The Social Dimensions of Economic Activity in Melanesia


Author/s (editor/s):

Timothy Sharp

Publication year:


Publication type:

In Brief

The way people produce, transact, arrange and remunerate labour, distribute, accumulate, possess, and consume is shaped by their social context. Whether in Melbourne or Moresby, the economic is not a separate domain upon which social considerations impinge, but is always embedded within social structures and relationships particular to a place. This is evident in how Melanesians have engaged with cash-earning activities.

Local engagements are diverse, but all have reconfigured and reinterpreted introduced ideas, practices and institutions through local practices and understandings (McCormack and Barclay 2013). This means, for instance, that although people are buying and selling, they cannot be assumed to subscribe to the same principles, or possess the same motivations, considerations and challenges as small business in Australia (Curry 2005). This In Brief points to the diverse influences on people's efforts to earn money in Melanesia, and emphasises that understanding these influences is an important starting point for development interventions aimed at improving livelihoods and cultivating entrepreneurship.

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