|[a] Cultural Capital RL|
I think that there are profound implications for the study of many aspects of social life all over the world. It is not difficult to see that religious life and spending connect on many levels, and not only on sacred mountains (I cannot help but think of brisk Sunday morning breakfast business all over the United States, geared to the “church rush” after services or mass). Saturday nights work in similar fashion, as do Friday afternoons all over the world. Although I am focusing on the “spending” of incense and hell money on one Chinese mountain, the implications—if we frame the questions well—could go far.
|[b] Think, ought, do RL|
As a reader of microeconomic theory and behavioral psychology, I am struck in quite negative ways by what I regard as the utter inability of many economists and psychologists to think “socially” or to avoid a kind of one-dimensional pseudo-objectivity. I take as my starting point for the study of divinatory calculation a statement that the anthropologist J.H.M. Beattie made over fifty years ago. “Anthropologists…study both what people do and what they think about what they do…[and the latter] are of (at least) two kinds; first, their notions about what they actually do, and, second, their beliefs about what they ought to do...
|[c] Early choice RL|
Where Bourdieu breaks new ground is in describing the way that people play rules or expectations off of each other, to the point that it really cannot be said that people follow rules at all. They, rather, act in accordance with their individual and social interests in a complex and ever-changing field of operation. For Bourdieu, it is not the individual actor that is the key to analysis (a mistake made by economists and psychologists alike); it is the relations between actors or groups within a system or, as he calls it, a “field.” The analysis of individual action (common in action theory and game theory) independently of the “fields” within which actors operate is meaningless. I would go so far as to say that economists and psychologists give a patina of “objectivity” to their work precisely to the extent that they ignore “fields,” which complicate matters to the point where elegant analyses will no longer fit.
We have the cultural economics of divination on China’s southern sacred mountain.
Finally, Bourdieu writes of “cultural capital.” To be sure, pilgrims spend sizable amounts of money on and around the mountains. Bourdieu’s notion of cultural capital is a persistent one, though. A trip to Longevity Mountain most definitely increases this vague but important set of qualities for the traveler. Yet my own travels and research have shown me that, regardless of religious intensity, the utmost maximization of cultural capital comes not from a trip to Longevity Mountain, but rather on a trip (about two hours away) to Mao Zedong’s birthplace. In today’s China, that is the bragging right, so to speak. The southern mountain adds to the luster, but thirty centuries of cosmology is nowhere close to the prestige of a farmhouse from Mao’s boyhood. Ever-changing.
We'll take a long look at Marshall Sahlins and his perspectives on structure and history tomorrow, as we delve ever-more-deeply into the science of divinatory economics.
|[f] Structure RL|