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Accusing the Capitalist Witch

We’ve been discussing witchcraft in the Anthropology of Religion this week. The idea that accusing someone of witchcraft may be a way of enforcing norms against wealth accumulation or self-aggrandizement came up several times in our classroom conversations.

Is anyone out there (in anthropology, in the mainstream press) considering that the outrage against AIG executives for keeping large bonuses might be akin to an accusation of witchcraft? In other words, is it possible that public shaming might encourage, if not force, an executive to return the bonus money?

Links or citations would be appreciated.

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One Comment

  1. Ed L. wrote:

    Hey Tad … it seems to me that the rationality debates and witchcraft preclude a comparison on this basis. Rather than alternative modes of rationality and explanation (with endless series of secondary rationalizations), we have crass and greedy manipulation of secular mechanics, and threats of revealing the soulless and sociopathic tendencies of the traders. They seem incapable of mobilizing the moral forces of norms, and hence are falling victim to the sane social tendencies of regulators to impose basic human conditions on their behavior. I’d be more willing to see them as a windigo of sorts, completely outside the bounds of human morality, and if the metaphor holds true, the only way of dealing with them is to set them down before a toasty fire (the very symbol of normative social space and conditions) and watch them writhe in agony and attempt to melt their hard and icy hearts.

    Wednesday, March 18, 2009 at 5:42 pm | Permalink