. This work explores how, when, and why professional artists may utilize acts of resistance2 against different forms of domination when attempting to improve their relative social position.
Continue reading

David Diallo: “Every day I’m hustlin’”: Rap music as street capitalism

In a 2004 article, rap scholar Mickey Hess remarked, “Making money is a legitimate goal for rappers, and one that is stated outright in lyrics” (635). Rap musicians, it is true, very often display a capitalistic frame of mind in their performance. They consistently refer to money—more specifically, to making money through entrepreneurial activities—and generally draw on a semantic field of capitalism. For example, EPMD—a rap group whose moniker stands for Eric and Parish Making Dollars and who released the albums Strictly Business (1988), Unfinished Business (1989), Business as Usual (1990), Business Never Personal (1992), Back in Business (1997), Out of Business (1999), and We Mean Business (2008)—clearly favored a business-oriented and capitalist discourse. Record labels like Cash Money in New Orleans and Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella, whose name explicitly references the capitalist heights rappers seek to climb, similarly point to this inclination. Whether they do it through their aliases or in their lyrics, rap musicians brazenly display a capitalist frame of mind and repeatedly brag about their enterprises, whether legitimate (like outstanding record sales) or criminal (particularly, accomplishments in the underground economy of the “hustle”).
Continue reading

Tom Wagner: Music, media, evangelical Protestantism: A very short history

The evangelical preacher Joel Osteen, whose nondenominational Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, attracts an estimated 40,000 worshippers weekly, is often presented as paradigmatic of the ways faith, media, and capitalism intersect in today’s media environment (e.g., Einstein 2008). Osteen’s message is communicated through his best-selling books, CDs, and DVDs; his satellite radio program and television network; and a well-managed Internet infrastructure of platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram; podcasts, direct-marketing emails, a blog, mobile phone apps, and even an iPad magazine (Bosker 2012). In other words, “Joel” is more than a preacher; he is a branded media package. Continue reading