L. Perkins – Week 5 – System of Exchange

 

In this weeks material there were a numerous forms of exchange that were discussed. The three main ones that I took away was reciprocity, redistribution and market exchange which all stems from distribution. Distribution is the manner of which goods circulate through society. Before this week’s lecture I was only truly aware of market exchange because that is the form of distribution that the United States is so primarily focused in. Market exchange focuses on the exchange of goods and services for money that are determined by supply and demand. Which means, depending on the economic state, the goods and services price can increase or decrease. This reminded me of the Great Depression where the United States was in their longest economic recession and the goods and services were priced significantly different around the time due to the economy.

 

Another form of exchange that is usually practice in numerous countries outside the United States is redistribution, which is the collection of goods by a center authority followed by distribution according to normative or legal principle. An example of this is the government system that we have In place that collects taxes and uses the money to create schools, buildings, etc. for communities. When learning about redistribution I could not help but to think how important of a job it is to charge taxes differently state by state due to the cost of living, construction, etc. For example, I currently live in Chicago and the cost of living here is way different than in Michigan, which is why we are tax differently. I lived and worked in Michigan my whole life up until May so I did not realize the importance of redistribution, and taxes, until I was put in a position where I was being charged differently than I was use to. I now understand that the government must adjust taxes per state to ensure that they are able to properly redistribute the money back into our communities and how a person labor, where they fall in the tax bracket, is apart of the system of exchange because individuals in a much higher tax bracket are taxed differently than those who fall lower which I am very grateful for!

 

Another form of exchange I found to be quite interesting was the Potlatch Exchange, which is practiced mainly in the Northwest Coast of the U.S. and Canada. This exchange focuses mainly around reciprocity, which is the goods and services between two different groups of people. In the Potlatch Exchange you have the opportunity to change your ranking in the social system by the exchange of goods. You present these goods at weddings, funerals, etc. that you and your family collected and in order to move up ranking in the social system. There has to be another family that is receptive to receiving the goods. Once completed, the family that receives the goods distributes the large amount of goods to numerous families. I thought this was very interesting way to look at reciprocity because in the United States a way that we participate reciprocity is by the obligation of gift giving around holidays, birthdays, etc. but, unlike the Potlatch Exchange, you gain no power or higher ranking in the social system based on the content/amount of gifts you give.

 

6 thoughts on “L. Perkins – Week 5 – System of Exchange

  1. This was a really great summary of the different types of exchange. I thought that it was interesting that you pointed out how while participating in the Potlatch allows people to increase their social standing, in the US and most other situations of reciprocal exchange, when we give gifts the two sides are usually equal and it is not to influence social position. It kind of show how even though anthropologists can make these broad categories of economic systems, each society adopts different parts of them and uses them in different ways. I also think it is worth mentioning the barter system as another form of exchange. Since it doesn’t have a currency, it can’t be a market economy and since transactions are not used to create ties between groups, it can’t be considered reciprocal exchange. We don’t really think about bartering in the US because we have such a firmly established market economy, but it really is completely different to other systems and very important to some societies.

  2. I agree with your opinion of the form of exchange is redistribution in other countries very much. Redistribution could help the countries and each government have a rational allocation of resources, and could help to avoid the duplication and waste of resources as well. And the example of the difference of the taxes between each State you mentioned also explain the benefit of the redistribution. In China, we do not have this kind of differentiate of taxes, and the price we purchased daily is already include the taxes. In this way, those people from the developed region like Beijing or Shanghai could have a very good life because they have better living conditions and higher wages, but those people who are from the developing or uncultured region even could not have the basic living condition, not to mention the better life. So the form of exchange of redistribution is very important for a lot of place nowadays.

  3. I love how you not only paraphrased the primary systems of exchange discussed in lecture but also related your experiences to it. For instance, your point on redistribution rings especially true for you because you know the importance of gauging how much to redistribute depending on the area. Taxes are obviously not something to get excited about, but understanding redistribution and its mitigation of social inequality enables you to understand their utility. However, I disagree with the last point about not gaining power or social status via gift giving. While there is no such event as a Potlatch Exchange in the United States, gift giving is used to influence pharmaceutical representatives, doctors, and politicians. Not only that, giving out high quality/quantity of gifts can increase your influence with people and reinforce or increase your social status in a community.

  4. I love how you not only paraphrased the primary systems of exchange discussed in lecture but also related your experiences to it. For instance, your point on redistribution rings especially true for you because you know the importance of gauging how much to redistribute depending on the area. Taxes are obviously not something to get excited about, but understanding redistribution and its mitigation of social inequality enables you to understand their utility. However, I disagree with the last point about not gaining power or social status via gift giving. While there is no such event as a Potlatch Exchange in the United States, gift giving is used to influence pharmaceutical representatives, doctors, and politicians. Not only that, giving out high quality/quantity of gifts can increase your influence with people and reinforce or increase your social status in a community. Finally, your point about market exchange showed how volatile markets have proven to be historically through cycles of monetary expansion and contraction.

  5. Hello,
    I was also able to relate to a lot of this week’s material in the context of our own economic system and practices as well. The idea that was most relatable was reciprocity. We unconsciously practice reciprocity principles. When it’s a holiday like Christmas we all exchange gifts! You give and receive. The same thing goes for birthdays and other gift giving holidays. While it may not be as outwardly acknowledged those who give graciously are more socially accepted and praised. I think about charity giving and even the holidays we celebrate. Much praise is given to those who give more. Our Western society exhibits some of the same social stratification that other societies possess. I am also grateful for our tax system. The concept of redistribution in the form of taxes is awesome for the common good of everyone especially when executed properly. We’re all aware of the politics involving those who receive more but are unwilling to pay their fair share!
    Regards,
    Victoria

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