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Exchange

1992
Author:

John Davis

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A fascinating examination of the universal human practice of exchange.

A fascinating examination of the universal human practice of exchange.

Exchange is a universal activity that ranges from the complex exchange of gifts or “favors” to the buying and selling of stocks, shares, and commodities. Exchange is a richly symbolic activity and is an important way in which people create and maintain social relationships. As might be expected, such a loaded activity is the subject of social, philosophical, and ethical inquiry - people disagree about what exchange is and what its consequences are. In this acutely observed and highly readable book, John Davis gives an account of exchange that emphasizes moral and symbolic order, and the meanings with which people invest their actions. He uses evidence from the Pacific, Africa, and Britain; argues that neoclassical economics explains neither the diversity of economies nor their underlying similarities; and proposes that exchange is based in “messy” morals, politics, and religion rather than “clean” laws of economic behavior.

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John Davis is an anthropologist who has specialized in the economic and political organization of Southern Italy and Libya. he was for many years at the University of Kent at Canterbury, and is now Professor of Social Anthropology in the University of Oxford. He has been a Fellow of the British Academy since 1988.

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