As many heterodox economists know (and many of their mainstream counterparts ignore), academics from various disciplines have contributed studies on the economy and economics. Anthropologists, sociologists, those in the humanities, and even some from the natural and physical sciences have given their two cents (or more) on economic issues, especially given the widespread interest in globalization and neoliberalism. Over the next few weeks, I will write a series of posts covering recent contributions from anthropologists.
The first is from Julia Elyachar, whose book Markets of Dispossession: NGOs, Economics Development, and the State in Cairo provides a stunning look at economic transformations in craft production in Cairo, and the recent shift from viewing “informal economies” as an obstacle to development to an asset – a form of “social capital” in the age of microfinance. Elyachar critiques the “economic subjectivity” produced by microfinance and “empowerment debt,” and the hijacking of the ” of the cultural practices and social networks” of the poor. Throughout the book, she traces the complex interweavings of NGOs and the Egyptian state as they work at times in tandem or contradiction in the larger context of market projects. The book is a very good read for anybody interested in development and policy.