Economic anthropology, trade and innovation

in Social Anthropology/Anthropologie sociale
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  • 1 Department of Innovation and Economic Organisation
Norwegian School of Management
Nydalsveien 37, 0848 Oslo
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The problem addressed in the paper is that professional trade does not appear on the horizon of the national innovation system in Norway. Everyday trade in everyday goods, retailing, appears as a white spot on an otherwise fairly comprehensive map of the economic process. An ethnographic account would render a view of it as a terrain teeming with life and activity and depending on innovations to play the role it does in the national economy. In line with basic approaches in economic anthropology, I explore three sets of conditions that contribute to generate this particular white spot – the rationality of economic theory, the priorities of institutions in the political economy and a classificatory schema in which professional trade is categorically ‘matter out of place’. The innovation system is portrayed as reproducing a certain reality, ‘vicious cycle of “reality”’, and the concluding discussion is about how the grounded and experimental anthropological approach makes it possible to dismantle and explore such certainty.


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