Brian P. Owensby's New World of Gain is a fascinating study of moral economy. Owensby's intellectual lodestar is Karl Polanyi, whose classic work, The Great Transformation (1944), describes the long nineteenth-century process by which Western societies disembedded markets from sociality and the pursuit of gain became a natural “backdrop condition” to everyday exchanges (p. 4). Owensby channels Polanyi but contends that a time line rooted in European industrial capitalism ignores earlier and global histories in which paradigms of gain and exploitation came up against people who doggedly sustained “substantive mutuality,” “that cluster of ideas, actions, and commitments anchored in gift, reciprocity, and redistribution binding societies across time” (p. 2). He details the erosion of substantive mutuality in European philosophical thought and Paraguayan colonial society and its preservation, albeit uneven, among mission Guaraní. Within an expertly crafted and theoretically sophisticated narrative, Owensby hopes “that we might see unabashed gain-seeking from the...
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Book Review| February 01 2023
New World of Gain: Europeans, Guaraní, and the Global Origins of Modern Economy
New World of Gain: Europeans, Guaraní, and the Global Origins of Modern Economy. By Brian P. Owensby.
Stanford University Press,
2022. Maps. Figures. Notes. Bibliography. Index. xvi,
378pp. Paper, $32.00.
Shawn Michael Austin
Hispanic American Historical Review (2023) 103 (1): 153–154.
Shawn Michael Austin; New World of Gain: Europeans, Guaraní, and the Global Origins of Modern Economy. Hispanic American Historical Review 1 February 2023; 103 (1): 153–154. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00182168-10216560
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