“In the short term”

short term can be defined in various ways. In neoclassical economics, it is that time period during which the quantity of one factor of production can be varied while other factors remain constant. In a well-known anthropological reflection on time and its connection to morality, for instance, Maurice Bloch characterized the short term as that period among peasants that is bounded by ecological constraints, such that a definite material reward is either obtained or foregone (e.g., the weeding period or the harvesting period); whereas the long term is that indeterminate period over which obligations hold irrespective of material reward. The interplay between these notional periods allows peasants to transact flexible labor teams of “strangers” in the short term, on the basis of speed and self- interest, because they know that over the long term, they can rely on immaterial moral bonds between kinsmen to help them through emergencies of labor shortfall (Bloch 1973:79–80).

Let me briefly extend and clarify my consideration of time periods. In an important discussion, Jane Guyer has argued that monetarist economics is so oriented to a short term of sophisticated calculation and a very long term of monetary growth, that little attention is given to the “near future” (Guyer 2007:409–421). “As logic and model,” monetarism is a “combination of rational choice in the very short run, growth in the very long run, and ‘submission’ [to the market] in the interim” (Guyer 2007:413). I take her “near future” or “interim” to be that period in which public debate and policy can seek to regulate change in all of the factors of production. This is really a part of the “long term” in my own usage. Two of her respondents replied that there is plenty of thinking about the near future inside contemporary capitalist society (Wilk 2007; Zaloom 2007). In her final rejoinder, Guyer stressed that she was addressing monetarist theory, rather than neoliberal ideology (2007:449). My own focus in this article is on neoliberal ideology — that fusion of theory and practice that has emerged in recent capitalist history. Surely, the latter-day growth in the relative size of the entire financial sector has been influential in changing the overall emphasis of capitalist praxis from Saving to Consumption, and from “planning the future” to “making material choices now.”

excpert from Paul Clough, “Immunology, the human self, and the neoliberal regime”, Cultural Anthropology 27.1 (2012): 138-143

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