Business education and Anthro BA

Tibor Benke (benke@SFU.CA)
Mon, 27 Feb 1995 03:31:52 -0800

John McCreery(JLM@TWICS.COM) wrote on February 23:

>My two cents worth: (1) Classic 4-field anthropology is liberal education in
>the best sense of the term: a combination of science and humanities that is
>about as good a preparation for the real world as a body can get. (2) Social/
>Cultural Anthropology by itself loses a lot of the science, but can still be
>good if focused on serious attention to ways of life that may be radically
>different from the one the student grew up with. Especially so if the student
>is invited to consider those ways of life from several intersecting points
>of view that other disciplines separate: e.g., economics, politics, religion,
>aesthetics (Nobody can do everything and everyone will have their own
>favorites): the point is in the intersection and the interactions that go
>on there. (3) Social anthropology confined to the latest academic brainstorms
>is a lousy preparation for anything else but an academic career, and that only
>if the particular brainstorms being taught acquire enough adherents that
>they start generating jobs for each other.

I agree, so far. But then he goes on to say:

>What would I, personally, add to the classic four-fields curriculum? As someone
>whose non-academic career is in the business world, I wish that I had taken
>"Introductory Accounting" and "Principles of Marketing." Not just because
>they would have been practical things to know about. Because they would also
>add a lot to my anthropological education. It is one thing to maunder on
>about primitive economics: another to ask how you'd go about keeping the
>books, or what it means not to have books to keep at all. It helps a lot when
>arguing about the nature of market economies to, horror of horrors, know what
>it is that marketers actually think they are up to.
>To sum up, I think that a couple of business courses (of the kind I avoided
>like the plague when I did my B.A. in Philosophy--and you think anthro majors
>got trouble--all those long years ago) would help students see more clearly
>how their anthropological knowledge is relevant: both to the business of making
>and living and to living a life examined in ways that make it fascinating.

Those who have seen posts from me previously, may remember that I mentioned
that I was cognitively and physically challanged. Because of this I was
obliged to take several detours before I earned my B.A. in Sociology and
Anthropology (Simon Fraser University, 1988). One of these detours took
me through a programme dubbed, "Business Certificate in Data Processing" at
the British Columbia Institute of Technology (MIT it's not, but, like me,
they are trying) which had among its requirements precisely an introductory
course in marketing and four consecutive courses in accounting. During one
session in the marketing class we were considering how Maslow's hiearchy of
human needs might be applied to marketing. This concerned me from an
ethical point of view and I asked the instructor whether he could see that
there may be some ethical objections to the application of this theoretical
work for (as an instance) associating thirst with a particular soft drink?
Not only did I fail to get a satisfactory answer to my question, but both
the instructor and the rest of the class looked at me as if I had just
dropped in from another planet, ( the silence was deafening thoughI wasn't
dressed oddly nor was my tone beligerent). I found accounting to be
considerably more challenging then marketing, but the most useful thing I
learned from it is just how "creative" accounting could get - hence I no
longer believe anything businessmen say, particulary when they claim that
the national debt requires that social policy be reformed to resembele 19th
century Great Britain's. So until the average business graduate learns
who Boas was and what the Kula ring is, maybe we can postpone the business
"education" of anthropology undergraduates. Or, perhaps as a compromise, a
course in the anthropology of capitalist elites could be offered.

>@> (*)%(^)%
>@> Tibor Benke / (^)%(#)
>@> Graduate Student (MA program)
>@> Department of Sociology and Anthropology
>@> Simon Fraser University,
>@> Burnaby, B.C., Canada. V5A 1S6 >@>
>@> Nota Bene: The opinions herein expressed are merely my own ! >@> ^^^^^^^^^^^