In this course we will first take stock of the current anthropological theories of value in contemporary anthropology. After a critical appraisal of such theories, we will explore what an anthropological theory of value might actually look like. After a brief exploration of Kluckhohn’s “values project”, the formalist-substantivist arguments, and debates about the nature of the social role of money, up to the recent neoliberal resurgence in anthropological theory, we’ll be looking at the contrasting legacies of Karl Marx and Marcel Mauss. Looking at these as two very different approaches to many of the same problems will provide enormous opportunities for creative synthesis. The course will include some fairly extended case studies (of Tiv fetishism, wampum, and anthropological studies of consumption), to investigate how useful all this theory can actually be in throwing new light on familiar problems.

    Teacher: Picture of David Graeber