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Adam Smith's Free Market Society Versus Malinowski's Trobriand Island Kula Exchange System

3 Pages 810 Words

Adam Smith believes that a human inclination toward free trade is natural. He argues that it is inevitable for man to act in his own self-interest. Malinowski’s Trobriand society operates on the principle of working for the benefit of the community rather than for one’s self-interest. Even though the good of the community then leads to the prosperity of individuals, the intention is for the former, not the latter, in the case of the Trobrianders.
Smith’s view of a commercial-market society includes the principle of self-interest as the chief means of motivation for production, accumulation of wealth and innovation. When everyone in a society is economically competing and operating ins their own self-interests, work will be done more efficiently. The Trobrianders’ motivation to produce comes from tradition, ceremony, competition against other workers, and the belief in magic. The prospect of fame rather than fortune is the incentive for the Trobrianders. Smith would argue that this incentive is learned, rather than inherent, for these people.
In Smith’s ideal society, workers are motivated by the idea of gain, using the least amount of effort necessary to adequately accomplish their tasks (not overexerting themselves), knowing that they will be recompensed for their work with payment. The Trobriand people, however, are not motivated by the idea of gain. They do not consider the idea of growing wealthy when they are working. They work for the sake of the work itself. It is their tradition to work in competition with the other workers, and the ways in which they work are like an established traditional ceremony. It is part of their tradition to exert as much effort as possible while working, even if this will not show in the outcome of the work. The workers are never paid for the time they take to produce necessary goods for the community. But the communities practice the principle of reciprocation, where food is ...

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