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History, Power, IdeologyCentral Issues in Marxism and Anthropology$
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Donald Donham

Print publication date: 1999

Print ISBN-13: 9780520213371

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520213371.001.0001

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Homo economicus: A Maale mystery

Homo economicus: A Maale mystery

(p.19) 1. Homo economicus: A Maale mystery
History, Power, Ideology

Donald L. Donham

University of California Press

In the 1960s, a grand argument arose in anthropology. Formalists, as they became known, maintained that neoclassical economics could be used to analyze any economy. So-called substantivists countered this with the charge that such theories are culture- and institution-bound; they can be applied only to capitalist economies. This chapter examines Marshall Sahlins's model of the “domestic mode of production,” itself a reformulation of the work of Russian economist Alexander Chayanov. It discusses how to specify alternative bodies of social theory—neoclassicism and Marxism, among others—and also explores whether the boundaries of neoclassical theory so specified coincide with the dividing line between capitalist and non-capitalist modes of production. The chapter considers the value of child labor when they guard ripening fields, the definition of “work” in non-capitalist economies, and the effects of ostracizing a young man from labor cooperation. It analyzes Chayanov's theory, confronts it with the Maale data, inquires into whether Sahlins's model of the domestic mode of production fits the data better, and concludes by considering the special character of both approaches as examples of neoclassical theory.

Keywords:   Maale, neoclassicism, Marxism, anthropology, Marshall Sahlins, domestic mode, Alexander Chayanov, social theory, child labor

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