It’s been almost a year of blogging, after a discussion of branding anthropology led to the 7 February 2011 Soft Launch of Living Anthropologically. Over 20,000 unique views later, here are the ten most viewed posts of 2011. Thank you for all the support!

And see Anthropology Report for a collection of anthropology reflections on 2011.


Anthropology, Moral Optimism, and Capitalism: A Four-Field ManifestoAnthropology, Moral Optimism, and Capitalism: A Four-Field Manifesto

Anthropology knows more about capitalism than any other discipline. Our moral optimism is a closely-guarded secret. It’s time to talk.


Denisovans, Neandertals, Anthropology 101Denisovans, Neandertals, Anthropology 101

Archaic Homo sapiens and various hybrids are on their way to Anthropology 101. Are we ready for Denisovans? For racist interpretations?


Agriculture as “Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race”?Agriculture as “Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race”?

Did agriculture give us the splendors of civilization or was agriculture, in Jared Diamond’s words, the “Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race”?


Anthropology and Occupy Wall StreetAnthropology and Occupy Wall Street

Head over to Greg Downey’s wonderful post David Graeber: anthropologist, anarchist, financial analyst.


The Florida Governor’s Daughter and Undergraduate Anthropology MajorThe Florida Governor’s Daughter and Undergraduate Anthropology Major

The undergraduate anthropology major is a hidden strength: it is where the anthropological message is potentially the most world-changing.


Cultural Relativism 2011 – DSK, Guinea, Anthropology 101Cultural Relativism 2011 – DSK, Guinea, Anthropology 101

Assessing cultural relativism and anthropology via dueling articles “Before you Judge, Stand in Her Shoes” and “Don’t walk a mile in her shoes.”


Mismeasuring Gould in “The Mismeasure of Science”Mismeasuring Gould in “The Mismeasure of Science”

“The Mismeasure of Science” reassesses Gould’s Mismeasure of Man. But in a climate of race revival, this work will be misused.


Anthropology’s Challenge: We can be betterAnthropology’s Challenge: We can be better

AAA president Virginia Dominguez provoked and challenged anthropologists in Montreal for the 2011 presidential address. We can be better.


Anthropology, Barack Obama, Osama bin LadenAnthropology, Barack Obama, Osama bin Laden

1. Anthropology supports pursuing criminals, not a blanket “war on terror.”
2. Anthropology analyzes credit claims.
3. Anthropology deplores xenophobic nationalism.


Human Nature, Race, and Evolution in Anthropology 101Human Nature, Race, and Evolution in Anthropology 101

Anthropology can change the world–Anthropology 101 is a great place to start, but we can go beyond current textbooks.


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  • Helga Vierich

    I read with great interest the comments of economic theory by David Graeber: But i am troubled that he does not, in his own analysis, tackle the pressing and looming crisis the whole industrial economy is currently facing.

    The “growth” paradigm is currently considered unassailable: no politician would be elected without at least paying lip service to it. It is of course a cultural paradigm, perhaps the key paradigm in the current global economic culture, that is going to have to be challenged during the coming contraction.

    Since the financial shenanigans “creating wealth” are currently largely based on speculation about increasing prices, many will continue to profit as scarcity drives prices through various rooftops. About three billion people may starve over the coming few decades while a small global elite gets even richer. And they will use every trick in the book, and every ounce of force at their disposal, to guard their profits.

    During the Weimer Republic, amazing amounts of money flowed out of Germany into Swiss banks. Meanwhile my great grandmother pawned her engagement diamond to buy enough food for her daughter’s wedding day. I am wearing her gold ring, with its empty setting, as I type this.

    We have been long hoodwinked into believing that a country’s businesses must be supported because they “create jobs”. This is a lie. A country’s resources create jobs, by making it possible for some people to live by harvesting resources of timber, metals, minerals, oil, coal, furs, fish, potash, water, food and drugs (grown by mining the fertility of soil), animals (grown by consuming the energy captured in plants from sunshine), and so on. Others can live off the profits from transporting these resources to their “markets”, and manufacturers by processing these resources into “products” for distribution to “consumers”… it is a long chain of skimming that results in the eventual costs to the consumer… but it begins with RESOURCES. Business is as dependent on those resources as everyone else, and it is the resources that set the whole chain in motion.
    The resources are running out. When the fish stocks in the ocean have finished their current precipitous collapse, there will be no more jobs for fishermen, and no amount of cash thrown at businesses involved in the “supply” chain set in motion by marine fishing will save them or the jobs they “create”. When decline in our various oil fields reach the point when more energy must be expended than we get out of the ground, oilfield jobs will disappear, along with the oil companies that currently “produce” oil and “create” oilfield jobs.

    When the levels of remaining top soil reach the point when no further cultivation and crop production can be supported, farmers will lose their “jobs”, as will the whole range of businesses that currently deal in moving cereal crops, fruits and vegetables, livestock feeds, and all sorts of processed foods through the system toward the consumers.

    Economic growth is only possible when population growth meets a large and relatively cheap resource base. That was the case for the past three centuries due to the “discovery” of whole continents that were much less intensively exploited and populated than much of Eurasia, a process that unleashed a veritable tsunami of innovation in transportation and capital investment in businesses to organize the harvesting of the resource bonanza that this created. In the past century, this process was given a tremendous booster shot of energy in the form of fossil fuels.

    It was a heady time for making prodigious amounts of money off a veritable mountain of resources. And it created lots of jobs and businesses. It fueled an exponential rise in European populations, and this spilled outward to colonize the world, filling newly created jobs everywhere.
    William Catton called this “the Age of Exuberance”, and it was. It created the biggest middle class (people with jobs good enough to live better than the elites of Rome). It created the British Empire, and then, the American “century”. It also underwrote the costs of an unprecedented explosion of education, the “arts”, medicine, sanitation, farming, scientific discovery, criminal activity, and technological innovation. It made possible the biggest urban centers in the history of the world. It also set off a flood of investment and development assistance to bring the “benefits of western know how” to the rest of the world, including those places where various businesses were still busy extracting various resources. And populations all around the globe entered an unprecedented orgy of exponential growth. Some observers of the human condition issued warnings about the potential for overshoot of carrying capacity, beginning with Thomas Malthus and more recently Albert Bartlett, but during an age of continual growth and “progress”, all such gloomy prognostications were not just ignored, they were ridiculed.

    But it is over now. The whole world economy is essentially mucking about the cratered pit, which is all that is left of that resource mountain. Sure, there are still small piles of stuff left here and there, and there is some confusion going on, because some of the resources are renewable piles, created by the life processes of the planet’s ecosystem, but these are being scooped up too fast and too thoroughly to keep up with the voracious demands of the “supply chains” feeding them into the maw of a still growing human population and its civilization.

    Even the very soils that supply much of food grown for humans are thinning, degraded by wind and water erosion at horrific rates. This has accelerated in recent decades due to the very system of modern agriculture that has been tweaked and goaded a hundred ways to try to keep up with population growth. Of course it has been to no avail, as world hunger has always been a moving target, since it is due to poverty (increased socio-economic stratification). But since modern commercial agriculture has become an increasingly profitable business it HAS succeeded in pushing the global farming system to the point where it now occupies almost every square kilometer of arable land on the planet, clearing 90% of the forests and prairies of the Americas and Eurasia for crops and livestock production (and now bearing down on South America and Africa).

    We are out time, and nearly out of resources. Soon, the bulk of the world’s current crop of humanity will find that no amount of money will be enough to buy food, and food will become the “new money”. Since the bulk of humanity will not have access to much of either currency, I suppose this will hardly matter.

    After that, the paradigm of growth will likely be dropped from most human cultural systems where it is currently operating. So, sadly but perhaps wisely, will the paradigm of endless and inevitable progress.
    No amount of cognitive transformation is going to bring back the resource mountain or prevent a lot of deaths from starvation if a global economic collapse occurs. Breaking the power of the financial elites and forcing a redistribution of wealth is also a romantic idea, but even that is unlikely to stop young people from having babies anytime soon. Find out how many of the world’s people are just entering their prime reproductive years right now. Even if each young women has only one child… well, do the math. And people, even faced with great catastrophe, often draw great comfort from the news that there is a baby on the way. Haiti is currently in the midst of a baby boom, I understand.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking hope. Hope is a precious thing. Sometimes it is the only thing left standing when people have lost everything. Without hope, there is no comfort in courage.

    The problem is, ultimately, population overshoot, not human greed or evil. And unless we admit that truth, there is no comfort anywhere, I think. Nor any point in hoping for a better tomorrow. Somehow, we humans are going to have to summon all the hope and courage we can muster to create a future world our descendants can survive in. Maybe we can begin by telling our children the truth, which means blowing that myth of infinite growth and progress out of the water, publicly, and often, every chance we get. And teaching them to use birth control. Helga

    • Jason Antrosio

      Hi Helga,

      Many thanks for the extensive comment–I’m really grateful for this long-view anthropology, which is reminiscent of how anthropologists tried to convince people to start thinking differently about gatherers and hunters. It was surprising to me after I wrote some of these posts how many commenters believed extending capitalism in its current form was the best answer for seven billion human beings.

      What I do think David Graeber has done is to at least help shake some of the very established notions and get people who may not have questioned conventional wisdom to take a bit of notice.

      Thank you again,
      Jason

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