chapter  5
14 Pages

Values of property (properties of value): capitalization of kinship in Norway: Simone Abram

The title of this volume, Regimes of Value, points to Appadurai’s (1986) thesis on the complexity of relations of economic value and exchange value. Appadurai builds on Simmel’s observation that value is constituted by the exchange of an object, not by the object itself. Where Simmel goes on to discuss the role of money in exchange and value, Appadurai takes the anthropological route to consider different contexts in which objects circulate and the specifics of the creation of value in these different contexts, which he names ‘regimes of value’. Appadurai was predominantly concerned with material objects and their exchange, contemplating Marxist ideas about the ‘spirit of the commodity’ and noting the tendency in anthropological writing to continue to set two types of exchange into opposition – gift exchange and commodity exchange. The contributors to Appadurai’s book offer detailed discussions of the journey of objects in and out of the role of commodity, where value and price can become untethered, and where inter-cultural contexts generate situations where values are not shared between the parties to an exchange. Inevitably, in an anthropological discussion of exchange and gifts, the question arises of the Kula exchange system of the Western Pacific, a case that has been closely investigated and extensively discussed since Malinowski’s classic account (1922). In brief (exceedingly brief), Kula is a system for exchanging shell valuables where valuables circulate between owners, gaining biographical richness and substance as they move between owners. The important facet of this exchange system of note here is the way in which

the holding of a Kula valuable brings reputation to the holder. That is, not only does the object gain value in its route of exchange, but the owner also gains and loses value in the cycle of receiving, owning and giving (see Munn, 1986; Weiner, 1976). There is a corollary of sorts among European monarchies – the monarch owns the crown of glittering worth, but ownership of the crown confers royalty upon the monarch, and the monarch thus grows in value through owning the valuable item. Of course, to add a level of complexity, as with Kula shells, a crown need not be a particularly valuable item in itself – although gold and jewels add a dimension of commercial cost and exclusivity to its value – but its symbolic value as an item that may only be owned by the monarch is what brings value to the monarch in his or her own person. In this sense, an object may confer value onto a person.