Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Two Economic Realities

The semester I am teaching a course on anthropology and urban poverty. Right now, we have been reading some classic America works on poverty, its definitions, causes, and solutions. On the other hand, I have been reading alot of finance stuff, mainly posted by bloggers or commentators in the media. Though, I am still also slowly getting through Polanyi's Great Transformation ... But technically, his book falls between the two concerns, or rather encompasses them both.

Thinking about the juxtaposition of the two, I am struck by the way the poverty literature emphasizes the important connection between labor and well-being, that one earns a place in society through work, so long as he is not unfairly blocked by external circumstance or otherwise handicapped by personal characteristics. The world of finance is obsessed with speculative profit. Indeed other than the regular worry about the poor who find themselves unemployed, the finance set holds all labor in disdain.  *Real* money is won through successful bets in the markets.

The world of labor remains in some sense a world of practical necessity, of sweat and substance. Finance is about abstraction, math, breathing in the ether, and, of course, power.

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