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Social aspects of abstraction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 October 2001

James Carrier
92 Spottiswoode Street 2F2, Edinburgh EH9 1DJ
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Abstraction is an important concern in the modern west. This article describes two social aspects of abstraction. The first is the ways that it is associated with certain sorts of people (the abstracting agent), to show some of the forms that abstraction can take in western thought. The second is the ways that it is institutionalised, especially in economic activity in western society over the past few centuries (institutional abstraction), to show some of the factors that account for its cultural form and salience. Abstraction can be viewed ambivalently, and the article concludes with a consideration of how this ambivalence is expressed in a common western understanding of economic life.

Research Article
© 2001 European Association of Social Anthropologists

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