Alternatives to capitalism and working-class struggle: a comment on Alice Bryer’s “the politics of the social economy”
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I write this commentary at a time when the U.S. Congress has taken the country to the brink of default, the Euro Zone is facing its own debt crises, and world financial markets are falling precipitously. This state of affairs is taking place while globally the divide between the rich and the poor is growing ever more dramatic, and fewer and fewer people can make a living at all. It seems as if capitalism is failing roundly.
Thus, it is an especially appropriate moment to turn our attention to alternatives to capitalism and capitalist subjectivity. Anthropologists have a long history of thinking about individuals and social relationships in ways that critique notions of economic rationality and profit maximization. We can trace this impulse back to Malinowski’s classic study of the kula. Trobianders, he told us, put extraordinary amounts of labor into largely ceremonial acts of gift giving. This seemingly irrational behavior, on the one hand, extends alliances and enables barter, and on...