100 books like Stone Age Economics

By Marshall Sahlins,

Here are 100 books that Stone Age Economics fans have personally recommended if you like Stone Age Economics. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time

Vinícius Guilherme Rodrigues Vieira Author Of Shaping Nations and Markets: Identity Capital, Trade, and the Populist Rage

From my list on understanding the transformation of capitalism and globalisation.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since 2008, I have conducted research on themes related to International Political Economy. I am currently the co-chair of the research committee on this topic at the International Political Science Association (IPSA) and am passionate about making sense of the interplay between material and symbolic factors that shape capitalism and globalisation. Being based in Brazil, I was stuck when the country—which did not have salient identity cleavages in politics—came to be, after 2008, a hotspot of religious-based right-wing populism associated with the defence of trade liberalisation as globalisation started to face meaningful backlash from White-majority constituencies who are relatively losers of the post-Cold War order in the advanced industrialised democracies.

Vinícius' book list on understanding the transformation of capitalism and globalisation

Vinícius Guilherme Rodrigues Vieira Why did Vinícius love this book?

As post-Cold War globalisation seems to face its fate, I always go back to this book as it offers lessons on the perils of taking for granted economic rationality. The 19th-century liberal order crumbled, and fascism emerged as a solution. In the same vein, is far-right populism a reaction against the consequences of neoliberalism?

Although he does not bring to the centre stage the impact of ethnic-religious cleavages, such a shortcoming only made me wonder whether his riveting account of modernity applies nowadays.

By Karl Polanyi,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked The Great Transformation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this classic work of economic history and social theory, Karl Polanyi analyzes the economic and social changes brought about by the "great transformation" of the Industrial Revolution. His analysis explains not only the deficiencies of the self-regulating market, but the potentially dire social consequences of untempered market capitalism. New introductory material reveals the renewed importance of Polanyi's seminal analysis in an era of globalization and free trade.


Book cover of The Gift: The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies

Thomas Hylland Eriksen Author Of Small Places, Large Issues: An Introduction to Social and Cultural Anthropology

From my list on economic anthropology.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an anthropologist and writer who has published more than fifty books, ranging from novels and essays to academic monographs and textbooks. I am passionate about trying to make the world a slightly better place, and I am convinced that we need to think differently about the good life and the economy in order to get out of the corner we’ve painted ourselves into. Economic anthropology offers alternative perspectives on the world and the human condition. It's far less obscure than it sounds.

Thomas' book list on economic anthropology

Thomas Hylland Eriksen Why did Thomas love this book?

If there is one foundational text in economic anthropology, this is it. The French anthropologist Mauss showed, in this 1924 book, that gift exchange is the glue that connects people in communities with no formal authority. He is perfectly aware that there are no free gifts, but shows that all economic transactions have a moral element: They create social obligations, they connect us to each other.

By Marcel Mauss, W.D. Halls (translator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Gift as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Since its first publication in English in 1954, The Gift, Marcel Mauss's groundbreaking study of the relation between forms of exchange and social structure, has been acclaimed as a classic among anthropology texts.

A brilliant example of the comparative method, The Gift presents the first systematic study of the custom―widespread in primitive societies from ancient Rome to present-day Melanesia―of exchanging gifts. The gift is a perfect example of what Mauss calls a total social phenomenon, since it involves legal, economic, moral, religious, aesthetic, and other dimensions. He sees the gift exchange as related to individuals and groups as much as…


Book cover of Debt: The First 5,000 Years

Ethan Turer Author Of The Next Gold Rush: The Future of Investing in People

From my list on how past events will impact our future.

Why am I passionate about this?

Ever since I can remember I’ve been curious about history and how past events connect to our present; And how challenging it is to predict the future, even with all our advanced technologies. In the internet era, everything seems to be changing faster than ever before. I’m no expert, but I do know that if we don’t try to understand all the pieces of this complex puzzle, we’ll never be able to build the future we want. I don’t want to be left behind, so my book is an attempt at understanding the past and outlining a future of investing in people, the most undervalued asset class.

Ethan's book list on how past events will impact our future

Ethan Turer Why did Ethan love this book?

Out of all my recommendations, this book is the most dense in terms of detailed descriptions of the history of debt. The author needs to be specific since he’s challenging the economic establishment’s false claims.

The most telling example is that there’s no evidence that barter led to exchanging goods in a marketplace. Debt, not barter, was the original economic system for trade in a village. 

War became the catalyst for the creation of currency since soldiers couldn’t afford to wait till after the war concluded for the government to pay its debts.

If you’re curious about the real history of money and debt, this is the book for you.

By David Graeber,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Debt as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The groundbreaking international best-seller that turns everything you think about money, debt, and society on its head—from the “brilliant, deeply original political thinker” David Graeber (Rebecca Solnit, author of Men Explain Things to Me)
 
Before there was money, there was debt. For more than 5,000 years, since the beginnings of the first agrarian empires, humans have used elaborate credit systems to buy and sell goods—that is, long before the invention of coins or cash. It is in this era that we also first encounter a society divided into debtors and creditors—which lives on in full force to this day.

So…


Book cover of Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist

Marco te Brömmelstroet Author Of Movement: how to take back our streets and transform our lives

From my list on how your language shapes the way you think (and act).

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor in Urban Mobility Futures and, as such, am fascinated by how we think about our mobility present and past and how this limits us in imagining different futures. The problems in our mobility system are so urgent and overwhelming that I like to actively search for alternative ways of seeing and acting and teach others to do the same. Personally, I love to experience the incredible freedom of mind that I find in doing this. Also, see the Shepherd list of recommendations by my co-author, Thalia Verkade.

Marco's book list on how your language shapes the way you think (and act)

Marco te Brömmelstroet Why did Marco love this book?

For me, this book offered a perfect link between understanding the fundamental thinking in the field of economics and the necessity of changing that. Western society and lifestyles are all based on the notions of economic growth, extraction of resources, and externalizing the costs to other places and generations. And we are so used to this underlying worldview that we tend to take all of this for granted.

I think that the big crises we are facing are rooted here. By revealing this, we can see the fence that is limiting our thinking. With the alternative logic of the Doughnut Economy, we suddenly have the potential to break through it. I love that it shows that we can all work towards a world in which everybody can thrive!

By Kate Raworth,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Doughnut Economics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Financial Times "Best Book of 2017: Economics"

800-CEO-Read "Best Business Book of 2017: Current Events & Public Affairs"

Economics is the mother tongue of public policy. It dominates our decision-making for the future, guides multi-billion-dollar investments, and shapes our responses to climate change, inequality, and other environmental and social challenges that define our times.

Pity then, or more like disaster, that its fundamental ideas are centuries out of date yet are still taught in college courses worldwide and still used to address critical issues in government and business alike.

That's why it is time, says renegade economist Kate Raworth,…


Book cover of Understanding the Culture of Markets

Erwin Dekker Author Of The Viennese Students of Civilization: The Meaning and Context of Austrian Economics Reconsidered

From my list on cultural knowledge to understand the economy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian and economist who is fascinated by the intersection of the economy and culture. This started for me with the idea that economic ideas were shaped by the cultural context in which they emerged, which resulted in my book on the Viennese Students. Over time it has expanded to an interest for the markets for the arts from music to the visual arts, as well as the way in which culture and morality influence economic dynamism. Economics and the humanities are frequently believed to be at odds with each other, but I hope to inspire a meaningful conversation between them.

Erwin's book list on cultural knowledge to understand the economy

Erwin Dekker Why did Erwin love this book?

Mainstream economic accounts of culture are prone to treat culture as a set of norms or informal institutions which constrain economic behavior: ‘don’t charge interest,’ ‘don’t sell kidneys,’ or ‘always tip at a bar’. Storr presents an alternative account of culture as the animating spirit of an economy, which he illustrates through various entrepreneurial spirits which shape the direction of an economy. This book is the perfect combination of serious anthropological theory (Geertz) and an appreciation of the market process. Culture is not that which obstructs market, but that what brings economies to life. 

By Virgil Storr,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Understanding the Culture of Markets as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How does culture impact economic life? Is culture like a ball and chain that actors must lug around as they pursue their material interests? Or, is culture like a tool-kit from which entrepreneurs can draw resources to aid them in their efforts? Or, is being immersed in a culture like wearing a pair of blinders? Or, is culture like wearing a pair of glasses with tinted lenses? Understanding the Culture of Markets explores how culture shapes economic activity and describes how social scientists (especially economists) should incorporate considerations of culture into their analysis.

Although most social scientists recognize that culture…


Book cover of The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property

J. Baird Callicott Author Of American Indian Environmental Ethics: An Ojibwa Case Study

From my list on American Indian worldviews and ecological wisdom.

Why am I passionate about this?

After “the environmental crisis” came to popular attention in the 1960s, American Indians were portrayed as having a legacy of traditional environmental ethics. We wanted to know if this were true. But how to gain access to ideas of which there is no written record? Answer: analyze stories, which have a life of their own, handed down from one generation to the next going all the way back to a time before European contact, colonization, and cultural, as well as murderous, genocide. And the stories do reveal indigenous North American environmental ethics (plural). That’s what American Indian Environmental Ethics: An Ojibwa Case Study demonstrates.

J.'s book list on American Indian worldviews and ecological wisdom

J. Baird Callicott Why did J. love this book?

Before there was money, people bartered one kind of stuff they had in abundance for another kind that they needed (or wanted). That may be true, but little appreciated in our market-oriented Western worldview, there was once an even older gift economy.

The Gift, among other related topics, explores the gift economy, which characterized the lifeways of many American Indian peoples. Hyde provides the key to understanding many of the stories in our book.

Hunters are portrayed as “visiting” the lodges of beavers, moose, and bear. They come bearing gifts that only humans can create through artifice or cultivation: knives and tobacco, for example—things much prized by the animal recipients.

In turn—but not necessarily in return—the animals give the humans their flesh and fur. The bones are their somatic souls, which should not be broken, but returned to the element from which they came—earth or water—to be reclothed in flesh…

By Lewis Hyde,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Gift as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Discusses the argument that a work of art is essentially a gift and not a commodity.


Book cover of The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World

Davis Baird Author Of Thing Knowledge: A Philosophy of Scientific Instruments

From my list on how the things in our world get made and work.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am not very good at making things. I am good enough to appreciate the craftsmanship of those much better than me. I am more of an ideas person, perhaps why I ended up with a PhD in Philosophy of Science. But I have always held a secret admiration—with a tinge of envy—for people who are makers. As I went deeper into my career as a philosopher of science, I became aware that the material/making aspect of science—and technology—was largely ignored by ideas-obsessed philosophers. So, this is where I focused my attention, and I’ve loved vicariously being able to be part of making the world.

Davis' book list on how the things in our world get made and work

Davis Baird Why did Davis love this book?

Initially, The Gift might seem an odd choice for this category. Hyde argues that art must be part of a gift economy, not simply commercially bought and sold, but also given and received. I had a chance encounter with Hyde’s father, who was appropriately proud of his son’s book, but he said that he thought the same analysis could be made about how science operates.

This idea changed my perspective on science and technology. When I began to look at science and technology this way, it made sense to me. Scientists will frequently trade what they have learned with each other, for example at conferences—they give their information away in exchange for prestige and for return gifts of information from other scientists. It is part of being a member of the science club.

By Lewis Hyde,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Gift as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“A manifesto of sorts for anyone who makes art [and] cares for it.” —Zadie Smith

“The best book I know of for talented but unacknowledged creators. . . . A masterpiece.” —Margaret Atwood

“No one who is invested in any kind of art . . . can read The Gift and remain unchanged.” —David Foster Wallace

By now a modern classic, The Gift is a brilliantly orchestrated defense of the value of creativity and of its importance in a culture increasingly governed by money and overrun with commodities. This book is even more necessary today than when it first appeared.…


Book cover of Social Inequality Before Farming?

Brian D. Hayden Author Of The Eyes of the Leopard

From my list on prehistory and what life was like in the Stone Age.

Why am I passionate about this?

I became intrigued by Upper Paleolithic societies when I studied prehistory at the University of Bordeaux. Over time, I became more and more involved in trying to understand why some Upper Paleolithic societies produced such great art – both painted and carved. After years of studying hunter-gatherer cultures, I concluded that the Upper Paleolithic groups producing fine art were not simple egalitarian groups, but were almost certainly more complex types of hunter-gatherers like the ethnographic groups in California and the Northwest Coast with striking economic and social inequalities – and great art. I decided to put all these ideas into an adventure novel for young readers: The Eyes of the Leopard.  

Brian's book list on prehistory and what life was like in the Stone Age

Brian D. Hayden Why did Brian love this book?

This is actually an edited book of papers dealing with the social organization among prehistoric and ethnographic hunter-gatherers. It is one of the few publications that discusses issues like inequality from a variety of different viewpoints, including diametrically opposed views about Upper Paleolithic societies – whether they were egalitarian or non-egalitarian. Another important aspect of this volume is the inclusion of ethnographic hunter-gatherers to generate insights into how prehistoric hunter-gatherers could have organized themselves. Some unique features include the examination of dogs as indicators of inequalities and the nature of the cave paintings as indicators of inequalities. Mobility, population densities, surpluses, and many other factors all create a heady brew of debate and intriguing ideas. This book is highly recommended, even if a bit technical.

Book cover of Affluence Without Abundance: What We Can Learn from the World's Most Successful Civilisation

Robert Averill Author Of NeuroAdventures: The Art and Science of Hunting and Gathering Happiness

From my list on peak and transformative human experience.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always craved outdoor adventure. My earliest preschool memories include frog hunting in the fields behind my house, and careening down hills around the neighborhood on my metal-wheeled skateboard. In middle school, I progressed to BMX, spearfishing and surfing. After college, I added snow and water skiing, windsurfing, and eventually mountain biking to the mix, and was fortunate to have a career that allowed time and resources to travel the world extensively seeking adventure. Now well into my sixties, I research and write about science, extreme sports, nature and philosophy in between daily hikes and mountain bike rides around the homebase and monthly journeys to destinations unknown.

Robert's book list on peak and transformative human experience

Robert Averill Why did Robert love this book?

I’ve always wanted to understand our shared humanity through the lens of our hunter-gatherer past. We spent 1,990,000 of our last 2 million years on the planet in this capacity, after all!

Fortunately, I came across anthropologist James Suzman’s book about his two decades living amongst the San tribe of the Kalahari, one of the few remaining hunter-gatherer peoples on earth (at the time). Unfortunately, 21st-century political and cultural realities have all but eliminated this traditional way of life, as remaining members of this group now live in government-supported resettlement camps after losing their ancestral lands to agricultural and industrial interests.

Nonetheless, this poignant book provided me with new insights about what it means to be human living in a world we were neither designed nor prepared for.

By James Suzman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Affluence Without Abundance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

_______________ 'Insightful ... Avoiding both modern conceits and romantic fantasies, Suzman chronicles how economics and politics have finally conquered some of the last outposts of hunter-gatherers, and how much humankind can still learn from the disappearing way of life of the most marginalized communities on earth.' - Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens and Homo Deus 'Fascinating' - Sunday Times 'Elegant and absorbing' - Financial Times 'Profoundly moving' - Irish Times _______________ From acclaimed anthropologist James Suzman, a portrait of the 'original affluent society' - the Bushmen of southern Africa - and what their way of life can teach us…


Book cover of The Shamans of Prehistory: Trance and Magic in the Painted Caves

Brian D. Hayden Author Of The Eyes of the Leopard

From my list on prehistory and what life was like in the Stone Age.

Why am I passionate about this?

I became intrigued by Upper Paleolithic societies when I studied prehistory at the University of Bordeaux. Over time, I became more and more involved in trying to understand why some Upper Paleolithic societies produced such great art – both painted and carved. After years of studying hunter-gatherer cultures, I concluded that the Upper Paleolithic groups producing fine art were not simple egalitarian groups, but were almost certainly more complex types of hunter-gatherers like the ethnographic groups in California and the Northwest Coast with striking economic and social inequalities – and great art. I decided to put all these ideas into an adventure novel for young readers: The Eyes of the Leopard.  

Brian's book list on prehistory and what life was like in the Stone Age

Brian D. Hayden Why did Brian love this book?

The use of deep caves for rituals and creating extraordinary paintings has provoked many discussions on why people did this so long ago. There are many theories, but one of the most discussed ideas is that the paintings were produced by shamans as records of their spiritual visions, or to connect with their animal spirit helpers. Lewis-Williams and Clottes are the leading proponents of this interpretation. They rely on comparisons of the Stone Age art with art produced in historic times by Bushman shamans in South Africa. This is an excellent introduction to Paleolithic art and arguments about the art. My own explanation shares some aspects of their model, but focuses on secret societies (shamans were usually members). This is also a main feature in my own book.

By Jean Clottes, David Lewis-Williams, Sophie Hawkes (translator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Shamans of Prehistory as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French


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