The significance of giving as a contemporary socio-economic practice has been obscured both by mainstream economics and by the influence of the anthropological tradition. Andrew Sayer’s concept of moral economy offers a more fruitful framework for an economic sociology of contemporary giving, and one that appears to be largely consistent with social quality approaches. This article analyzes giving from the perspective of moral economy, questioning the view that giving is a form of exchange, and opening up the prospect of seeing it as the outcome of a more complex constellation of causal factors. It uses examples from the digital economy, in particular the phenomenon of open-source software, which nicely illustrates both the progressive potential of digital gifts and the ways in which they can be absorbed into the commercial economy.
A Degendered or Resegregated Future System of Automobility?
Dag Balkmar and Ulf Mellström
This article addresses the anthropomorphization and interpellative experience of cars and trucks, in order to meet future mobility challenges. Autonomous vehicles offer an emancipatory opportunity within a wider movement of degendering and regendering motor vehicles. We argue that autonomous vehicles can challenge the foundations of a gendered economy founded on masculinity, speed, pleasure, and embodiment. Rather than thinking in terms of a process of demasculinization, this article anticipates a regendering and resegregation through which certain forms of masculine gendered economies of pleasure will lose ground and others will gain. A core question in this article asks who will be in the driver’s seat of future systems of automobility as the control of the vehicle is gradually being transferred from the driver to digital control systems and intelligent roads.
Michael A. Peters
This special issue focused on ‘Digital Media and Contested Visions of Education’ provides an opportunity to examine the tendency to hypothesise a rupture in the history of the university. It does so by contrasting the traditional Humboldtian ideals of the university with a neoliberal marketised version and in order to ask questions concerning evaluations of the quality of higher education within a knowledge economy. Theorising the rupture has led to a variety of different accounts most of which start from an approach in political economy and differ according to how theorists picture this change in capitalism. Roughly speaking the question of whether to see the political economy of using social media in higher education from a state perspective or a network perspective is a critical issue. A state-centric approach is predisposed towards a reading that is based on a critical realist approach of Marxist political economy (Jessop 1993). By contrast an approach that decentres the state and focuses on global networked finance capitalism ironically grows out of a military-university research network created by the U.S. government. Arguably, networks, not states, now constitute the organising global structure (Castells 2009) and while state-centric theory with hierarchical structures are still significant, relational, selforganising and flexible market networks have become the new unit of analysis for understanding the circuits of global capital (Peters 2014; Peters 2009). However, states still have a role to play in norming the networks or providing the governing framework in international law.
Regaining Political Economy
A fundamental methodological problem is the relevance of an antagonism of capitalism. This needs to be classified in light of the developmental stage of the means of production: far too little attention is paid to the contradictory character of individualization and socialization. This brings us to Karl Polányi’s main argument of disembedding. He also deals with a shift from the socially integrated (and dependent) individual to the utilitarian market citizen. The French regulationist theory offers a major step toward understanding new forms of societal embedding linked to this “new personality.” It will also allow us to move beyond the misleading juxtaposition or dichotomization of individualization-socialization. Investigating five major tensions, it ventilates the possible meaning of the digital revolution and the challenges for monitoring development. The main aim of the article, however, is to bring the economy back in and to go beyond the traditional duality between economics and politics.
On Funeral and Mourning Practices in Digital Art
The practical and imaginative possibilities offered by art works and art strategies have always been interesting for anthropological research. Analyzing an artistic endeavor that understands the dead as social software, the article investigates contemporary conceptualizations of death and grieving within modern informational economies. This article ethnographically considers the etoy “Mission Eternity Project“ which, among other artforms, has created a mobile sepulchre to investigate and challenge conventional practices of the disposal of the dead and of memorialization. The article seeks to generate terms for discussing how new artistic, digital and forensic technologies can reconfigure the more ordinary ways of dealing with the dead. The analysis is significantly informed by my previous anthropological work on practices of the collection, classification and DNA analysis of dead bodies in postconflict Serbia and Tasmania.