Cultures Merging: A Historical and Economic Critique of Culture

Cultures Merging: A Historical and Economic Critique of Culture

Cultures Merging: A Historical and Economic Critique of Culture

Cultures Merging: A Historical and Economic Critique of Culture

Excerpt

As early as 1879 Frederick Amasa Walker, first president of the American Economic Association, asked why economics was “in bad odor among real people.” He answered his own question by saying that economists found their predictions became inconclusive if they took account of every particular law, custom, or institution. But “real people” still insisted that their own eyes showed them how customs and beliefs led to behavior that market rationality did not predict. A century later, anthropologist Clifford Geertz declared that culture is “as observable as agriculture.” It is observable, no doubt, but what effect does it have? There is a real need to establish the origin, nature, and limits of culture's influence.

References to cultural phenomena are so matter-offact and culture is taken as so obviously fundamental to social life that this alone would seem to ensure its relevance.

Quoted in Robert H. Frank, Passions within Reasons: The Strategic Role
of the Emotions (New York: W. W. Norton, 1988), p. 227.

Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Culture (New York: Basic Books,
1973), p. 91.

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