Concepts and Objects in Economic Anthropology

  • John Clammer


In his Malinowski Memorial Lecture of 1971 Edwin Ardener claimed to have discovered or identified a break, a major discontinuity, between the concerns and methods of the pre-structuralist anthropologies and those of the structuralist and post-structuralist ones which have succeeded it, of such a magnitude as to justify the calling of the latter not a mere new trend, but an entire revision of the conceptual basis of the subject. As he says,

I mean by ‘new’ that something has already happened to British social anthropology (and to international anthropology in related ways) such that for practical purposes text-books which looked useful, no longer are; monographs which used to appear exhaustive now seem selective; interpretations which once looked full of insight now seem mechanical and lifeless.1

Ardener traces the disjuncture between the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ anthro-pologies (I use the plural form deliberately) to the connections that the ‘new’ have with structuralism, regardless of whether the ‘new’ schools are necessarily structuralist in themselves or not. The conceptual gulf between the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ is held to be complete: ‘The field of social anthropology is totally restructured.’2


Social Anthropology Plural Form Economic Formation Class Relationship Primitive Society 
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    E. Ardener, ‘The New Anthropology and Its Critics’, Man, 6, 3 (1971) p. 449.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    M. J. Herskovits, Economic Anthropology (New York, 1952 ).Google Scholar
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© John Clammer 1978

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  • John Clammer

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