Re: Query: nasty trading

Jana Fortier (fortier@STUDENTS.WISC.EDU)
Thu, 7 Mar 1996 09:53:10 -0600

Rich, among exchange theorists this is known as "negative reciprocity" and
it occurs nearly in every culture. The question of whether it is morally

Given hegemonic pretenses to cover up the fact of negative exchange, I'd
say itsubiquitous and morally acceptable in capitalist cultures. The idea
that an owner and worker should exchange labor for a paycheck but the profit
to the owner is directly the result of the worker's labor is a prime example
of negative exchange. (Imagine all those sweat shops cranking out textiles,
if this helps get the idea across). Exploitation in the labor process is a
terrible problem in capitalism. Never mind other cultures!! Unequal
exchange is pretty much institutionalized in modern exchange systems.

If you want to talk just about trade of *objects* rather than labor, you can
find the same attempts to rationalize unequal exchange in capitalism again.
Ricardo (economist) thought one axiom should be that 'if two partners are
mutually satisfied [with the exchange], it should be deemed equal'. Yeah,
right! So trading $26 dollars worth of beads & baubles to Algonkians in
exchange for their land was fair? Morally, to the anglos, it was, based on
Ricardian principles. Or does someone think this essentializes Ricardians?

We really only need look in our own backyard for the moral backing behind
unequal exchange.

Rich wrote: > I'm looking for a modern
>ethnographic reference to a group for whom it is morally acceptable to deceive
>outsiders during trade. I have an unreferenced quote from a textbook that
>reads: "Among the aboriginal Navajo, for example, the rules vary with the
>situation; to deceive when trading with foreign tribes is a morally accepted
>practice. Even witchcraft techniques are considered acceptable in trading with
>members of foreign tribes." Can anyone tell me if this, in fact is the case
>and supply a reference?