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Capital and community

Capital and community

Ryan Schram


Mills 169 (A26)

Monday, August 15, 2016

Available at http://anthro.rschram.org/1002/4.1

The ANTH 1002 essay

The instructions for the essay are on Blackboard and will be visible at noon under 'Assessment Information'.

The essay is due on 7 September at 4 p.m. online on Blackboard.

For this essay, you will read a supplemental article by Lisa Cliggett (2003) and choose two other case studies from class readings. (One of your cases can be Ongka's Big Moka.)

In your essay you should make an argument that shows how Cliggett’s examples and the evidence from two other ethnographic cases provide evidence for the claim that the social force of reciprocity and interdependence determines the ways in which a community participates in the global capitalist system

You can drop in to the Writing Hub in Teachers' College for advice about writing essays and developing arguments.

Commodities and capitalism

  • Commodities are bought and sold for a price.
  • You can think of commodities as a “sphere of exchange.” When you exchange commodities for money, and back again, you are following certain rules.
  • The sale of commodities generates a profit.
  • A system of producing, selling and distributing commodities as the main form of economic system is associated with capitalism.

Capitalism is...

  • Capitalism is a system in which the means of production are privately owned by one social class.
  • Capitalism is a system in which nobody else has access to the means of production; in order to live, people have to sell their labor.

Talk about selling out...

A worker under capitalism brings “his own hide to market and has nothing to expect but – a hiding” (Marx 1867, chap. 6).

What do you think he means by this? Buzz about this. What do you associate with the word Capitalism? Marxism? When did you first hear these words? Have you ever read the Communist Manifesto?

Money and profits

Let C represent a good, e.g. boots, cell phone, gum.

Let M represent money.

  1. C - M - C' The simple exchange of goods.
  2. M - C - M' The making of profit through the exchange of commodities.

Marx wants to know why society moved from #1 to #2.

Socialism and capitalism

Socialist systems

  • Social support for all
  • Production driven by planned targets
  • Patron-client relationships and informal ties

Capitalist systems

  • Maximization of private profits, economic growth
  • Individual responsibility for security
  • A “reserve army of unemployed workers” guarantees capitalist profits (Marx 1849).

Fordism and Post-Fordism


  • Standardization of processes, specialization and regimentation of workers
  • High wages and high employment and cooperation between capital and labor
  • Centralization of all aspects of production in one firm
  • Mass production for a mass market

Fordism was the model for production in both socialist and capitalist economies.


  • Many different, small firms involved in each aspect of production
  • Flexibility, rapid change in production processes
  • Precarious labor, greater competition among workers, and hence lower wages
  • Specialized production for many niche markets

Post-Fordism is a global form of capitalism

As capitalism ascends over socialism, capital also puts pressure on states to liberalize trade and investment across borders, so that it may invest in cheaper processes (or offshore and outsource some aspects of production to places with lower wages). Production as well as consumption is globalized, and this requires new methods of production which are more “flexible.” A post-Fordist model is born: Lots of little shops competing for a number of different small jobs for big companies.

Post-socialism and post-Fordism

Post socialist countries are not simply new capitalist economies. In order to compete in the new era of global capitalism, they must also shift from Fordist-socialist production to post-Fordist production. This requires people not only to adjust to a free market, but one in which a worker must also be flexible. Ironically, informal ties among workers and managers, and among vendors and customers, make this happen. Socialism as an economic model is gone, but as a culture, it lives on!


Cliggett, Lisa. 2003. “Gift Remitting and Alliance Building in Zambian Modernity: Old Answers to Modern Problems.” American Anthropologist 105 (3): 543–52.

Marx, Karl. 1849. “Wage Labour and Capital.” Neue Rheinische Zeitung, April 5. https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1847/wage-labour/index.htm.

Marx, Karl. 1867. Capital, Vol. 1. Moscow: Progress Publishers. https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/.

A guide to the unit

1002/4.1.txt · Last modified: 2016/08/14 22:36 by ryans