Compare and contrast the meaning of economics from the formalist and substantivist points of view.

Compare and contrast the significance of economic sciences from the formalist and substantivist points of position.

During the 1960s the argument between the formalist and substantivist has leaden to the creative activity of the theory of economic anthropology. The thoughts of economic anthropology originate from Karl Polanyi ( 1944 ) attack in his book ofThe Great Transformationwhich have emphasize in the “embeddedness of primitive” economic systems within the broad cultural context of the societies. Although the formalist would subsequently reason that the “rational” economical behaviour was cosmopolitan and became a transcending civilization even within the crude economic systems therefore they argue that the neo-classical economic sciences theory was the most appropriate method of analysing all of the economic systems and societies.

Although Malinowski ( 1922 ) have besides knock that the western economic theory of economic system can merely use to a western societies as through grounds of his survey in the Trobriand island, as he have found that the basic explanatory power of ‘rational economic choice’ does non take away the ‘complex societal obligatory’ .

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Economic anthropology theory were centric in largely concentrating and descriptive on depicting how people made their life, some of the economic anthropologist such as substantivist saw economic as ethnocentric. Though most of the economic expert have ignored the substantivist theory but some have began to reason of the economic system have a diverseness which subsequently form a group of a formalist.

The term of Neo-Classical economic which was enormously favored by the formalist was created by Adam Smith in ( 1776 ) effort to lucubrate the human and societies economic systems with theory of scarceness and maximization.

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The Neo-classical Economic defined as the survey of public-service corporation maximization under the status of scarceness where as net income and monetary value have became a major economic job. Smith have besides emphasized when scarceness were normally occurred when the measure demanded have exceeded the measure of supply available, therefore without scarceness there will be no economic. Thus the scarceness exists in many country of our life so it is a demand for economic analysis to work out the job of scarceness, although the monetary value and net income will ever been the index of scarceness. Prattis, J.I. ( 1982 ) have besides argued in the theory of maximization, as when under scarceness, the person will consciously or subconsciously will choose an alternate mean to additions a culturally defined ends as the ends does non merely mention to economic and fiscal but besides for leisure and prestigiousness. Smith have emphasize a strong statement in the single ego involvement have generate the society best involvement therefore there will be more competition, more production, exchange and accretion. The intercession from the authorities and guild into regulation and commanding the monetary value and markets would most likely impede the beneficial of the market. Therefore the whole point of smith theory of neo-classical economic were the human single opportunism, working through the market system would profit the society as a whole and there were no built-in natural struggle between the person and the society best involvement every bit long as the person were to move in rational manner.

In the sociological and anthropological facet in the economic life focal points on the relationship between the different facets of life in how the economic were connected to the agent of political relations and faith. Unlike the neo-classical economic which were merely centric on market behaviour was a centric of rational type of activity. Therefore in seeking to link the economic system with other facet of life such as civilization and faith, the substantivist have defined the economic as an instituted procedure which derive from the man’s ain dependance for his life upon the nature and his chaps adult male which refer to substitute with his natural and societal environment. In Karl Polanyi ( 1957 ) surveies ofTrade and Market in the Early Empireshe have entitled the market and economic system as an instituted procedure which were defined by two root procedure, formal and substantial. Formal were defined as survey of rational determination devising and whereas substantive as the stuff act of doing a life. Polanyi have constituted that merely at the modern west historical development does both of the market economic root ( substantial and formal ) were to hold the same definition. As in modern capitalist economy the economic system ( substantial ) fused with the rational logic of the economic ( formal ) which maximize the single ego involvement. Merely Through the medium of the market place and flow of the money does the capitalist commit the formal rule whereas in the pre capitalist civilizations, all sorts of economic activities were to happen but non within the model and values of the formal rational economic logic therefore qualify the fight of the market places. In modern capitalist economy Polanyi said that the economic system were embedded in the establishment of market place as economic system of other civilizations may play in the portion of economic system through affinity and other societal establishment which operate on different rule from the market, where sometime spiritual establishment may form the economic system. As studied by Maurer, B. ( 2005 ) where the Islamic banking have played a spiritual portion of economic system in Indonesia where the bankers have tried to do an Islamic effort to refashion the footing of economic system to local currency system of the United States such as “Ithaca hours” . Polanyi have concluded that in the economic system should seek to seek how the economic system were embedded in the different type of society through the substantial economic by detecting the non market economic such as temple and secondly through the procedure that hold societal and economic together in the different scene.

The Substantivist have besides knock the formalist attacks as they have ignored some of import signifier of exchange such as reciprocality, redistribution and markets form of exchange as modern formal economic merely surveies the exchange and non the reciprocality and the redistribution. The of import of the three procedures have been emphasized by Karl Polanyi ( 1957 ) in his paper ofTrade and Market in the Early Empire:

“Reciprocity denotes motion between correlate points of symmetrical groupings ; redistribution designates appropriational motion toward a centre and out of it once more ; exchange refers here to vice-versa motions taking topographic point as between “hand” under a market system. Reciprocity, so assumes for a background symmetrically arranged groupings ; redistribution is dependent upon the presence of some step centricity in the group ; exchange in order to bring forth integrating requires a system of price-making markets.” ( p. 250 )

Reciprocal economic system is an economic system exchange that takes the signifier of gifts, either of good or labour services. Polanyi has besides emphasized that such economic system merely exist and operate under the rule of symmetricalness between the groups doing mutual exchange although sometimes the initial reciprocate can be carried out by another party through such complex affinity. This type of economic system was carried out by the Trobriand Island which was studied by Malinowski ( 1922 ) . In his survey of Trobriand Island he has studied the most of import facet of the island economic system called the ‘Kula’ trade where the ceremonial exercising of a villagers to see from one island to another and show their gift to spouses with whom they have good established their relationship. Malinowski have distinguished that the Trobriand Islanders have differentiate the ‘Kula’ trade and the regular swap trade which they latter refer as ‘Gimwali’ . The nature of fight besides available in the mutual economic system as was studied in the late 1800s in Kwakiutl Indians in Vancouver by Boas ( 1897 ) . In his surveies the Kwakiutl Indians would keep “potlatches” during which they will give each other a big measure of spring where the one give the most will became the most dominant society. Finally the potlatches will became involved in devastation of goods and even war between the folk in order to obtain goods to endow. The other type of Polanyi traditional economic system procedure is redistributive. Redistribution refer to a procedure by which a significant portion of the one-year income or green goods of the society were to be delivered a cardinal figure of authorization such as a authorities, who will maintain it in storage for subsequent disposal such as revenue enhancement. Polanyi argued that these system normally occur in a more developed society than in the society which utilizing a reciprocality economic system. Redistribution was besides practiced in ancient China, the imperiums of the Incas, the land of India and in the feudal society of Europe. Sahlin ( 1972 ) have described the redistribution as a high organized signifier of kinship rank of reciprocality and it was non different in the rule of reciprocality. Initially at first the part of the one-year green goods were voluntary as seen in the antediluvian Celt where it assist the less fortunate where the head have distributed the collected good to them as were studied by Harris ( 1979 ) . But as the economic system has become the developed the voluntary natures of redistribution have decreased and more of what have been transferred has been kept for the usage the ‘Big man’ . Finally this procedure has lead to emergence of true province, a formal revenue enhancement and inequality between societal categories.

The formalist were connected to the 1960’s sociologist and anthropologist where they were focus on making the societal scientific discipline into analyzing it as scientific method and they try to reconstruct anthropology and sociology to be resemble scientific discipline topic such as natural philosophies. Thus the formalist have theorized that the economic sciences may hold been imperfect but it was a batch closer to science than an unsystematic rambling that were used in many descriptive anthropologies. The formalist have criticize the substantivist apprehension of the microeconomic to be incorrect as, they do non understand that the theory of maximising does non merely use to money and market but it besides can maximise anything such as love or security. As Prattis ( 1982 ) have argued that the public-service corporation of maximization is expanded to whatever the person does, may it be leisure or work. He besides emphasize that the person does non needfully maximized the public-service corporation of money as some maximized pleasance and other type of value as sometime the person would give their ain clip, finance or even their wellness merely to assist other. Formalist have besides argued that the formal methods were suited in non-capitalist societies because all societies have a rational behaviour, scarce terminals and mean as the formal tools and method can be adapted and improved, therefore it should non be abandoned and discarded. The catholicity of the market behaviour was besides emphasized by Robbins ( 1932 ) as the economic were a survey of cosmopolitan job of human behaviour as a relationship between terminal and scarceness which could hold an alternate utilizations. Thus it was argued that scarceness is a cosmopolitan job and all societies will hold to do a rational picks between viing terminals which were operate and cut by the forces of supply and demands in all state of affairss and construction. In other word, the formalism application and method of neo-classical economic could analyse all societies and economic state of affairs. Formalist besides criticize that Polanyi understanding in history of economic is incorrect as the markets, exchange and trade are already exist in early imperium and crude society in the present twenty-four hours. As most of the societies in the universe have adapted the formal economic therefore taking the substantivist economic to no longer relevant. The formalist has besides noted that the ‘primitive’ societies such Kapauku of New Guinea which were studied by Pospisil ( 1963 ) have long patterns the overt and intense market exchange. They have besides argued that the mutual economic system in the Trobriand Island ‘Kula’ trade was merely merely involved of the delayed swap trade. The substantivist theories of where civilization and faith played a function in determining the society’s economic system were besides argued to be deceptive by the formalist. It is argued that the economic system which was driven by civilization and faith was no more than an obvious market forces where the persons are merely maximising their public-service corporation to budget constrain because following the cultural patterns were clearly portion of their public-service corporation map. The formalist have besides shown that the economic can besides be applied to non-capitalist society as they have try to expose the non-western economic behaviour were besides rational and disregard their behaviour of “irrational” because of being sunk by tradition. As the job of turn outing the rational behaviour in non-western societies were non cause by the theory of western economic but it were because of the ignorance of the people in understanding the “outsider” or the “primitive” people model of life.

The formalists have successfully exposing some of the failing and loophole in Polanyi theory and historical categorization of economic systems by indicating out how the market exchange were common in both early imperium and crude society. Although it was non proven that the formalist theory have won over the substantivist theory as both the group have avoided the most cardinal issue in economic, Therefore taking it into a post-mortem state of affairs as were declared by Richard ( 1973 ) . The formalist theory in economic were largely in turn outing the reason of economic and maximising single can be found in all society. On the other the substantivist were seeking to stress that the economic system were merely a human activity which were embedded in different societal establishment in all sort of societies. Thus it were argue both of their theory does non really confute each other as both of it can besides be true or incorrect in a legion manner than either of them could acknowledge.


Annual Report of Board of Regent of the Smithsonian Institute. ( 1897 ) .The societal Organization of the secret societies of Kwakiutl Indians,Washington, D.C. Boaz, F. pp 372-378

Harris, M. ( 1979 ) .Cultural Materialism: The battle for scientific discipline of civilization.New York: Random House

Malinowski, B. ( 1992 ) .Argonaut of the West Pacific.London: Routledge

Maurer, B ( 2005 ) .Common Life, Limited ; Islamic Banking, Alternative Currencies, Lateral Reason.New Jersey ; Princeton University imperativeness. Pp 25-28

Polanyi, K. ( 1944 )The Great Transformation.Boston: Beacon Press.

Polanyi, K. , Arsenberg, C. M. , Pearson, H.W. ( Eds ) . ( 1957 ) .Trade and Market in The Early Empires.New York: Free Press. Pp 243-270

Pospisil, L. ( 1963 )Kapauku Papuan Economy.New Haven ; Yale University imperativeness.

Prattis, J.I. ( 1982 )Synthesis or a New Problematic in Economic Anthropology. Theory and society.Carleton ; Kluwer Academic Publisher.

Richard, F.S. ( 1973 )Economic Anthropology, Annual Review of anthropology. Volume no.2, pp 84-89. Hypertext transfer protocol: //

Robbin, L. ( 1932 )An Essay on the Nature and significance of Economic scientific discipline,London: Macmillan

Sahlin, M. ( 1972 )Stone Age Economics,Chicago: Aldine

Smith, A. ( 1776 )An Inquiry To Nature and Causes of The Wealth of Nations.London: Strahan and Cadell

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Compare and contrast the meaning of economics from the formalist and substantivist points of view.. (2020, Jun 01). Retrieved from

Compare and contrast the meaning of economics from the formalist and substantivist points of view.

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