Reading & Composition: Economics & Value

The Anthropology of Economics & Value
Course Number: 
Kroeber 115
Stafford, W
Tu Th 3:30 - 5 pm

Within Anthropology, there has been a recent resurgence of interest in the question of value, as a form which delimits, organises and brings forward for analysis in specific ways the domains of the social, cultural, political and economic. Whereas much work on this question takes Marxist theory as a point of departure, this work often traces other genealogies which seek to explain the unity, wholeness, self-realisation and representation of forms of social relation in ways that require re-thinking of the category of the 'economic' as such. Much of this work is ethnographically informed, and occurs in the context of larger bodies of work which seek to understand existing and emergent forms of social and economic organisation in terms of the concrete characteristics of relevant processes and institutions. As such, there is a great deal of experimentation with the form of the concept of value as processes of exchange, payment and work change, raising questions of how to modify our conceptualisation of value such that it continues to serve a useful analytical purpose.

The purpose of this course will be to familiarise students with a range of treatments of the question of value in Anthropology, and in related disciplines as they are influenced by and influence these treatments. Also important will be developing a familiarity with the range of possible sources and objects through which this concept can be explored, and the newly emerging range of platforms for their analysis, including expert blogs, corporate research reports, talks delivered in large-scale industry conferences, and so on. In being exposed to the range of conceptualisations and modes of writing and analysis in this way, it is hoped that students will develop general skills in writing as well as a basic facility with the range of materials relevant to economic anthropology for future work.

Indicative Possible Texts and Themes:

Andreas Andrikopoulos. 2013. "Entry One. Value". Speculative Materialism (

Louis Dumont. 1980. "On Value". Radcliffe-Brown Lecture in Social Anthropology.

Jane Guyer. Marginal Gains: Monetary Transactions in Atlantic Africa.

Bronislaw Malinowski. Argonauts of the Western Pacific: An Account of Native Enterprise and Adventure in the Archipelagoes of Melanesian New Guinea.

Karl Marx. Capital, vol 1, book 1, part 1.

Bill Maurer. 2016. “Bitcoins are a Diamond's Best Friend” Contested Property Claims Conference (

Rober Meister/ The Council of UC Faculty Associations. "They Pledged Your Tuition" (


Phillip Mirowski. More Heat Than Light: Economics as Social Physics, Physics and Nature's Economics.

Nancy Munn. The Fame of Gawa: A Symbolic Study of Value Transformation in a Massim Society.

Ton Otto, Rane Willerslev. 2013. “Value as Theory: Comparison, Cultural Critique and Guerilla Ethnographic Theory” HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, vol 3, no 1.

William Pietz. 1985, 1987, 1988. "The Problem of the Fetish, I-III", RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics 9, 13, 16.

Bard Plumer. 2012. "The Economics of Video Games", Washington Post, Sept 28 (

Elizabeth Povinelli. 1993. Labor's Lot: The Power, History, and Culture of Aboriginal Action.


Michael Ralph. 2012. "' the Midst of Death': Notes on the Historical Relationship Between Life Insurance, Slave Insurance, and Disability", Disability Studies Quarterly, vol 32, no 3.

Jason Rowley. 2016. "A Beginner's Dictionary of Venture Capital". Mattermark (

Marilyn Strathern. The Gender of the Gift.