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The Reformation of WelfareThe New Faith of the Labour Market$
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Tom Boland and Ray Griffin

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9781529211320

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: January 2022

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781529211320.001.0001

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Archaic Anthropology: The Presence of the Past in the Present

Archaic Anthropology: The Presence of the Past in the Present

(p.19) 2 Archaic Anthropology: The Presence of the Past in the Present
The Reformation of Welfare

Tom Boland

Ray Griffin

Policy Press

Our approach is an ‘Archaic Anthropology’, a methodological combination of contemporary anthropological engagement with the historicisation of the present using genealogical methods, drawn from Nietzsche, Weber, Foucault and Agamben, a contribution to the emergent paradigm of ‘economic theology’. Specifically this entails taking contemporary discourses – from social policy to job-seeking advice – as constitutive of the society it purports to describe. Thus, contemporary conceptualisations, whether created by academic disciplines or popular culture draw from existing cultural models, including theology, to make sense of complex social and economic experiences, from national recessions or growth to personal careers or unemployment. Thus, government is not simply evidence-based but incorporates medieval pastoral power – following Foucault, or the market reflects an invisible hand which is equally providential as it is economic – drawing on Agamben’s theological genealogy. By combining key ideas and figures from cultural sociology and governmentality studies, our approach allows us to trace the ‘production of meaning’ – how cultural models are deployed to decipher meaning in even arbitrary events, shape identities continuously and give direction and purpose to social and economic life.

Keywords:   Archaic Anthropology, genealogy, governmentality, cultural sociology, economic theology

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