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Capitalism, Kinship, and Fraud

The Case of Bernie Madoff

Sherry B. Ortner

Investment broker Bernie Madoff ran what is still considered the largest Ponzi scheme in history, defrauding thousands of investors over a 20-year period of more than $20 billion. He worked his game almost entirely through kinship connections—relatives, friends of relatives, and relatives of friends. The relationship between kinship and capitalism has drawn renewed attention by anthropologists, part of a broader effort to rethink capitalism not as a free-standing ‘economy’ but as deeply embedded in a wide range of social relations. In this article I use the Madoff case to illustrate, and develop further, several aspects of the kinship/capitalism connection. I also consider briefly the boundary between fraud and ‘legitimate’ capitalism, which many economic historians consider a fuzzy boundary at best.

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Tom Rockmore

9/11 represents less a tear in the fabric of history, or a break with the past, than an inflection in ongoing historical processes, such as the continued expansion of capitalism that at some recent time has supposedly attained a level of globalization. This paper considers the relation of war and politics with respect to three instances arising in the wake of 9/11, including the war in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq, and finally the global war on terror (GWT). I argue that these wars are superficially dissimilar, but that on a deeper level they all relate to a single ideological position that is an important motivation in current US foreign policy, and that this position is further related to capitalism.

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Anne-Christine Trémon

This article examines the process of neoliberalization in the Shenzhen special economic zone in Guangdong Province, China. Building on the case study of a former peasant and almost single-lineage village that has become a part of the city of Shenzhen, I show how neoliberal principles aimed at advancing the transition to capitalism are combined with and countered by other ethical traditions. Owing to the long-standing conception of the lineage as an enterprise, the maintenance of the lineage structure in the transformation of the rural collectives has offered fertile ground for the emergence of a local capitalist coalition. Yet the current discourses on the necessity of obliterating the remains of the collective economy and introducing individual ownership run counter to the collectivist values of the lineage village community and the embeddedness of its economy in kinship and territorial ties. I further illustrate this discordance by the way in which the villagers managed to save their founding ancestor's grave site following government requests to clear the land by removing tombs. These policies form a complex blend of state interventions in the economy, neoliberal governance, and Confucian principles.

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Introduction

Marxian anthropology resurgent

Patrick Neveling and Luisa Steur

modes of capitalist exploitation and thus mark a resurgence and advancement of the discipline’s long-standing, polyphonic Marxian approaches. Their shared focus is not only to record and analyze the vicissitudes of neoliberal capitalism but also to build

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Hadas Weiss

. Meillassoux wrote primarily about precapitalist agricultural communities, but in sketching on their basis a model of social reproduction that incorporates social investments and powers, and in foregrounding the reproductive orders by which capitalism sustains

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Donald Reid

Le Nouvel Esprit du capitalisme is a socio-cultural response to the neoliberal explanation of the successes and failures of capitalism in France during the last three decades in terms of individual rational actors and markets. Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello draw their inspiration from critical readings of sociologists who interpreted earlier incarnations of capitalism, including Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Max Weber, and Emile Durkheim.

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Pivots and Levers

Political Rhetoric around Capitalism in Britain from the 1970s to the Present

Neil Foxlee

around capitalism , this article seeks to demonstrate the way in which political agents attempt to persuade the public by bringing positive and negative evaluative terms to bear on contentious political issues. While scholars frequently seek to (re

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David L. Kelly

Foster, John B., Brett Clark, and Richard York. 2010. The Ecological Rift: Capitalism’s War on the Earth. New York: Monthly Review Press.

Williams, Chris. 2010. Ecology and Socialism: Solutions to Capitalist Ecological Crisis. Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books.

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A Capitalism That Kills

Workplace Suicides at France Télécom

Sarah Waters

France Télécom has been at the center of intense public scrutiny since 2008, following a sharp rise in workplace suicides at the company. This macabre reputation now stood in sharp contrast with the company's image during the 1980s and 1990s as a showpiece for successful liberalization and as a former state-owned enterprise that was blazing a trail toward a new globalized economy. Drawing on Emile Durkheim's seminal work, Suicide (1897), the article examines the social conditions that precipitated workplace suicides at France Télécom. It situates the suicides within the context of the rise of a new model of finance capitalism that profoundly transformed the status and perceived value of the individual worker in the production process. Far from representing a tragic accident or an aberration in an otherwise smooth-functioning economic order, the France Télécom suicides were the outcome of a management strategy that set out to fulfill the imperatives of finance capitalism by eliminating what was seen as an unacceptable obstacle to its economic goals: the company's own employees.

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Afterword

For a New Materialist Analytics of Time

Laura Bear

, thermodynamics and Darwinism ( Wendling 2009 ; Magin 2010). He sought to act on time by identifying patterned regularities in capitalism, which could then orientate political action. Rejecting idealist utopias, he built a revolutionary project with a ‘timeliness