Geography Reference
In-Depth Information
It is important to point out that there is nothing wrong with Tarinu's
calculations. When figuring out how much Antonio should pay for the arrows he
had requested, Tarinu was confronted with the transformation of symbolic into
material capital. In other words, Tarinu needed to convert the arrows' value in
monetary form (Marx 1978:313). He articulated not only features of the Juruna
system of gift exchange, but also aspects of the capitalist mode of exchange. In
the total price Tarinu included structuring resources inherent to both systems:
Antonio's previous debts with the Juruna (the obligation to reciprocate gifts) and
a considerable amount of interest - the goods would be resold (according to the
principle of the expansion of value, an objective basis of money circulation, as
Marx pointed out (1978:324)).
Arrows also served as a vehicle for expressing the Juruna's antipathy towards the
whites' greediness and selfishness and as a means to reinforce the peoples' power
in a decision-making process that involved money. These are symbolic features that
transcend the purely economic aspect of the transaction and indicate that different
categories of “value” are at stake. People's social relationships also give structure to
their mathematical activities and so does their political interaction.
Antonio was infuriated by Tarinu's exorbitant price basically because it would
interfere with his profitable business of selling Indian art craft. It would reduce the
surplus value of the arrows - that is, the increment over their original value - that would
constitute his profit. Antonio structured the same arithmetical dilemma according
to his own interests, which were based on the circulation of money as capital. The
process of buying arrows to resell them for a higher price characterizes Antonio as a
capitalist, and this “expansion of value” was his subjective aim (Marx 1978:332-334).
In arguing against Tarinu's solution, however, Antonio was merely using numbers
to cheat the locals. His calculator merely showed the result of abstract calculations
devoid of any kind of social relationships. He accused them of being incapable of
learning mathematics, a common and useful explanation that reduces the specificity of
arithmetical practice to conventionally structured relations among problems.
The specificity of Antonio's and Tarinu's arguments cannot be reduced to the
“contingencies” of modern accounting procedures, according to which different
methods of accounting depend on chance or uncertain events of some kind, while
mathematics is believed to be the “universal” that allows for standard bookkeeping
variation. Nor can the complexity of this arithmetical dilemma be explained by
Antonio's or Tarinu's alleged arithmetical incapacity or confusion. Antonio probably
knew he owed the Juruna money and that this previous debt was somehow being
taken into account. Tarinu, on the other hand, was aware that the Funai employee
figured out the arrows' value from the perspective of his desire for profit. For Marx,
value is not created in the market place, but in the socially created relations amongst
people and objects. The only way in which someone gets rich in the market place is
by appropriating someone else's labor, which is exactly what Antonio was doing in
the Xingu Park.
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