Re: Budgets as cultural documents <debate>

thomas w kavanagh (tkavanag@INDIANA.EDU)
Fri, 16 Feb 1996 20:41:40 -0500

Just a brief note to combine two threads:

On Sat, 17 Feb 1996, John McCreery wrote:

> First, let me say that I believe that Mike's proposition that
> "budgets be considered critical cultural documents" is
> absolutely on the mark. Arguably almost all the great and
> small political debates of our times are debates *about budgets*
> i.e., about how the world, nations, states, towns, villages,
> NGOs are going to allocate scarce resources.
> Second, even a cursory acquaintance with accounting reveals
> the enormous importance of how items are categorized and
> the working assumptions that govern their interrelations.
> What may be even more revealing is what items are excluded
> altogether.

This is, of course, cultural political economy. Or as I said in the first
paragraphs of my new book on Comanche Political History,

the political economy, the interactions among the cultural
structures of society, the politics of social organization,
and the economics of diplomacy, trade, and warfare.

That is, for the Comanches, the political (as opposed to domestic
production, although the two can coincide) economomy--how the groups were
defined based on what resources were available, and political attempts to
ensure continued resources--were diplomacy, trade, and war; another
society's political economy might be comprised of other resource
exploitation schemes.

The economic part is how to make a living. The political part is how to
get and allocate scarce resources [the processes involved with determining
an implementing public policy, including who is us and who is not]. The
cultural part are the categories used to decide the first two.