In Search of Wealth: A Study of the Emergence of Commercial Operations in the Melanesian Society of Southeastern Papua

In Search of Wealth: A Study of the Emergence of Commercial Operations in the Melanesian Society of Southeastern Papua

In Search of Wealth: A Study of the Emergence of Commercial Operations in the Melanesian Society of Southeastern Papua

In Search of Wealth: A Study of the Emergence of Commercial Operations in the Melanesian Society of Southeastern Papua

Excerpt

When considering the economic development of backward areas, students can no longer afford to write as if they were taking the social milieu for granted. Of recent years a healthy and vigorous discussion has taken place, as economists, anthropologists, administrators, and others have attempted to define the relations between technical change or community development and social change. This study is an attempt to contribute to the discussion from a particular point of view.

Although students are becoming increasingly aware of the relations between social, technical, and economic change, there still seems to be a tendency, tacitly or explicitly, to take one of the most basic questions as already answered. Most writers seem to believe that backward peoples are evolving, and wish to evolve, to a state of society which reflects the essentials of our own Western civilization. This is particularly true of economic theorists who attempt to find a common theory of development which will fit both backward and advanced societies. Thus Duesenberry (1950) lays down criteria for the efficient administration of resources which closely approximate the conditions of perfect competition of classical theory. Frankel, who is more realistically aware of the social framework, and with whose thesis of "social economy" I wholeheartedly agree, often seems to predict the inevitable and complete disintegration of indigenous cultures before the onslaught of Western capitalism. (See, for instance, 1951. This view seems to be modified in his later article (1952), in which Frankel makes a plea for an empirical inquiry into the relations between social and technical change.) Even anthropologists such as Hoernle and Hellman (1952) have recently stated that Bantu culture will not and cannot survive, except for a few traces in language., music, architecture, and other cultural media, and a "different nuance" in the "basic structure made up of economic, political, legal, religious, and family institutions."

Until a thorough review of the empirical material is made, we must depend very much upon a priori reasoning and upon judgments derived from personal experience. If I were asked here and now to give an opinion about these assumptions, I would say that they were wrong, or, at least, that the "different nuance" is so important as to be basic to our understanding. I have seen little in Maori culture, for instance, that would lead me to believe that it will be indistinguishable from our own; indeed Maori leaders have . . .

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