The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Economic Anthropology

  • Timothy Earle
Reference work entry


Economic anthropology is an empirical science that describes production, exchange and consumption cross-culturally. All societies have economies, but they are variable. Anthropologists evaluate the operations of individual economies and the applicability of Western theories to these cases. Some economic processes work broadly; for example, strategic decision-making, the law of competitive advantage, and calculations of transaction costs help explain many observed patterns. Human economies, however, are often structured as intertwined sectors with distinctive processes. Differences observed in productivity, specialization, institutional structure and social motivations across history and across modern societies are of theoretical significance when constructing the limits of general theory.


Behavioural economics Capitalism Cognitive ability Commodity chains Division of labour Domestic mode of production Dual economies Economic anthropology Formalism Gift exchange Household production Hunting and gathering economies Identity Institutional economics Markets Polanyi, K. Political sector Postmodernism Prestige economy Rationality Reciprocity Social networks Social sector Specialization Staple finance and wealth finance Subsistence sector Substantivism Surplus Technological progress Transactions costs Weber, M 

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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Timothy Earle
    • 1
  1. 1.