Economic Anthropology

Economic anthropology studies the culturally articulated processes of production, distribution and consumption of goods and services. The field of economic anthropology emerged out of a critique of classical and neo-classical economics, whose models failed to explain economic behaviours amongst hunter-gatherers and in traditional farming societies. The classical and neo-classical economic models did not succeed in accounting for the behaviours of economic actors in those societies which did not primarily strive for individual utility maximization through exchange, but were rather aimed at creating and maintaining social relationships. Thus, by focusing on such economic behaviours, economic anthropology has developed a fundamental critique of the predominant understanding of economy and society within the economic sciences.

Economic anthropology understands economy to be embedded in society as a whole. Hence, individuals’ economic behaviours are socially and institutionally regulated. Main interests within economic anthropology include non-monetary economic systems, traditional market systems as well as the interdependencies between non-capital and capital economies.

Households, kinship groups and cooperative entities such as hunting and pastoral communities constitute important research fields within economic anthropology. Furthermore, economic anthropology studies topics such as the social and gendered divisions of labour, relations of power and exploitation, guilt and debt, wealth and status, the uses and meanings of money as well as the functioning of markets and relations of ownership in an increasingly globalised world.

Students can specialise in economic anthropology both in the MASA and ATS master programs.