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Exploring Commodities

An Anthropologist on the Trails of Malinowski and Traven in Mexico

Scott Cook

Commodities of one type or other have been produced, transferred and consumed in the economic life of humanity through every epoch of its development and forms of sociocultural organization, but are pervasive in the varieties of capitalism dominating contemporary world economies. Even labor, a necessary element in all forms of commodity production, has itself been commoditized. Embodying three kinds of potentially realizable value – use, exchange, and symbolic – commodities reflect and affect various facets of humanity’s sociocultural life. They have been investigated by knowledge producers ranging from Aristotle and Ibn Khaldun through Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and Karl Marx down to a whole host of twentieth-century economists and others like the anthropologist, Bronislaw Malinowski, and the storyteller, B. Traven.

In this book noted economic anthropologist Scott Cook draws on many decades of fieldwork in the Mexican states of Oaxaca and Tamaulipas to take on the challenge of crafting an academic memoir designed to provide insights into the role of commodities in his own life and times and especially in his anthropological career. He undertakes this project in conjunction with a running interpretation of the contrasting approaches of Malinowski and Traven to the topic of commodity production and exchange in Mexico.

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Bibliographic information published by Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche Nationalbibliografie; detailed bibliographic data is available on the Internet at

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Cook, H. Scott, 1937- author.

Title: Exploring commodities : an anthropologist on the trails of Malinowski and Traven in Mexico / Scott Cook.

Description: Oxford ; New York : Peter Lang, [2021] | Includes bibliographical references and index.

Identifiers: LCCN 2021011264 (print) | LCCN 2021011265 (ebook) | ISBN 9781800794016 (paperback) | ISBN 9781800794023 (ebook) | ISBN 9781800794030 (epub) | ISBN 9781800794047 (mobi)

Subjects: LCSH: Economic anthropology--Mexico--Oaxaca (State) | Economic anthropology--Mexico--Tamaulipas (State) | Commercial products--Mexico--Oaxaca (State) | Commercial products--Mexico--Tamaulipas (State) | Anthropology--Fieldwork--Mexico--Oaxaca (State) | Anthropology--Fieldwork--Mexico--Tamauilpas (State) | Malinowski, Bronislaw, 1884-1942--Influence. | Traven, B.--Influence.

Classification: LCC GN564.M6 C63 2021 (print) | LCC GN564.M6 (ebook) | DDC 306.3--dc23

LC record available at

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