Annals of the Fondazione Luigi Einaudi

An Interdisciplinary Journal of Economics, History and Political Science

The Annals is a forum for the free exchange of ideas
among scholars working in the field of social sciences
Volume LV 1 - 2021

The Housewife and the Home: Stone Age Economics and Insights For US (and Global North) Economies

Karen Ho,
pp. 127-148
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Theorizing from the Global South is often understood to provide key insights into alternative perspectives and cosmologies excluded and effaced from Western modernity. Theory from ‘below’ is usually framed as providing ‘local’ variations and difference from hegemonic, neoliberal economics and societies of the Global North. While this article recognizes the importance of this approach, it is also crucial to move beyond these conceptual and spatial separations and hierarchies. This article proposes that insights and theories from Global South social economies not only shed light on those excluded from the dominant social economies of the Global North, but also on the taken-for-granted workings of formal economics itself. In addition to contemporary critical scholars of racial capitalism and feminist substantivism, one only has to look towards Marshall Sahlins’s ground-breaking Stone Age Economics to recognize the possibility that the “housewife’s perspective” and the understanding of social economies forged in so-called “primitive economies” are necessary to unpack and better analyze Global North economies. The insight that all economic transactions are always already social relations is precisely what is problematically erased in the local cultures of the Global North. Taking inspiration from Sahlins’s remarkable analysis of how “anthropological economies” engage supply and demand, this article shows its applicability in examining US housing markets.