Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Economic Persuasions

Economic Persuasions

Edited by Stephen Gudeman
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 238
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Economic Persuasions
    Book Description:

    As the transition from socialism to a market economy gathered speed in the early 1990s, many people proclaimed the final success of capitalism as a practice and neoliberal economics as its accompanying science. But with the uneven achievements of the "transition"-the deepening problems of "development," persistent unemployment, the widening of the wealth gap, and expressions of resistance-the discipline of economics is no longer seen as a mirror of reality or as a unified science. How should we understand economics and, more broadly, the organization and disorganization of material life? In this book, international scholars from anthropology and economics adopt a rhetorical perspective in order to make sense of material life and the theories about it. Re-examining central problems in the two fields and using ethnographic and historical examples, they explore the intersections between these disciplines, contrast their methods and epistemologies, and show how a rhetorical approach offers a new mode of analysis while drawing on established contributions.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-926-0
    Subjects: Anthropology, Political Science, Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. CHAPTER 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)
    Stephen Gudeman

    As the transition from socialism to market economy gathered speed in the early 1990s, many people proclaimed the final success of capitalism as a practice and neoliberal economics as a science. But with the uneven achievements of the “transition,” the deepening problems of “development,” the continuation of boom and bust cycles in market societies, persistent unemployment, widening of the wealth gap, and expressions of resistance, the discipline of economics is no longer seen as a mirror of reality or as a unified science. How should we understand economics and, more broadly, the organization and disorganization of material life?

    In the...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Simplicity in Economic Anthropology: Persuasion, Form, and Substance
    (pp. 15-30)
    James G. Carrier

    One, among the many, ways of defining rhetoric is that it is devices that are intended to persuade. Viewed thus, one could decide that all human communication, verbal or otherwise, is rhetorical. Were our task simply to chart the bounds of the use of rhetoric, there would be little left to say. But this view has an important corollary. That is, to see rhetoric as persuasive devices is to imply that it is independent of the content being communicated: the devices that do the urging are independent of the end toward which the audience is being urged.

    Taking such a...

  7. CHAPTER 3 When Rhetoric Becomes Mass Persuasion: The Case of the Concept of Interest
    (pp. 31-42)
    Richard Swedberg

    Through the rise of neoliberalism from 1980 and onward, many ideas and concepts in mainstream economics have spilled into the realm of social science and have become a part of political ideology. This migration of ideas has placed pressure on the noneconomic social sciences to adopt economic concepts; and this pressure is ideological rather than scientific in nature. The attempt to persuade someone else—in this case the noneconomic social scientists—through reason and logic has been replaced by something much broader, what we maycall mass persuasion,to speak like Robert Merton (1946).

    This story has a macro dimension...

  8. CHAPTER 4 The New Social Science Imperialism and the Problem of Knowledge in Contemporary Economics
    (pp. 43-61)
    William Milberg

    What is it about economic argument that has made it traditionally so persuasive as to be widely viewed as the king of the social sciences? Many have accepted the dominant role of economics in the social sciences because of the perceived power of its first fundamental welfare theorem: the social optimality of a fully decentralized (privately owned) and competitive economy rooted in rational individual choice. In this chapter, I argue that mainstream economics largely abandoned this theorem almost twenty years ago and has subsequently moved through two new methodological phases. The first phase was a “New Economics” that emerged in...

  9. CHAPTER 5 The Persuasions of Economics
    (pp. 62-80)
    Stephen Gudeman

    Since the beginning of modern ethnography, anthropology and economics have had an uneasy relationship. There has been poaching (W.E. Armstrong (1924,1928) once tried to demonstrate that Rossel Island [Yela] money was like our “modern” currency), quarrels (Frank Knight famously attacked Melville Herskovits (1941)), and abrupt dismissals. But for long intervals, we had few border fights because each of us studied different peoples (or so we thought): anthropologists were experts about “primitive,” small scale, simpler societies; economists knew about market societies. The situation was never that simple, but we lived with the fiction, kept to our own, and did not confront...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Conversations Between Anthropologists and Economists
    (pp. 81-96)
    Metin M. Cosgel

    Economists and anthropologists do not seem to talk systematically to each other. The evidence on the flow and sharing of academic knowledge suggests that they have little interest in regularly exchanging ideas or joining interdisciplinary efforts with each other. Studies of citation patterns show that economists rarely cite the works of anthropologists, and anthropologists similarly do not find much inspiration in the works of economists (Rigney and Barnes 1980; Pearson 2002; Pieters and Baumgartner 2002). No formal channels of communication have been established to facilitate a sustained conversation between the two disciplines. No journals regularly publish contributions from both disciplines,...

  11. CHAPTER 7 “The Craving for Intelligibility”: Speech and Silence on the Economy under Structural Adjustment and Military Rule in Nigeria
    (pp. 97-117)
    Jane I. Guyer and LaRay Denzer

    This chapter focuses on what Friedrich von Hayek considered the grave dangers of “the craving for intelligibility” (1944: 204) with respect to economic life. Hayek publishedThe Road to Serfdomtoward the end of a war that he saw as having profoundly entrenched centralized economic management in the state and in the hands of ideologues, with disastrous results for Germany and for the world. He argued not only against National Socialism, but also against the Keynesian formula for selective state intervention, and was in favor of a return to markets as soon as the war was over. To “submit” to...

  12. CHAPTER 8 Mass-gifts: On Market Giving in Advanced Capitalist Societies
    (pp. 118-135)
    Nurit Bird-David and Asaf Darr

    In this chapter, we focus on the rhetorical dimension of the classic anthropological distinction between “gifts” and “commodities” that goes back to Marcel Mauss’ canonical essay “The Gift.” Anthropologists previously discussed “gifts” and “commodities” as two substantial types of exchange, each involving a different setup of relations between the two sides to the transaction and between them and the object being exchanged. The anthropological discourse does, naturally, involve a strong rhetorical dimension. Our concern here, however, is with rhetoric in its classic sense as the art of persuasion, drawing on emotions, shared understanding, etc. Having noted the rhetorical distinction between...

  13. CHAPTER 9 The Persuasive Power of Money
    (pp. 136-158)
    Keith Hart

    In this chapter, I will try to account for money’s power to influence our minds and social relations. It would be easy, but misleading, to argue that money’s ability to persuade is a universal characteristic. The way money persuades is historically relative—very different for Adam Smith than for Maynard Keynes and even more for us who live in the digital revolution and the expansion of virtual society it entails. Moreover, the fetishism that grants money a quasiindependent role in human affairs needs to be exposed for what it is. People make and use money, not the other way round;...

  14. CHAPTER 10 The Money Rhetoric in the United States
    (pp. 159-175)
    Ruben George Oliven

    The United States is frequently depicted as a country where monetization—the increase in the proportion of all goods and services bought and sold by means of money—has taken place. Money has become a central value, and commoditization has fully extended to all spheres of life. In this sense, it vindicates Marx’s idea of theVergeldlichung(monetization) of society. In reality, this process is much more complex, as Zelizer (1994) has shown when she argues that there are different sort of monies such as gift certificates, Christmas savings accounts, and food stamps.

    Foreigners coming to the United States are...

  15. CHAPTER 11 The Third Way: A Cultural Economic Perspective
    (pp. 176-200)
    Arjo Klamer

    “TINA—There Is No Alternative,” the neoliberal politician responds to questions about the market rhetoric that dominates political discourse. “And what’s wrong with making a profit?” “Why should education not be a commodity bought and sold in a market?” “And why should people not be able to buy the health care they desire?” “We need to further the market process in order to keep up with the global economy!”

    Presumably, there is no alternative when the state is passed over, when collective provisions of welfare programs, subsidies, regulations, and public governance are the subject of doubt and incredulity. In the...

  16. Contributors
    (pp. 201-203)
  17. References
    (pp. 204-223)
  18. Index
    (pp. 224-228)