ECONOMICS AND THE SPACE OF MODERNITY: Tales of Market Production and Labour

Arturo Escobar:

“This text was the original second chapter of the author’s doctoral dissertation (Escobar 1987); this chapter was never included in the book that eventually grew from the dissertation (Escobar 1995). Although the chapter’s contribution to debates on the economy are largely synthetic and certainly not original, the author wanted to publish it for a number of reasons. First, the alleged triumph of neo-liberal ideologies and the increase in depth and scope of market cultures at present make even more important the task of cultural analysis of economics and the economy. This paper was an effort in this direction, particularly to mapping the genealogies of what in the paper is called ‘the Western economy’. Second, there have been some recent claims that the cultural analysis of economics and the economy has hardly been broached. References to Polanyi’s foundational role in this respect are, of course, de rigueur, but one only needs to point at the pioneering work of Stephen Gudeman since the 1980s to dispute this claim. Third, the same cultural analysis is experiencing a much needed surge, with several groups today fully engaged with it from various – some times overlapping – perspectives. Finally, the impetus for this piece also comes from the creative efforts by a number of social movements in the world – such as some of the autonomistas in Argentina – to go even beyond ‘rethinking’ the economy to propose that what is needed is a new invention altogether.”

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