The Ethical Epistemes of Anthropology and Economics

  • Allen W. Batteau
  • Bradley J. Trainor
Keywords: Epistemology, ethics, institutions


This article examines the separate epistemologies of anthropology and neoclassical economics, suggesting that both epistemologies are tied to and represent ethical stances. After discussing the differences between morality and ethics, it suggests that the epistemologies of both disciplines are rooted in colonial encounters. Although numerous states and empires had previously encountered populations on their peripheries, the European colonial encounter of the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth century was uniquely on an industrial scale, creating new epistemological and ethical problems, out of which both economics and anthropology emerged. The global episteme and ethical stance of anthropology in its engagement with diversity now has as its frontier an engagement with powerful institutions in the business world.