J.Forth- Week 5- Systems of Exchange

All over the world different forms of exchange exist. Starting with our own country, the United States practices a regulated market economy. Somewhat like a free market economy which price of goods and services are determined by supply and demand, the US economy can be regulated in some parts by the government in order to ensure fair prices are maintained and monopolies are prevented. As it was stated in the notes, underneath the surface economy, there exist shadow economies that work without government influence. These economies, ie the “Black Market”, are often trading and selling illegal goods and services. Another form of shadow economy is the illegal drug market. As mentioned in Philippe Bourgois’ “Poverty at Work”, people in lower economic areas turn to selling and distributing drugs as it is, despite the risk, more profitable for them than if they were to seek out legitimate sources of employment. There is in fact sometimes a negative stigma against “actual” jobs in some of these areas where illegal activity is common. “As a crack dealer, Ray no longer has to confront this kind of confusing humiliation. Instead, he can condemn his ‘successful’ neighbors who work downtown for being ashamed of who they were born to be. ” (Bourgois 123). Here it is apparent that the lucrative outcome of selling drugs has created an ideal that it is an honorable and respected job in these groups. This, while not a healthy thought process, is just how people in rougher economic areas go about making a living when they have not procured or learned any skill they can market. Throughout the course of history labor has evolved into a form of exchange. In today’s society, a person trades their time and labor for money, which they in turn exchange for goods or other services they may require. For many people in modern day, their labor is the only thing they have to exchange, fewer and fewer people are making or producing their own goods to sell, so they now instead sell their labor and time. Today’s culture in America contains several forms of subsistence strategies. Most obvious being industrial, most civilized countries today have become at least somewhat industrialized. However, like the United States, it is not the subsistence strategy practised. Industrialized versions of agriculturalism and pastoralism are contained within these large economies. Despite much of the world moving towards industrialized forms of economies, there are still other smaller societies that practice the other forms. Small tribes in harsher climate areas live off the land through hunting and gathering for example the inuit. The inuit live mostly off of their hunting and whaling, and may do some amount of trading and bartering in between tribes. Another form of distribution that is becoming more prevalent in today’s economy is reciprocating exchange. In America, sites such as craigslist and etsy where there is more person to person trading and selling are becoming popular. People no longer have a use for something or have built a niche product that they want to sell, so these websites have come up that allow people to practise and profit off of their craft.

2 thoughts on “J.Forth- Week 5- Systems of Exchange

  1. I like your post, but there a couple of things that bother me about how simplified you presented them. First, your description of a shadow market and its role, fails to identify the upsides of an underlying economic web. In many parts of the world, black markets, though they do house a platform for drugs, arms, and inhumane goods/services, can also be a crucial part of daily survival for those towns/villages that economic growth and government regulation simply does not protect. I liked that you pointed out that many people even idolize black market job over legitimate jobs, because it definitely has become the only option for many young people looking to support themselves and their families. Another thing I think worth mentioning is that, even though many countries have become industrialized in one way or another, there is still a massive gap in economic equality due to factors like offshoring and outsourcing. I believe someone’s ability to produce or labor might be useless depending on the industries they can possibly be exposed to due to location/circumstance.

  2. J. Forth,

    I enjoyed reading your post and agree with many points you made regarding the coexistence of many subsistence systems – regardless of the advancement in society. As human beings have progressed, it is natural for many economies to move towards industrialism such as we have seen in the United States. However, as you pointed out, the profit-driven motives of such advanced economies allows the use for the agriculturalist and pastoralist lifestyles to be integrated into vehicles for such motives. This ideal is something that is utilized in large economies due to the exchange of labor and the ability for an economy to allocate it’s resources efficiently. However, this profit-driven motive is not withheld to major players in a market. Using websites such as Craigslist or Etsy, as you have pointed out, are allowing the small players in a expansive economy to seek out niche markets and seek profit as well. I believe that your post does extremely well to point out the synergistic nature among many of these subsistence systems. Regardless of how quickly the progression of society takes place, we still see the remnants of each system maintained and the systems of exchange alongside them.

Leave a Reply