Toward An Anthropological Theory of Value

Toward An Anthropological Theory of Value

The False Coin of Our Own Dreams

Book - 2001
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McMillan Palgrave
This volume is the first comprehensive synthesis of economic, political, and cultural theories of value. David Graeber reexamines a century of anthropological thought about value and exchange, in large measure to find a way out of ongoing quandaries in current social theory, which have become critical at the present moment of ideological collapse in the face of Neoliberalism. Rooted in an engaged, dynamic realism, Graeber argues that projects of cultural comparison are in a sense necessarily revolutionary projects: He attempts to synthesize the best insights of Karl Marx and Marcel Mauss, arguing that these figures represent two extreme, but ultimately complementary, possibilities in the shape such a project might take. Graeber breathes new life into the classic anthropological texts on exchange, value, and economy. He rethinks the cases of Iroquois wampum, Pacific kula exchanges, and the Kwakiutl potlatch within the flow of world historical processes, and recasts value as a model of human meaning-making, which far exceeds rationalist/reductive economist paradigms.

Book News
In attempting to construct an anthropological theory of value and exchange, Graeber (anthropology, Yale U.) found himself questioning major assumptions of both anthropology and the social sciences in general. He argues that value can best be seen as actions incorporated in a larger, social totality even if said totality exists primarily in the actor's imagination. Later, he presents a series of ethnographic case studies of "gift economies, magic and royal ritual, and the choices of decorative objects (beads, gold, shells, etc.) as currencies. Relying on a reading of Marx for the first part and the development of Marcel Mauss' theories for the second, he attempts to demonstrate that a combination of the two theories is not only possible, but can shed light on how humans construct value. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Publisher: New York, NY : Palgrave, 2001
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780312240455
Characteristics: xiii, 337p. ; 21 cm


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