Anthropology and Economy by Stephen Gudeman

By Stephen Gudeman

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Org/core/terms. 002 Thrift a remainder that can be put to another use. In the Colombian highlands, for example, potatoes are brought to the house after the harvest. The first action is to separate the small potatoes for seeding in the next cycle; then, potatoes are selected for household eating in the coming year and are set aside; after, some potatoes may be put in a pile for feeding to animals; finally, if there are remainders, they may be sold. At each stage there is a leftover, which can be put to another use.

It connects all material activities in the local economies and mediates social relationships from near kin to distant strangers. The material economy that is built around it stands at the opposite pole to the abstracted practices and theories of high market economies. With its economic and social implications, vital energy provides a critical reflection on high market economies. In these areas, all the material acts of the economy – planting, tending cattle, harvesting, cooking, consuming, and caring – are significant not only for their material effects but also because they point to something else.

The base is the wealth or the strength of the house, which is inside the doors, even if part of it is outside. The base refers to all the food stored or kept in reserve at the house, to the tools and other equipment the house has, to the past work the house has put into the fields, to all the animals it keeps, to the physical structure itself, and to the land being worked. Thus, when a new agricultural year begins, the people talk about “returning to” agriculture in the sense not only of beginning again but also of using what they have in the base to return to agriculture and then returning with new base.

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