Transfers: a deductive approach to gifts, gambles, and economy at large

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Abstract

This paper reinterprets core issues in economic anthropology by exploring transfers as a theoretical resource. After describing deliberate usage of the term “transfer” in anthropology and economics, transfers are defined as movements of economic matter, while transactions are the forms arising from their configuration. Transactional categories such as Maussian gift exchange or market exchange become second-order reifications. Examining the politics of creating and sustaining transactional categories by first looking at the elementary transfers out of which they are constructed places “one-way transfers” of wealth on the same conceptual plane as reciprocal and market transactions, instead of being a derivative or a remainder of either or both. Gifts and gambling are considered as examples. Gambling and “pure gifts” are one-way transfers engineered to possess only one component transfer, and Maussian gifts explicitly connect transfers together in a particular politics. Anthropological literature that employs an incipient version of the transfer strategy is detailed, demonstrating its nascent explanatory promise. The article concludes by suggesting renewed engagement with contemporary economics on the basis of transfers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-29
Number of pages19
JournalCurrent Anthropology
Volume61
Issue number1
Early online date19 Dec 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020

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