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The Preface briefly sets out the contrast between anthropology, psychology and economics as three human science disciplines with overlapping subject matters but very different ways of approaching reality. It touches on the question of human self-education in history and also alludes to the comparison between (notionally communist) China and (capitalist) Taiwan.
takes up the issue of human ‘self-education’ first raised in the Preface. The Marxist theory of self-education is compared with the approach of utilitarians/consequentialists to human agency that underpins (at least to some extent) much of the recent work in the field of economic psychology. It is argued that these two approaches are not as incompatible as is often assumed. More broadly, the author engages with recent work in the psychology of cooperation, which intersects in important ways with both Marxist and consequentialist approaches.
examines the politics of cognition – but also the politics of cognitive anthropology. It is noted that anthropologists treat psychological approaches to social life as being somehow apolitical or even politically dubious, but this position is based on a rather strange reading of actual work in cognitive anthropology. The text also engages with the politics of self-education in both Taiwan and China.
This clearly written and engaging book brings together anthropology, psychology and economics to show how these three human science disciplines address fundamental questions related to the psychology of economic life in human societies - questions that matter for people from every society and every background. Based around vivid examples drawn from field research in China and Taiwan, the author encourages anthropologists to take the psychological dimensions of economic life more seriously, but also invites psychologists and economists to pay much more attention than they currently do to cultural and historical variables. In the end, this intrinsically radical book challenges us to step away from disciplinary assumptions and to reflect more deeply on what really matters to us in our collective social and economic life.
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