From Status to Contract Revisited

Using Henry Sumner Maine's text Ancient Law as a starting point, this article theorizes the relation between value, circulation, subjectivity and temporality. Merging the interactional framework of Erving Goffman with the political economy of Karl Marx, it introduces a metalanguage for describing transformations in subjectivity that occurred with the transition to capitalist modernity. In doing so, it unites the foundational concerns of British social anthropology (with its attention to modality, or permission and obligation) and Boasian cultural anthropology (with its attention to meaning, or signification and interpretation). And, with this unification, it seeks to illuminate transformations in social relations underlying emergent forms of contract.