Monthly Archives: 五月 2010

Anthropology of Capital

Downey and Fisher try to construct a paradigm of research on a bubble that had burst in early 2000s, namely, the New Economy. This is not a pointless exercise, as the authors argue, because the New Economy and its subsequent burst is not purely a material and economic process, but involves social relations, trusts, emotions and cultural innovations. A major theme of this introductory piece is the inseparability of technology and culture, and the unpredictable ways they interact.
Downey and Fisher first recount the phenomenal rise and sudden burst of the New Economy, as dramatized by the plummeting of NASDAQ, and the failure of star corporations like WorldCom, Enron and LTCM. The author also debunk the view that the New Economy was “much ado about nothing”, or it was business as usual. They argue that under the New Economy, the uneven spread of innovative forms of value and symbols, the unstable alchemy of new technology and local social relations, quite simply produced radically  different phenomena in different locations. The Transient and ephemeral character of teh New Economy may just prove that technology and social change mutually constitute each other (Downey and Fisher 4).
Downey and Fisher elaborate on the close relationship between technology and social change, arguing against leaving technology out of analysis of culture. Citing research result of others, the authors illustrate how actors withing the New Economy heavily depend on “reading the market’s mood from the physical presence of crowds, other traders’ facial expressions, and the volume of shouted bids”, instead of rational calculations (Downey and Fisher 6).
To extend their thesis of New Economy being both a technological and social innovation, Downey and Fisher try to find a “cultural foundation” for the “economic”. They argue that economic “values” are a social achievement, contingent on cultural as well as material processes. The cultural foundations underscore the prominent intangible elements of the New Economy, such as “risk”, “innovation”, and the “future”. For the authors, knowledge production was transformed within the New Economy; and values were created when new activities resulted in the renegotiation of cultural consensus on economic fundamentals. This was especially true with the so-called “fast capitalism”, in which the values of financial derivatives were grounded in cultural assumptions about social realities. Thus, the New Economy is governed not by an objective, unbending economic law, but rather, by mob psychology, social relations and networking, institutional innovations, and cultural symbols. The authors cites examples of Japanese legal fiction and managerial subjectivity in Shanghai to support their case.
Social relations, far from being made obsolete in the New Economy, but rather become more important. Players as diverse as Wall Street women and open source programming communities all use traditional networking and organization methods in the new settings.
A significant development in is the ascending role and importance of anthropologists and their ethnographic work in the New Economy business. The anthropologist, who has a deeper understanding of the fantasies, dreams and hopes of the consumers, has become the managerial subject of the New Economy.
The authors propose that under the New Economy, the production of a kind of economic self-knowledge by key players in the New Economy actually resembles the knowledge producing practices of ethnographers. The so-called corporate anthropologists turn their gaze to unveil and unfamiliarize the cultural principles of marketing brands. Their ethnographic labor has come to be seen as a technique to quickly acquire consumer knowledge. A consequence of this development is the disappearance of the “curial distance”. For anthropologists, the academic models are increasingly part of the self-conscious subjective construction of the actors they study.
Downey and Fisher underlines the importance of ethnography by taking note of the differences between ethnology and ethnography. The former examines a single domain of human activity across diverse contexts and cultures, while the latter engages in intensive study of a single site in order to get a more complex, holistic portrait of interrelations among different domains of human activities. An ethnographic approach to the New Economy may result in a greater appreciation of the many factors that may or may not affect the sites of the New Economy.

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scranton, oh scranton

好几天没有出门,宅在家看美国版的 the office。这出喜剧还真是非常不错,反讽,细致而且有趣。一口气看了四季。故事发生在scranton,离纽约市不远,当然离我这里也不远,去纽约的时候经常路过,很明显是个衰退中的小城。

今天出门溜,回来的时候看到路牌上写着 binghamton 7 miles, scranton 48。突然有一种奇怪的感觉。好像是模糊了真实和虚拟的界限。

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Filed under 纽约上州&宾屯

立场和方法

这个学期的正事杂事一弄完,就去了UMass,见见一些同为留学生的新朋老友。其实两年前第一次到纽约就见到过他们,感觉很好,后来在纽约又见到一次,这次算是第三次了。了解UMass经济系的人都知道,那是一个特殊的系,就像我们这里的社会学系一样,属于自己学科内部的非主流。说得更加直白,就是他们偏左,而且比较激进。马克思的政治经济学在他们那里不仅依旧奏效,而且红红火火。从方法上来讲,他们当然也不是那么定量至上。
回来以后,我想的最多的一个问题就是知识分子的立场和方法问题。经济学往往要依赖理论模型。很多人觉得,一个好的经济学模型就是接近现实的模型,其实并没有那么简单。经济学也可以被看做是一种叙述,把事情说圆了就是成功。人怎么说故事呢,不用说,当然各有各的立场。古典主义,新古典主义背后有立场问题,新自由主义有立场问题,凯恩斯,马克思也是一样。研究者很多时候面临相关的立场问题,政治问题和伦理问题。

当然,肯定有人会说,你这是夸大了,把什么都政治化了。其实我总觉得我说的这些根本一种事实描述,没有啥奇特的。在我看来,学术研究领域怎么站队怎么表明立场不仅是正常的,而且是首要的,而且都是“学术为学术本身的”。现实中的立场问题比这个复杂得多也简单得多。举个例子:人类学里最强调伦理,最近就业形式紧张,一些人毕了业跑到human terrain system里面找了工作(就是参军)。受到了很多批评,美国人类学学会里面还有人对此组织了抗议。至于人类学家进公司,也往往受到鄙视。为什么呢,原因很直接,你本来是一个学者,应该遵循学术本身的原则,你的研究目标应该是你自己设定的,是反思性的。而你一旦参了军,入了公司,就意味着让别人给你设定了目标,很大程度上失去了自己站队的权力,把这个权力给了你的雇主。

不过说来说去,无论是理论上站队,还是现实中站队,往往并不能截然分得清。有的人做着做着学术,就顺着自己的立场从政了。也有人因为政治观点太强,才拼了命要在思想领域发言。都很正常。至于方法,往往和立场相辅相成,也是分不开。

和我UMass的那些朋友相比,我其实惭愧。和他们的宏大理想相比,我的目标真的非常小非常小。我只想把一些问题想明白,然后写清楚。我也想要一些社会的变革,然而我又非常怀疑所谓的“历史的方向和主体”。我畏惧学术之外的具体实践。呵呵,不过见到一些聪明人总是高兴的事情,聪明人又能因为一些想法聚在一起,就更加是令人羡慕了。想来在宾屯还是寂寞太多了,还没有找到这样的一群人。

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Filed under 未分类

几个关键词

本来写课程论文可以就用硕士论文的一部分,这样“快好省”,不过我最近对公民形成和主体化过程感兴趣,于是就非常不明智的决定,课程论文另起炉灶。明天就要交了,其实现在还没有写完。不过反正每次作业都是这么个挣扎的过程,也不奇怪。坐在电脑前面,四个小时不动一下,已经三个回合,回顾头看看现在已经写好的,基本上涉及到这么几个关键词:公民、素质、阶级。融会贯通下来,感觉起码问了几个靠谱的问题。

有几点值得探讨的:

1. 不能把公民和民族国家形成过程分开看待。要充分理解公民是一个根植与民族国家疆域之内的概念。和阶级划分不同,公民的前提是国家主权和民族国家疆界。

2. 公民的生成是建立在国家的inclusion and exclusion的政治之中的,是一个动态过程。追踪其变化,不仅能够关照民族国家这个project,也可以透视当下所谓全球化过程。

3. 阶级话语和公民话语的比较是一个有趣的事情,以中国经验来看,尤其能够看出端倪。

准备改个英文稿,然后写成中文稿。有心的看官可以跟踪进展。欢迎监督。

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Filed under 公民社会&NGO

学期尾巴

最近低落了,变得话少,当然也就不想写博客。然而今天是这个学期正式上课的最后一天,总该写点啥纪念一下。

下午六点,完成了艰巨的答疑工作。可是更加艰巨的任务还在后面。要改卷子,要写期末论文,要写硕士论文(真不知道我拿那么多硕士干啥),中文论文,还要翻译。真是需要坚强的意志。

其实现在很想念北京。吃不到糯米包油条,煎饼果子也是可以的。当然也不仅仅是吃,还有我那个50多平米的小窝。

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Filed under 流水账