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Petty Capitalists and Globalization

Flexibility, Entrepreneurship, and Economic Development

Alan Smart, Josephine Smart

Publication Year: 2005

Globalization is often seen as driven by large corporations and supranational organizations. Enterprises operated by petty capitalists may be small, but there is nothing petty about their significance for the operation of economies or our understanding of contemporary societies, families, and localities. Petty Capitalism and Globalization uses ethnographic research to examine how small firms in Europe, Asia, and Latin America have been compelled to operate and compete in a fast-moving transnational economic environment. From Nepalese rug makers to German bakers to Taiwanese memory chip designers, these fascinating case studies delve into the complex situation of petty capitalists, often ambiguously situated between capital and labor, cooperation and exploitation, family and economy, tradition and modernity, friends and competitors. Understanding the position of petty capitalists in a global economy provides lessons in the potential and limitations of promoting small firms and entrepreneurship as a route to sustainable development.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Petty Capitalists and Globalization: Flexibility, Entrepreneurship, and Economic Development

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pp. iii-iv

Contents

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pp. v-vi

Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

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1. Introduction

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pp. 10-22

This volume contends that while the enterprises operated by petty capitalists may be small, there is nothing petty about their significance for the operation of economies and for our understanding of contemporary societies, families, and localities. Petty capitalists regularly operate in the ambiguous boundaries between capital and labor, cooperation and exploitation, family and economy, tradition and modernity, friends and competitors. By examining how these relationships vary over time, space, and culture, the study of petty capitalists offers insights into...

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2. Petty Production: The Enduring Alternative

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pp. 23-44

Petty commodity production (PCP) has flourished in many contexts throughout human history. It sometimes emerged entirely outside class society, as in the producer-trader networks of Melanesia (Malinowski 1922; Sahlins 1972). It was a characteristic element of the political economy of most preindustrial agrarian states (McCorriston 1997; Bennett 1996; Gates 1996). Petty producers maintained niches throughout Europe’s long transition from feudalism to capitalism...

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3. Movers and Fixers: Historical Forms of Exploitation and the Marketing of a Regional Economy in Spain

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pp. 45-66

The most influential work being done on what might broadly be described as petty capitalism in the European Union (EU) is framed within a discourse of regional economies.1 Not only has a vast amount of literature now been produced on European regional economies and industrial districts, more importantly a major part of EU development policy is built upon the findings of this literature. In this chapter we attempt to demonstrate...

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4. Flexibility for Whom?: Small-Scale Garment Manufacturing in Rural Mexico

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pp. 67-82

This chapter, based on twenty-five years of anthropological fieldwork in San Cosme Mazatecochco, a rural community in central Mexico, describes the recent emergence of “flexible production” in San Cosme and analyzes how and for whom flexible production is flexible. After a discussion of the broader national and international context of garment production, the first part of the chapter focuses on the nature...

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5. Capitalism from Below?: Small Firms, Petty Capitalists, and Regional Transformations in Eastern Europe

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pp. 83-98

Since the collapse of the Soviet systems in East-Central Europe (ECE), a wealth of “Western” policy discourses have found their way into thinking about the post-Communist “transition to capitalism” (Bateman 1999; Gowan 1995; Pickles and Smith 1998; A. Smith 1997, 1998, 2002a, 2002b). The majority and most powerful of these discourses have been centered...

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6. Global Market and Local Concerns: Petty Capitalists in the Brianza

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pp. 99-120

One of the most important consequences of post-Fordist global restructuring has been the “deterritorialization” of capital and its increasing geographic expansion. It is becoming more apparent that capitalist enterprises are able to move effortlessly across national borders and to relocate their manufacturing processes in areas that may offer more promising profit...

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7. They Were Promised a Rosegarden: Reunification and Globalization inSmall- and Medium-size Firms in Eastern Germany

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pp. 121-144

This chapter explores the impact of global competition on enterprise structure, technological development, and marketing strategies in small and medium-sized manufacturing and service firms in Sachsen-Anhalt, eastern Germany. Our focus on the trajectories of specific firms reflects our belief that in order to predict the future success of firms under capitalism, it is a mistake to focus too narrowly on the general contrasts...

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8. New Firm Formation and Technical Upgrading in the Taiwanese Semiconductor Industry: Is Petty Commodity Production Still Relevant to High-Technology Development?

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pp. 145-166

Over the past decade, many political scientists, economists, sociologists, anthropologists, and economic geographers have proposed that there has been a resurgence of regional economies (Piore and Sabel 1984; Sabel 1989; Best 1990; Blim 1990; Scott and Storper 1992). They argue that the concentration of interconnected specialist firms in a region constitutes...

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9. Toward a (Proper) Postwar History of Southeast Asian Petty Capitalism: Predation, the State, and Chinese Small Business Capital in Malaysia

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pp. 167-200

In this chapter, I discuss the relationship between the dynamics of petty capitalism and state formation and class formation in Malaysia over a period of the last forty years from Independence in 1957 up to the present. Although the vast majority of petty capitalist enterprises in Malaysia over this period have been in fact owned and operated by ethnic Chinese (Crouch 1996: 207), I focus on Chinese small-scale capitalism...

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10. Labor Standard Regulation and the Modernization of Small-Scale Carpet Production in Kathmandu Nepal

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pp. 201-226

Production of Nepalese carpets for a predominantly Western European market received a major setback in 1994, when NDR, [Nord Deutschler Rundfunk] a German television network, ran a documentary entitled “Nepalese Carpets: German Merchants Profit from Child Labor.” The documentary, which revealed that thousands of Nepalese children had been put to work in the carpet factories in the Kathmandu Valley...

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11. Fair(er) Trade for Global Markets: Capitalizing on Work Alternatives in Crafts in the Rural Philippines

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pp. 227-252

Anthropologists have investigated the effects of market economies on the lifeways of peoples worldwide for decades. The global theoretical framework now capturing researchers’ attention, however, often obscures the embedded activities that take place in and around this wave of global capital. The expanding market model assumes that free individuals compete...

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12. The Moral Significance of Petty Capitalism

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pp. 253-270

Though our moral memories of the last thirty years will no doubt be crowded with thoughts of wars, little and large, endless and sporadic, we might also note two other striking passages that significantly altered human trajectories. First, the combination of poverty and disease, specifically that of AIDS, has triggered a dramatic fallback in human life expectancy...

Bibliography

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pp. 271-306

Contributors

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pp. 307-310

Index

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pp. 311-317


E-ISBN-13: 9780791483572
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791463994
Print-ISBN-10: 0791463990

Page Count: 325
Illustrations: 1 map, 5 tables, 1 figure
Publication Year: 2005

Series Title: SUNY series in Anthropological Studies of Contemporary Issues (discontinued)
Series Editor Byline: Jack R. Rollwagen

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Subject Headings

  • Small business.
  • International trade.
  • Economic development.
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