Making a Market: The Institutional Transformation of an African Society

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Economists have devoted considerable effort to explaining how a market economy functions, but they have given a good deal less attention to explaining how a market economy is formed. In this book, Jean Ensminger analyzes the process by which the market was introduced into the economy of a group of Kenyan pastoralists. She employs new institutional economic analysis to assess the impact of new market institutions on production and distribution, with particular emphasis on the effect of institutions on decreasing transaction costs over time. Having compiled an extraordinary longitudinal data set that tracks a group of households over considerable time, she traces the effects of increasing commercialization on the economic well-being of individual households, rich and poor alike. In addition, employing anthropological methods, she analyzes the process by which institutions themselves are transformed as a market economy develops. Changes in labor relationships, property rights, and the transfer of political authority from the council of elders to the state are considered in particular detail. This case study points out the importance of understanding the roles of ideology and bargaining power - in addition to pure economic forces, such as changing relative prices - in shaping market institutions. The combination of new institutional economic analysis and richly detailed anthropological case study produces a work full of insights that may serve as the basis for a more adequate theory of economic development and social change.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Jean Ensminger's account of economic transformations among the pastoral Orma of eastern Kenya applies a new theoretical perspective to the study of cultural change. In particular, the book's ethnographic accuracy and theoretical integration are outstanding. I dare say that it will have a major impact on anthropological studies of economic change as it goes far beyond a mere description of what changes, but looks also for explanations of why individual behavior and institutions evolve in one direction and not in another." Zeitschrift fur Ethnologie

"Jean Ensminger has written an excellent book that addresses several different audiences. She is an anthropologist, but much of what she has to say is addressed to economists, sociologists, and political scientists....The fact that the book cuts across so many different disciplines is one of its principal merits." American Political Science Review

"This book has something to offer both economists and anthropologists; the former will see how the specific knowledge of economic institutions gathered by cultural anthropologists can affect the predicted results of neoclassical economic models; the latter will see the power of the new institutional economic models to elicit the right questions." Journal of Economic History

"This book makes an important contribution to the literature on development, institutions and the understanding of change in Africa." Mwangi wa Githinji, University of California, Riverside, in Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization

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Product Details

Table of Contents

List of tables, figures, and maps
Series editors' preface
1 A proper marriage: new institutional economic anthropology 1
2 Transaction costs: the history of trade among the Orma 33
3 Distribution of the gains from trade 78
4 Agency theory: patron-client relations as a form of labor contracting 109
5 Property rights: dismantling the commons 123
6 Collective action: from community to state 143
7 Conclusions: ideology and the economy 166
References 182
Index 199
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