The Real Economy: Essays in Ethnographic Theory

Edited by Federico Neiburg & Jane I. Guyer 

This collection highlights a key metaphor in contemporary discourse about economy and society. The contributors explore how references to reality and the real economy are linked both to the utopias of collective well-being, supported by real monies and good economies, and the dystopias of financial bubbles and busts, in which people’s own lives “crash” along with the reality of their economies.

An ambitious anthropology of economy, this volume questions how assemblages of vernacular and scientific realizations and enactments of the economy are linked to ideas of truth and moral value; how these multiple and shifting realities become present and entangle with historically and socially situated lives; and how the formal realizations of the concept of the “real” in the governance of economies engage with the experiential lives of ordinary people. Featuring essays from some of the world’s most prominent economic anthropologists, The Real Economy is a milestone collection in economic anthropology that crosses disciplinary boundaries and adds new life to social studies of the economy.

At a time of bewildering economic transformations, what a gift it is to read The Real Economy. Two brilliant scholars, Jane Guyer and Federico Neiburg, have assembled an international dream team of experts guiding us into new understandings of economic life. Mixing theoretical insight with fascinating ethnographic evidence, the essays take us along a memorable tour of the lived economic experience in the worlds of finance, households, currency exchanges, black economies and much more. By setting a new research agenda, the book will surely shape future cross-disciplinary research.

Viviana Zelizer, author of Economic lives: How culture shapes the economy

Published November 2019
310 pages
ISBN: 9781912808267
Price: $25
Table of contents
Introduction: The real in the real economy
     Federico Neiburg and Jane Guyer
Chapter One: The live act of business and the culture of realization
     Fabian Muniesa
Chapter Two: Deductions and counter-deductions in South Africa
     Deborah James
Chapter Three: Resisting numbers: The favela as an (un)quantifiable reality
     Eugênia Motta
Chapter Four:  What is a ‘real’ transaction in high-frequency trading
     Juan Pablo Pardo-Guerra
Chapter Five: Soybean, bricks, dollars, and the reality of money in Argentina
     Mariana Luzzi and Ariel Wilkis
Chapter Six: A political anthropology of finance in cross-border investment in Shanghai
     Horacio Ortiz
Chapter Seven: Corporate personhood and the competitive relation in antitrust
     Gustavo Onto
Chapter Eight: Making workers real on a South African border farm
     Maxim Bolt
Chapter Nine: How will we pay? Projective fictions and regimes of foresight in US college finance
     Caitlin Zaloom
Chapter Ten:  Smuggling realities: On numbers, borders, and performances
    Fernando Rabossi 
Afterword: The method of the real: What do we intend with ethnographic infrastructure?
     Bill Maurer