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On money, debt and morality: Before Smith, Smith, After Smith

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Keynote Address

Introduced by Dame Marilyn Strathern

Chris Gregory (The Australian National University): On money, debt and morality: Before Smith, Smith, After Smith

The lecture is free and open to all, no registration required.

Abstract

Why do we use the word ‘debt’ when we want to say that money-lending is a bad thing and ‘credit’ when we want to say that it a good thing? As the concept ‘negative reciprocity’ suggests, the language of anthropological thought is part of the problem not the solution. Adam Smith’s theories represent a turning point in the history of European thought on this matter. Economic anthropology is defined by its opposition to Smith’s alleged theory of ‘natural economy’ but this notion is a straw man. Malinowski created this totem and we have inherited today it via Mauss and Polanyi. A cursory glance at Smith’s theory of moral economy reveals the pre-Smithian nature of much economic anthropology but there are prominent exceptions and these women can help us grasp the moral dimension of ‘sub-prime’ lending as practiced in the domestic.

This lecture is part of the CRASSH conference Debt: for more information, please click here: http://www.crassh.cam.ac.uk/events/1339/.

This talk is part of the CRASSH series.

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