Local Models of Economy

I never intended to look at people’s models of economy. The approach emerged from my incomprehension about what the local folk were saying and doing when I was in the field in Panama and Colombia. The people with whom I lived did not deploy rational choice, decision trees, and other formal concepts. Over time I realized they have distinct ideas and beliefs about material life. Seldom written and often embedded in sayings and practices, these models frequently are expressed through figurative speech. I term them “local models” of economy, and have come to think all models of economy including ours are local, for they are buttressed by cultural assumptions, change over time, and are limited to a context, although some expand and eviscerate others. In this talk I shall address features of local models of economy and provide a few ethnographic examples including some from Western history.