David Graeber: Theory of Value

If you are sufficiently determined, you can always identify something that people are trying to maximize. But if all maximizing models are really arguing is that “people will always seek to maximize something,” then they obviously can't predict anything, which means employing them can hardly be said to make anthropology more scientific. All they really add to analysis is a set of assumptions about human nature. The assumption, most of all, that no one ever does anything primarily out of concern for others; that whatever one does, one is only trying to get something out of it for oneself. In common English, there is a word for this attitude. It's called “cynicism”. Most of us try to avoid people who take it too much to heart. In economics, apparently, they call it “science”.

David Graeber über Grundannahmen der ökonomischen Wissenschaften im Zeitalter der “free market ideologies” (US-Englisch für “neoliberale Ideologien”) aus der Perspektive eines Anthropologen (Graeber: Toward an Anthropological Theory of Value, New York 2001, Pg. 8).

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