This article is built on a close reading of the use of the term 'calculation' by Max Weber. On the basis of this reading, I argue for a deeper understanding of Weber's views on uncertainty in the Calvinist ethos, and for a new approach to some key issues in the moral and discursive world of financial capital today, in which accounting, accountability and profit-making have become dangerously delinked from one another.
This note revisits Weber (especially his General Economic History) and Knight on risk and calculation, while adding commentary based on some other authors, notably Durkheim in The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life. Some recent ethnographies of finance are considered, as well as popular literature on making money. The future is unknowable, but modern societies train their members to expect to pin down future time. Precise calculation of future outcomes is a chimera, one of the principal causes of the recent financial collapse. Reasoning works best backwards as rationalization and this is scientific method. Extrapolation from the past to the future is where it all breaks down.
need to see how a calculation happens (who does it, with what means, and for what ends) before it disappears from view. We also need to understand the implications of the replacement of ideas of actual physical things, like forests or rivers, with the
because spending them involves counting. Or to express this point from the other direction, it is as if all calculation is the same; ergo , all dollars will be the same. The classical literature was full of brilliant insights into how money can flatten
center of calculation, surrounded by a network of allies … The quantification of qualities is as much an administrative accomplishment as an intellectual one. And no matter what the skeptics may say, many social qualities have already been successfully
Disentangling Ruble Quantities and Qualities
converter. But in her mental computation, 10 euros equals a Five Hundred ruble note. As equivalences proliferate, denominations provide “tropic points” ( Guyer 2004: 50 ; cf. Rosin 1984 ) for fuzzy calculations and rules of thumb. Rather than generating
The Promise of “El uno por mil” in Ecuador’s Yasuní-ITT Oil Operations
role of numerical calculations in the governance of subterranean resources. Quantification processes and their results constitute some of our most basic understandings of society and the environment, such as the untapped value of the Amazon in
The anatomy of a petro-insurgency in the Niger delta
This article traces the emergence of an “oil insurgency” in the Niger Delta, Nigeria. A key concept deployed in the analysis is the oil complex, understood as a sort of corporate enclave economy and also a center of political and economic calculation expressed through the operations of a set of local, national, and transnational forces that can only be dubbed as imperial oil. The operations of the oil complex under conditions of U.S. military neoliberalism create the violent and unstable spaces that David Harvey identifies as “accumulation by dispossession”. The insurgency is understood in terms of a deep history of political and economic marginalization and deepening political mobilization and militancy within the Niger Delta. What the oil complex has thereby produced is a fragmented polity with parcellized sovereignty rather than a robust, modern oil nation.
Assessment and Characterisation
Mohamed Tarawneh and Abdel Hakim Al Husban
Adopting a qualitative anthropological approach, this report discusses and critiques dominant theoretical currents in the study of poverty and presents a more qualitative analysis of the topic. Through an examination of rural Jordan, new sets of concepts and calculations on poverty - both qualitative and quantitative - have been forged. The research indicates that poverty, as an economic fact, can easily be manipulated and treated as a numerical game. As a social fact, poverty is seen in terms of complex coping strategies that are managed within a framework of social norms.
Karen M. Sykes and Felix Stein
economic life into five value spheres, each of which ‘secures and distributes wealth distinctively’ (p.5). These are the house, community, commerce, finance and meta-finance, defined as the ‘abstract instruments of finance that depend on the calculation of