26 February 2016

Market exchange, gift economies, and other social contructs

"Even though some anthropologists have long known the barter system was just a thought experiment, the idea is incredibly widespread. And this isn’t just an academic curiosity—the idea of barter may have altered history." ("The Myth of the Barter Economy," The Atlantic, 26 February 2016).

This article quotes and features a number of anthropologists, including David Graeber, who address how the barter economy discussed by Adam Smith has never actually existed. When we refer to the ethnographic record on 'gift economies' in different cultures we can see how the simplified barter economy theorized by Smith is not only a fiction, but one that has deeply shaped our contemporary 'exchange-based mentality'.