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Cash on the Table

Markets, Values, and Moral Economies

Edited by Edward F. Fischer

A great deal is at stake in understanding the moral dimensions of economic behavior and markets. Public debates over executive compensation, the fair trade movement, and recent academic inquiries into the limitations of rational-choice paradigms all point to the relevance of moral values in our economic decision-making processes. Moral values inform economic behavior. On its face, this proposition is unassailable. Think of the often spiritual appeal of consumer goods or the value-laden stakes of upward or downward mobility. Consider the central role that moral questions regarding poverty, access to health care, the tax code, property and land rights, and corruption play in the shaping of modern governments, societies, and social movements. Ponder the meaning of fair trade coffee and organic produce as well as Walmart’s everyday low prices. The moral aspects of the marketplace have never been so contentious or consequential; however, the realm of economics is often treated as a world unto itself, a domain where human behavior is guided not by emotions, beliefs, moralities, or the passions that fascinate anthropologists but by the hard fact of rational choices.

Anthropologists have historically tended to focus on the corrosive effects of markets on traditional lifeways and the ways in which global markets disadvantage marginalized peoples. Economists often have difficulty recognizing that markets are embedded in particular social and political power structures and that “free” market transactions are often less free than we might think. If anthropologists could view markets a bit more ecumenically and if economists could view them a bit more politically, then great value—cash on the table—could be found in bringing these perspectives together.

2014. 344 pp., figures, tables, notes, references, index, 6 x 9

Contributors: Peter Benson, João Biehl, Avery Dickins de Girón, James Ferguson, Edward F. Fischer, Robert H. Frank, Jonathan Friedman, Matthew Grimes, Stephen Gudeman, Stuart Kirsch, Deirdre N. McCloskey, Natasha Schüll, Jonathan A. Shayne, Jesse Sullivan, Anna Tsing, Bart Victor, Caitlin Zaloom

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  1. Introduction: Markets and Moralities
    Edward F. Fischer
  2. Markets as Contrivances: A Dialogue
  3. Bezzle and Sardines
    Jonathan A. Shayne
  4. How Do Supply Chains Make Value?
    Anna Tsing
  5. Profits of Diversity
    Anna Tsing, with illustrations by Jesse Sullivan
  6. Capitalist Markets and the Kafkaesque World of Moralization
    Jonathan Friedman
  7. Patient Value
    João Biehl
  8. Not by P Alone
    Deirdre N. McCloskey
  9. The Social Life of “Cash Payment”: Money, Markets, and the Mutualities of Poverty
    James Ferguson
  10. Value Machines and the Superorganic: A Dialogue
  11. Neuroeconomics and the Politics of Choice
    Natasha Schüll and Caitlin Zaloom
  12. Ultimatums and Rationalities in Two Maya Towns
    Edward F. Fischer and Avery Dickins de Girón
  13. Making Moral Markets: A Professional Responsibility Ethic for Business and Poverty
    Bart Victor and Matthew Grimes
  14. Corporate Social Responsibilities or Ruses? A Dialogue
  15. Mining Industry Responses to Criticism
    Stuart Kirsch
  16. Philip Morris, the FDA, and the Paradoxes of Corporate Social Responsibility
    Peter Benson
  17. The Libertarian Welfare State
    Robert H. Frank
  18. German Eggs and Stated Preferences
    Edward F. Fischer
  19. Misfits or Complements? Anthropology and Economics
    Stephen Gudeman

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