2021 12, Scales of Observation, Dominique Desjeux, Oxford University Press


Scales of Observation

videos on scales of observation:

american video on scales of observation revisited by Dominique Desjeux: https://vimeo.com/359823108

Chinese scales of observation: https://vimeo.com/359820705

Scales of Observation

English translation by Jacqueline Victor

and Suzanne Kobine-Roy : https://tinyurl.com/kobineroy

Suzanne Kobine-Roy suzanne@in-other-words.cc

French Translation/traduction française

Dominique Desjeux


One of the particularities of applied anthropology is working on demand, and performing research on demand requires changing fields constantly. This diversity of fields has led to an awareness in applied anthropology that the focal point of observation varies from study to study, and that depending on the particular scope or découpage,  researchers do not see the same thing. This is the scales-of-observation method with its four empirical principles as follows. 1) What one observes at one scale vanishes at another scale. 2) The causes explaining actors’ behavior vary based on the scale of observation; they can stem from situational effects, meaning effects, or suggest statistical correlation. 3) Knowledge acquired at one scale is complementary and cumulative with that of other scales of observation. However, they cannot be fused into a single, global description. Indeed, while reality is continuous, observation between the “macro” and the “micro” is discontinuous. Discontinuity stems from the importance of the situational effects in anthropology and organizational sociology. These two approaches are most often centered on the interactions among actors operating under situational constraints. All generalizations are thus limited to scales pertaining to the same type of causality. 4) Part of the conflict among schools, among disciplines, or among professions regarding explanations for human behavior and changes within a community, an organization, a society, or an individual can most often be explained by different choices in the scale of observation. The scales-of-observation method is a mobile tool of knowledge founded on the anthropological practice of the cultural detour, in this case scientific cultures. It is an inductive epistemological theory on the variability of the explanatory causes of human behavior and falls under methodological relativism. Consequently, the scales-of-observation method is also a tool of negotiation among actors who are collectively involved in a project of social change, but with contradictory interests or objectives.

Keywords: scales of observation, situation, constraint, meaning, interaction, correlation, induction, method, causality, discontinuity, applied anthropology, epistemology, methodological relativism, negotiation

The question of scales of observation was born from a practical problem that I encountered in the 1970s while carrying out contract studies of rural development projects in Madagascar and the Republic of the Congo. It has since become a theoretical question that allows us to think differently not only about the differences among the diverse schools of anthropological thought that end in -ism (e.g., evolutionism, diffusionism, Marxism, functionalism, structuralism), but also about negotiations with public or private clients to secure funding for anthropological studies on business innovation processes, the daily life of consumers, urban problems, mobility practices, disability issues, new communications technologies, or working conditions on factory floors.

The Methodological Relativism of Scales of Observation: Explaining How Study Results Can Be Simultaneously Contradictory and Valid

Between 1971 and 1975, I led a field study on a development project for rice-growing in the Central Highlands of Madagascar. The project sought to introduce several agricultural innovations: planting rice in straight rows, which was a new practice relative to traditional customs; use of the rotary hoe, which allowed faster weeding between the rows of rice; and use of NPK (nitrogen–phosphorous–potassium) fertilizer, which increased rice yields. Starting from the point of view of the organization responsible for implementing these innovations and for producing a result that led to an increased use of fertilizer, I concluded that the rural farmers were subject to domination and had little choice about whether to adopt or reject these innovations. They were forced to abandon their subsistence economy to enter the market economy. But this study was only marginally centered on the farmers, who were like a “black box” within the process of innovation. When focusing on “bureaucracy,” domination became the primary explanation for the change in this agrarian society.

            In the Republic of the Congo, between 1975 and 1979, I opened this “black box” and observed that, on the contrary, the farmers were strategic actors with sufficient room to maneuver that they could reinterpret the objectives of the agricultural project. This project sought to develop market gardening in the lowlands of the Pool region. Instead, the farmers cultivated manioc, which was not anticipated at the outset of the project. Based on this new scope, the farmers’ ability to maneuver within the system was more explanatory than the effects of domination.

            I thus discovered that the results differ depending on the scope chosen for a study. The scoping of social reality is thus decisive for the way in which the observed phenomenon is decoded in terms of domination, margin of maneuver, or freedom. For a business seeking to understand its consumers, a government seeking to establish public policy, or a non-governmental organization (NGO) developing a new service to aid a population, selecting the scale of observation is thus also strategic.

            Later, through numerous qualitative studies undertaken in Africa, France, the United States, Brazil, and China, whether for businesses, administrations, or NGOs, I discovered that the more I selected a macrosocial scale, the more I observed the effects of societal or institutional domination, and the more I focused on the individual, the more I observed freedom. At the intermediate scales of observation, I observed margins of maneuver, which is to say situations in which the actors were neither entirely free, nor entirely dominated, but rather acted under situational constraints. If one continues to reduce the scale to more and more micro levels, one notes that freedom disappears and gives way to biological or chromosomal determinations.

            Paradoxically, all of these observations are true: within social reality, one can observe either domination, of forms of determinism or social consistencies, or margins of maneuver, or freedom, but not all three at the same time. Metaphorically, we recall the Heisenberg principle in quantum physics, which states that one cannot simultaneously observe both the position and the speed of a particle, but that its mass remains constant. In other words, we cannot observe all of the elements of social reality at once, but the observed reality remains the same. The results of the observation and their interpretation thus depend first on the chosen scale of observation and then, but only then, on the choice of a “determinist” theory or one of free will. The term determinist is placed in scare quotes because in the human and social sciences determinism does not truly exist, unlike in physical laws.

            What is most complicated to understand about the methodological approach in terms of scales of observation in the human and social sciences, is that the theoretical model depends upon the scope selected by the social anthropologist, whether a researcher or a professional. Theory is not absent, but it becomes a dependent variable of the observation, contrary to what is most often taught in the academic world. This is not to say that the theories are wrong, but rather that their interpretive scope is limited by the scale of observation at which they were constructed. In a sense, all theories are true, provided that the data were rigorously collected. This is why they are more cumulative than antagonistic, if one accepts that it is not possible to analyze social realities ranging from the geopolitical to the individual level in one single explanatory gesture, and thus that no one theory is generalizable to all human behaviors.

When starting a qualitative field study, we do not know where we are nor where we are going within the social phenomenon we are exploring. All we have is a cognitive frame through which we discover only that this phenomenon comprises social actors who are interacting under material, social, and symbolic constraints. By interviewing these actors, step by step we discover the perimeter of their system of action. This perimeter is the scope—the découpage of the social phenomenon—which has been framed by the observer . If the perimeter changes at the same scale of observation, the scope changes. Changing the scale of observation also changes the scope. Social interactions fade into individuals when narrowing the observation, or into social classes, cultures and society as a whole when enlarging the scope, the “decoupage,” and so the interpretation of reality.

            There is no global approach. There are only generalizations limited to a scale of observation. This means that if reality forms a whole, the observation of this reality is discontinuous. It also means that the causal explanation shifts according to the scale. These two conclusions are often very difficult to accept because they clash with the need for coherence and command of reality that each of us has within us. Conversely, with a scales-based approach, we can accept that we did not see everything and that our colleagues or competitors have seen things that are just as interesting, but with a different “decoupage”. The advantage is that this method justifies multidisciplinary approaches and allows for pragmatic negotiations in order to solve the problems put to anthropologists. It also means that absolute truth does not exist, rather there is only a limited truth under methodological constraints. To accept that truth is limited, and not absolute, while remaining verified and rigorous, is what enables negotiation and thus cooperation and action.

From Levels of Observation to Scales of Observation: Demonstrating the Discontinuities of Observation and Causal Variability

It is not very difficult to understand that when one shifts the level of observation, whether moving from the individual to the family, from the family to the organization, or the organization to social class, the content of the observation changes. In 1950 in his book La vocation actuelle de la sociologie, the French sociologist Georges Gurvitch had already shown that there exist levels of social reality of varying depth. However, what one observes at one level vanishes from the field of observation when one changes levels, as is shown in Ray & Charles Eames’ film Power of Ten (1977).[i]

            However, it is a classic methodological error to think that if one conducts observations at the individual level and does not observe social classes, then these latter do not exist. The scales-of-observation approach demands agnosticism and the acceptance that not seeing something does not mean it does not exist. By changing the level of observation or the découpage of a given level, a phenomenon that is invisible at the individual level can be become visible at the collective level. The dominated farmer can become a strategic actor by shifting the angle of observation.

            On the other hand, it is more difficult to accept that a variable that was independent at the macrosocial scale becomes a variable that is dependent upon the situation and behavior of actors at the meso and microsocial scales. The main difference between a levels-of-observation or stages approach (Gurvitch, 1950) [ii] and a scales-of-observation approach is that a levels approach supposes that there exists a continuity in the observation of the real and that causality does not change. For the levels-of-observation approach, the causal indicator comes from demonstrating correlations that can be revealed as is done in quantitative studies or the experimental sciences. In this case, the results of the experiment are combined with a formula such as “all else being equal,” meaning in the strict sense of “extra-situational.”

            Conversely, the scales approach shows that continuity does not exist in the observation of the real, starting from the microindividual scale of people, subjects, or individuals, all the way up to the macrosocial scale of social and cultural belonging, macroeconomics, or geopolitics. At the intermediary meso and microsocial scales, the situational effect becomes the independent variable that provides an explanation for the behavior of actors in interactive situations and under material, social, and symbolic constraints, as will be explained below. This passage from a causality derived from an extra-situational correlation to a causality deduced from a situational effect under constraints explains why it is not possible to observe social reality in a continuous manner. Extra-situational consistency and intra-situational reality cannot be observed simultaneously because that means that for me the regime of causation is discontinuous.

            Conventionally, because the scales do not exist in and of themselves, four major types of scales of observation can be distinguished in the human and social sciences. The choice of scale is tied to the choice of information-gathering technique, such as the interview, the questionnaire, observation, or laboratory experimentation. The macrosocial scale is that of geopolitics, great social divides, cultural areas, or opinion polls. The microindividual scale is focused on the individual, on his or her cognitive biases, motivations, or subconscious. Located between these two is the mesosocial scale, which describes large organizations and systems of collective action, and also the microsocial scale, which describes actors interacting in the domestic sphere and in places of work, leisure, and shopping. While it is possible to make connections between the macrosocial and microindividual scales, as economists do when they postulate that a macroeconomic effect results from an aggregation of cost–benefit analyses made by individuals on the basis of a price signal, it is impossible to give a continuous description that would begin with social class, pass through familial organizations and systems of action, and end with the individual in order to show the entire concrete chain of causalities.

            This epistemological conclusion regarding the discontinuity of observation and the diversity of causalities stems from the concrete constraints of field observation, which is to say from all productions of social knowledge based on a collection of empirical data. If observation ceases to be the central practice, then the question of scales disappears. The “true” risks being replaced by “the Truth.” Single causality replaces multicausality. Reality becomes univocal, which eliminates all ambivalent dimensions, or in other words all the tensions and contradictions of social life.

The Macrosocial Scale: The Effects of Social Belonging and Extra-situational Correlations

On the macrosocial scale, individual people and the collective behaviors of actors are not visible. This scale of statistical inquiry seeks consistencies by crossing independent variables, such as income, level of education, city size, age, or gender, with dependent variables such as political opinions, consumer behavior, or values.

            It was using this scale of observation that Emile Durkheim (1858–1917), one of the principal founders of sociology in the late 19th century, was able to show a correlation between suicide rates and belonging to a more or less cohesive Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish community, without calling upon the personal suffering of the individual as an explanation. He showed that the more anomic the group, the higher the suicide rate, which at the time, was the case for Protestants in the late 19th century. His explanation considered neither the loss of meaning for the individual, nor the social interactions that could have led to suicide. His explanation was true even though it did not take into account all of the possible dimensions of suicide, to which we could add highly micro effects, such as biology or even genetic heredity, that are correlated with depressive and suicidal behaviors.

            In many countries, a correlation has been shown to exist between lower middle-class status and obesity. A lack of purchasing power is the cause that explains why underprivileged populations are unable to buy nutritious food. In 2018 in France, consumers of organic food had higher levels of education and income than those who did not consume organic products.

            The macrosocial scale allows us to see the four major divisions that organize all human groups from an anthropological perspective, and whose forms or expressions vary according to the history and culture of each society: divisions of (i) social class or social strata, (ii) gender or sex, (iii) generation or age, and finally (iv) cultures, whether political, religious, or ethnic. These divisions can signal a simple description of the differences that structure every society. They can also serve to describe moments of social and political tension, as in the case of the yellow vests (gilets jaunes) in France in 2019 (Desjeux, 2019).

            Depending on the era and the history of each society, social conflicts are organized around differences in social class (or social strata), gender, such as with feminism or anti-gay movements, generation (or age, or cycle of life), or culture (political, religious, or ethnic) tied to values and meaning, notably during periods of mounting racism. The term “culture” is itself an intercultural term. In the United States, culture often means what in Great Britain and France is described as social. As Gillian Tett writes in her 2015 book The Silo Effect: “In the United States [conducting research on the marital practices of the Tajik] is known as cultural anthropology. In the UK, it is known as social anthropology.” This is also what Denys Cuche (2010) shows in his book La notion de culture dans les sciences sociales.

            When these divisions become conflictual, and we should remember that they are not permanently so, they can significantly affect the development or, on the contrary, the decline of some markets. In France in 2019, for example, the sporting goods company Decathlon had to abandon the idea of selling a Muslim headscarf for female runners, under pressure from a segment of public opinion, particularly French women opposed to the hijab, which for them symbolized male domination. In reality, while the domination may exist, it does not account for all practices of wearing the veil (Silhouette-Dercourt et al., 2019).[iii]

            At the macrosocial scale of observation, we presume that individual behaviors are organized according to effects of social belonging and thus by societal effects such as the domination of an individual by a “social system,” a “dispositif,” an institution, or a social group, or by consistencies between a practice and one of these four effects of belonging. It is important to understand that each scale allows for the production of truth. It is not because a scale tends more toward the micro, and thus toward what one might think of as greater precision, or more toward the macro, which seems reductive to some, that it is more or less accurate. On the other hand, depending on the problem one poses, one scale can be more explanatory or more pertinent than another. The scales approach poses as much the question of the scale of production of information and knowledge as the question of the actors’ position at the time of receipt and when the results of the anthropological study are presented.

            The pertinence of a piece of information produced at a given scale varies according to the position of the actors who will use it. The strategy directors of a company may be more interested in statistical data for understanding trends in their market than in anthropological data centered on the use of products in kitchens or bathrooms. Those data are far too “micro” in relation to the problems that they are trying to solve. Conversely, a salesperson will likely be less interested in statistical data pertaining to the macrosocial scale than in microindividual, psychological data that would enable them to acquire techniques for persuading customers (Beauvois and Joule, 1987),[iv] such as, for example, the fear of missing out (announce limited stocks), the importance of free gifts (promise free shipping for online shopping), and the credible expert (include characters in white coats in an advertisement to signify scientificity).

The Microindividual Scale: the Person or Subject, Cognitive Psychology, Motivations, the Psychoanalytic Subconscious, Rationality, or “Incoherence” in Economics

Most corporate clients who work with anthropologists trained as engineers, doctors, architects, or as executives in elite business schools. They are therefore accustomed to macrosocial statistical studies aimed at quantifying phenomena and identifying frequency. The truth is associated solely with quantified and numerical results.

            They are also more or less familiar with experimental research methods, one of the principles of which is to research a variable that explains the occurrence or variation of phenomena. To measure the effect of nitrogen on crop yield, an engineer will vary the quantity of nitrogen applied to several strips of identical land in which the quantities of phosphate and potassium remain constant, thereby identifying the optimal quantity of nitrogen needed to increase yield. This is only an example, of course, because today experimental research is largely done using probabilistic simulation software or Big Data and using much more inductive and exploratory methods.

            For these methods, the situational effect is not taken into account, which is what makes them appealing, but also limited. In a laboratory, we can show what quantity of nitrogen is most efficient for increasing yields, but if a study is conducted in the field rather than a laboratory, as was done in Thailand, it becomes possible to show that low yields are above all due to the presence of predators eating the young rice shoots.

            In particular, and more in western countries than in oriental countries such as China, many clients implicitly draw upon a psychological and individual model. This model is based on explaining human behaviors according to motivations, economic rationality, sensoriality, emotions, values, or cognitive bias.

            Cognitive psychology, for example, has identified a number of biases such as the “law of series,” which is believed by many people who play the lottery or games of chance, as was shown in my anthropological studies conducted for Française des Jeux (Desjeux, 2012).[v]  It is one of the “confirmation biases,” as Gérald Bronner (2007)[vi] reminds us, and it consists of seeing meaning, or a sign of destiny, in a series while forgetting that a great many other possibilities could have existed, because the sample size is forgotten. “The illusion of control” is an important bias that was identified in 1975 by Helen Langer: it is a tendency to overestimate one’s control over chance or over the future (Barrault, 2012).[vii] All of these biases play an important role in individual decisions and decision making, whether involving purchases, marriage, betting, or gift-gifting. Obviously, all of these approaches are pertinent to the microindividual scale of observation, whether the découpage is focused on individual rationality, the subconscious, or cognitive tunnels. This scale also corresponds to the economic psychology theories of George A. Akerlof, 2001 Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences, and Robert J. Shiller, in their book Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy, and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism.[viii] The individual is the observational base unit.

            The causality that is taken into account is that which is internal to the individual, unlike with macrosocial approaches that focus more on the causalities that influence individual behaviors. The aggregate effect of individual decisions is one of the methods used to move from the microindividual scale to the macrosocial scale. Another consists of interviewing individuals to understand their behaviors, or their values, to allow researchers, consultants, or clients to explain results already found at the macrosocial scale. Most of these approaches are more interested in meaning and the ways in which actors represent their actions than in the interactions between actors and the practices they adopt in their daily lives. They are focused on self-image, identity, confidence, or any dimension of import to the individual subject, because a loss of meaning can lead to depression and to suicide, but the explanatory dimension becomes weaker when we change scale to observe organizations’ and institutions’ collective actions that transform individual behaviors into the collective behaviors of actors.

            This collective and interactionist dimension is most often absent from many clients’ mode of reasoning and analysis. They are more interested in the imaginary and symbolic dimensions developed by one branch of anthropology than in power relations among actors or the importance of constraints, which varies according to concrete situations. The imaginary allows them to enchant the world upon which they must act. Anthropological realism indicates the course of action, but without enchanting it.

The Mesosocial and Microsocial Scales: the Focal Point of Anthropological Observation of Actors’ Behavior under Situational Constraints[ix]

The macrosocial and microindividual scales are “fluid” approaches that postulate either that collective actions depend first on individuals and that knowledge of the values, ideas, desires, good reasons, or the emotions of an actor account for their actions, or that individuals are dominated and thus that their behaviors are conditioned by effects of imposition or by habitus, which is to say a form of socialization and thus of society’s imposition on the individual. Habitus accounts for differences in social, cultural, and economic capital and thus in social classes, which I see as occurring at the macrosocial scale. For Pierre Bourdieu, habitus is a social disposition whose unconscious incorporation explains the illusion of freedom (Bourdieu, 1979). These two approaches are absolutely observable in social reality, but we should recall that if we accept the scales-of-observation approach, each is valid only at the scale of observation at which it produces its knowledge. Societal analysis cannot be reduced to either the effects of domination or the effects of individual aggregation; it also encapsulates observing the behaviors of actors as we can at the mesosocial and microsocial scales. These two scales, which fall under the same situational interactionist paradigm, show that there is a sizeable gap between what actors think and what they do, and this gap can be explained by the constraints that intervene between thought and action and that vary according to the situation. The term “situational” is central to the meso- and microsocial scales. It is their main difference from scales based on extra-situational correlation. It is at the heart of Goffman’s demonstration in The Goffman Reader (p. 235 ff.) on “The Interaction Order.” Erving Goffman looks at face-to-face interactions. Strategic analysis expands the concept of interaction to include situations of interaction between groups that do not come face to face as individuals in large organizations.

            The mesosocial scale, that of organizations, and the microsocial scale, that of families and kinship, were separated for practical reasons. These are the two main scales of observation in anthropology. The mesosocial scale originally applied only to studies of large organizations and systems of action including, for example, political and administrative actors, private or community-based lobbying groups, academia, the media, neighborhood communities, or businesses.

            This scale is especially used to analyze how businesses, administrations, or associations function, change, and innovate. The observation relies on the strategic-actor model that originated with Alvin W. Gouldner’s Patterns of Industrial Bureaucracy (1955)[x] in the United States, with Michel Crozier’s Le phénomène bureaucratique (Seuil, 1963)[xi] in France, or with F.G. Bailey’s Stratagems and Spoils for political systems.[xii]

            Put simply, the study involves identifying social actors who are in interaction with one another, from research and development or innovation departments to production to sales and marketing management, or from the CEO all the way to the assembly lines, all under the constraint of the end customer’s distribution and consumption system. Elizabeth Briody provides a good example of an anthropological study on the factory floor of General Motors, where workers seeking to avoid blame produced excess inventory of parts to compensate for delays caused by breakdowns in the production chain (p. 57).[xiii]

            These actors have been organized in “predigital” and digital social networks since the 2000s. Predigital networks are established on the basis of ties that could be familial, ethnic, political, professional, religious, cultural, or educational (among alumni). In his study of Chinese flight crews, Allen Batteau shows how the family serves as a model for managing the relative distance and proximity of members of Chinese and foreign crews. For the Chinese, foreign members will be more complicated to manage, because they are not considered part of the family (Jing and Batteau, 2015).[xiv]

            Oral or digital information circulates within these networks. The control and processing of pertinent information remains one of the strategic elements in the interplay between cooperation and conflict among the actors. In his ethnographic study on technology in the aviation world, Batteau approaches the question of information from the angle of the pilots’ capacity to process a limited quantity of information in order to ensure flight safety. He shows that the problem is the same within nuclear power plants. Too much information blunts the actors’ capacity to react.[xv] This is why a large share of “human errors” have less to do with individual responsibility than with the organizational context in which individuals act (xiv p. 75 ff.).

            For a strategic actor, the objective is to obtain information that is relevant to either furthering or protecting his or her action. The proliferation of digital information, accessible to all, has rendered access to relevant information even more strategic. It is not enough for an actor to be a good programmer, even if this is a strategic skill today, they must also be a good aggregator of information, social networks, and financers, both within and outside the company. A manager who wants to survive in a company needs to obtain a budget from senior management. This is not only the case for start-ups.

            Strategic anthropological studies seek to identify the zones of uncertainty around which relationships of power and cooperation among actors within a company are organized, both internally and externally. Anthropological studies remind us of the importance of conflict in human relations, and that part of this conflict is organized around the control of information. Today, one of the greatest sources of uncertainty is understanding the client or consumer, whether the client is a company, in Business to Business, the end consumer, in Business to Consumer, or between consumers in Consumer to Consumer. The actor who masters this zone of uncertainty has a strong command of the game that organizes the business. Other actors such as management accountants may control the rules of the financial and budgetary game, while others control access to supplies whose cost conditions the cost price of the end product. The important point to remember is that if the situation changes, the play among the actors changes as well.

            If the zone of uncertainty shifts, for example because of a drop in energy costs, a rise in the price of raw materials, or lifestyle changes, then all of the interactions among the actors within the company, and across all business lines from production to distribution, are transformed. The rise of the upper middle class in China, for example, has led to much higher consumption of pork, which has in turn driven an increase in the price of soy, which has led to an increase in the production cost of pork in France, which has in turn impacted the purchasing power of the French lower middle class. These macrosocial changes have major repercussions for business operations, and in particular for the competition among research, innovation, and development divisions, and marketing divisions (Tett, 2015).[xvi]

            This is why, in this strategic approach, values and meaning do exist, but as dependent variables of the situational effect and of the relations of power and conflicts of interest among the actors. Values principally serve to justify the strategies implemented by different groups of actors, or to enchant the managerial reality, often made difficult and stressful by international competition. Analyses based on values, beliefs, vision, or identity stem from a very old anthropological mechanism of liberating from the real constraints of everyday life through the imaginary. The more difficult the reality, the more it becomes necessary to produce a meaning that makes it acceptable, which is possible thanks to two imaginaries, one that is messianic and proclaims a marvelous world to come, such as in advertising (Malefyt and Morais, 2012)[xvii] and in some managerial approaches, the other of which is apocalyptic, as in certain militant political or religious movements and many television series. At these two scales of observation, anthropological studies must continually shift between a realistic world and an imaginary world in order to analyze collective behaviors.

            At the beginning of the 1990s, the strategic approach was applied to systems of domestic action that, depending on the situation, comprised a smaller number of actors belonging to the familial sphere, irrespective of the legal nature of their kinship, notably as regards de facto unions and blended families. In this approach, the different actors—spouses, children, in-laws, grandparents—interact with one another in physical spaces such as the kitchen, living room, bathroom, bedroom, office, yard, or garage, with the existence of these places varying according to the country and household income. A gendered division of tasks can develop around household activities, childcare, odd jobs, or gardening. These activities are made possible by acquiring numerous domestic items in the form of electrical appliances, and in particular the washing machine, which determines the entire organization of family life, and the refrigerator, which transforms the grocery shopping system, as happened in the 1920s in the United States, the 1950s in Western Europe, and the 1990s in the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China). Other items include one or more cars for mobility, a boiler for heating and hot water, and all communication devices from televisions to mobile phones, tablets, and video game consoles, whose use is made possible by ever wider distribution of electricity across the world and thus greater access to the Internet, which has become strategic today.

            Anthropology introduced material culture, logistics, and the energy component as means of analyzing consumption (Miller, 1987).[xviii] Material culture has constituted the basis of most anthropological studies since Malinowski’s work on the Pacific Argonauts (Malinowski, 1922)[xix] or Marcel Mauss’s work on the Eskimo (Mauss, 1923–24).[xx]

            At the microsocial scale, which should not be confused with the microindividual scale which is focused on individuals, even if approximations between the two scales are possible, consumption changes in meaning. It becomes a collective activity. Decisions are no longer limited to individual tradeoffs at a given moment. They become processes within time that are organized around an itinerary with alternative bifurcations between “bricks” and “clicks,” and in which interests and meaning are constantly being negotiated among actors within a familial system, in a pacified or conflictual manner.

            Anthropology’s symbolic dimension is easy for companies to use. Here, the term symbolic refers to the world of representations, of the imaginary, and of values or identity. Conversely, the conflictual dimension mentioned above, though it influences consumer behavior, is very difficult for marketing and communication divisions to reappropriate. Highlighting a conflict could backfire on a company’s image which, from a marketing and communications perspective, must appear positive and without “asperity”. The goal appears to be to accentuate meaning while concealing relations of power and constraints. Reality must be enchanted to foster identification with the brand and with the organization’s identity.

The Itinerary Method: A Method for Understanding the Practices and Processes of Decision Making under Situational Constraints at the Mesosocial and Microsocial Scales

The itinerary method is the result of a double transposition. It was originally constructed on the model of technical agricultural processes, or itineraries, ranging from tilling to sowing, crop treatment, and harvest. The objective was to show that consumption was not limited to the moment of purchase, but was rather the result of a social construction made up of several stages. The second transposition comes from organizational analysis that shows that decisions cannot be reduced to one moment and one sole decider, but are rather a collective and iterative process. Decisions are not linear. The way they unfold varies according to the play of social interactions and what the different actors anticipate. Their rationality is not merely technical, medical, or economic. It also stems from interactions among actors within the domestic sphere, both internal and external to the family. The rationality of a decision follows a subterranean logic, that of the play between actors at the mesosocial and microsocial scales, and that of trends in ways of life and geopolitics at the macrosocial scale.

            The method consists of discovering the triggering event behind a decision-making process for purchasing a good or a service, or any other action at the same scale. This event could be a birthday, a death, a retirement, the approaching weekend, or a domestic appliance breaking. The triggering event partially accounts for what marketing refers to as motivation. This event sets the interplay of familial actors into motion. When tasks are routine, as with weekend trips to the supermarket, little mobilization is required. On the other hand, it can produce highly emotional moments if one of the family members is more directly concerned, such as children at the start of a new school year, when they have to have a new schoolbag of a particular brand, new sneakers, new jeans, or new t-shirts (Desjeux, 1991).[xxi] The triggering-event stage is one of negotiation among family members. It is followed by a stage of online research, which can also precede the triggering event.

            Actors run errands in the car, on foot, on public transportation, by bike, or by scooter, or they have things delivered. The logistical means of transportation in part determines the quantity of goods and products that will be purchased. In the place where the purchase is made, other negotiations can take place among family members.

            Once they are brought home, the objects will be put away in the refrigerator and cupboards. The contents of the refrigerator can serve as a point of analysis for consumer practices. In the United States, there may be many bottles of condiments in the refrigerator door, while in France one will find more bottles of wine, to give a somewhat caricatural example. If the consumption relates to food, the kitchen will play a more or less important role depending on the cultures and the historical traditions of each country. In France and in China, domestic culinary practices remain highly important. The next stage is that of usage or consumption, followed by that of the disposal or recycling of the unused products. All of these unfolding stages, from the triggering event to transportation, purchasing, putting away, using, disposing of, and recycling, can vary according to the products or services and the level of advancement of Internet or mobile phone systems, whether for buying or paying.  

            At each stage, the anthropologist will show that the actors’ behaviors unfold in specific spaces. In the 2000s, the living room was shown to be a strategic room for companies that sold communications technologies, because a large part of communications-related practices took place there. Some of these practices were conflictual, such as access to the television or phone. The introduction of screens on computers and on mobile phones decreased some of the familial conflict surrounding these objects, while increasing the anxiety of some parents who sought to better control their children’s use of screens. The bathroom can be a center of conflict in the morning if one family member spends too much time there when there is a rush to get to school or work. All of this shows that consumption is not limited to the moment of purchase and that the moment of usage is an integral part of the social process, but above all that at every stage of the process, social interactions can transform the decision of whether or not to buy. These decisions operate under material, social, and symbolic constraints.

            These constraints are made evident by observing practices where they are put into action. Observing and describing allow us to make consumption visible as a system of action that integrates the domestic space, mobility, digital practices, and the place of purchase.

The 11 Major Anthropological Constraints that Organize Consumer Behavior and the Spread of Innovations at the Microsocial Scale

Before describing the constraining principles that organize consumer behavior and, beyond consumption, all behaviors relating to everyday life, we should recall that a constraint is as much an impediment to action or purchasing as it is an opportunity. If the situation changes, the constraint can become an opportunity. To give a classic example: wind can be a constraint for a car or a plane in motion and at the same time an opportunity for a sailboat. Constraints or opportunities do not exist in and of themselves. They depend on the situation. They are at the heart of human disability. In French we speak less and less of disabled people, and instead say a person in a situation of disability. The term situation does not remove the physical or mental disability, but it shows that the constraints tied to a disability vary according to whether or not a society takes into account the situation of disability (Desjeux and Desjeux, 2019).[xxii]

            The first five constraints are material. Each individual actor can gain or lose from a change, which accounts for the conflictual dimension of consumption. Each constraint points to a series of questions that have to do with the decision-making systems of the actors.

            Time is the first constraint: does the proposed change cause a certain actor to gain or lose time? The second constraint has to do with space: is the physical space sufficient, or suited to the proposed good or service? A too-small kitchen can limit certain culinary practices. The lack of a garage or an attic can impede home improvement projects. Budget is the third constraint: is the purchase or the change financially tolerable? Price constraints are strongest from the point of view of the most underprivileged classes. The enchantment of advertising has little effect when faced with this constraint. The system of concrete objects is the most anthropological constraint. In field observations, we look at whether a newly acquired item or service will be able to function in the domestic space, and we thus ask whether all of the objects necessary for the use of a particular item are in fact in place in the home.

            For example, if someone wants to buy a frozen product, it is important to ask if that person has a refrigerator and a freezer, plus a special bag to keep the product cold on the way home from the store. This seems obvious in developed countries but is less so in the Global South. Likewise, it is necessary to consider whether the home has access to electricity or running water. In China, where water is not always potable, the system of objects for producing potable water includes the tap for running water, the electric kettle, the hard water filter, the thermos for keeping water warm, and the teapot for making tea. The relative complexity of the system of objects, which requires a certain amount of time in order to produce potable water, accounts in part for the success of bottled water in supermarkets (Desjeux, 2018).[xxiii] One of the outcomes of anthropological studies has been to show that a new product’s chances of success are all the greater when it solves a problem in everyday life. The amount of human energy is the fifth constraint. It is linked to the gender division of tasks, which often but not always places more weight on women’s shoulders.

            The next three constraints are social.

            The sixth, the learning constraint, depends both on other actors, experts, or trainers, and on making an effort to acquire the skills needed to use a new product or service. If a new technology is complicated to learn, it may never be adopted. The question of learning has taken on a greater dimension today with the multiplication of digital applications, platforms, and security codes. Some older people struggle with the accelerated learning of new, constantly changing technologies.

            The seventh constraint is that of group norms. It refers to everything that is prescribed, permitted, or forbidden, implicitly or explicitly, in relation to many practices in everyday life. It is a direct transposition of Claude Lévi-Strauss’s work on kinship, which distinguishes among permitted, prescribed, or forbidden women (Lévi-Strauss, 1949).[xxiv] These norms relate to codes of dress, food, professions, or ethics. Most human behaviors conform to these norms. Conformity is a condition of life in society. However, conformity can also threaten the creativity, and thus the survival, of a society or a group. Transgression is thus necessary. However, transgression can carry a high social cost in the form of rejection and isolation.

            “Predigital” and digital social networks, the eighth constraint, produce social norms that favor, or disfavor, a given change. They are also the conveyors of the information that will be mobilized throughout a decision-making process. They thus play a central strategic role. Social networks represent the basic matrix of the interplay among actors interacting with one another. Depending on whether the social network deems a new consumption or change favorable or unfavorable, its chances of success will be either strong or weak.

            The three final constraints are of a symbolic order, from the domain of representations, the imaginary, and the cognitive. They concern the meaning that actors give to their actions.

            Mental burden is the ninth constraint: does the change or new product increase or decrease the actors’ worries or stress? If the mental burden increases, there is less chance that the change will be adopted. This constraint accounts for one of the difficulties of shifting from economic growth and the adoption of new everyday technologies, such as has occurred in the West for the past two centuries, toward a form of degrowth or deconsumption that would reduce the use of fossil fuels, raw materials, and some food products such as meat, in order to limit global warming. However, in contrast to the adoption of the washing machine, which simplified chores for housewives, eating more vegetables and making one’s own food increases the mental burden of some women who work, who have children, and who are already managing their days under intense time pressure. None of this is unsolvable in the long term, but it explains the concrete difficulties of the energy transition. This type of constraint explains the gap between the favorable opinions of deconsumption in most western countries and the limited practices actually observed.

            The tenth constraint involves personal identity. We can use studies to show whether or not a change threatens masculine or feminine identity, social status, or professional identity. As they say in China, we ask ourselves whether a transformation will cause the actors impacted by the change to “gain or lose face” (面子Miànzi in Chinese). If identity is threatened, it is probable that the change will be met with great resistance.

            The eleventh constraint deals with perceived risks, and thus with the representations and imaginaries that organize actors’ relationships to food, cosmetic products, fossil fuels, new technologies, or many unknown objects, services, and people. An anthropologist cannot judge whether a new medication, food, or cosmetic is harmful to the health or skin. However, it is possible to show that some consumers perceive this product as a risk. Understanding the perception of a risk is important because part of a decision will be based not only on interactions with one’s group of domestic or professional peers, but also according to each person’s perceptions. Following an anthropological study, when a risk perceived by customers or citizens is presented to scientific experts, it is often badly received. They think that this behavior is irrational. One of anthropology’s contributions has been to reveal the social logic of what seems irrational from an economic, technical, or biological perspective at the mesosocial and microsocial scales.

The Diversity of Causalities: Correlation, Situation, and Meaning

If we accept that forms of causality vary according to the scale of observation, this means that several forms of scientificity exist, of which the in vitro experimental sciences are only one among others. Unexpectedly, little by little, the question of scales of observation has brought forth the conditions for a rigorous production of qualitative and inductive studies that do not use correlation, and instead use the observation of constraints and meaning. This question has emerged under the constraint of contracted research. It has been necessary to demonstrate to different clients that qualitative studies can be just as rigorous as quantitative ones, but that their rigor does not fall under the same scientific criteria as those of laboratory experiments or statistical studies, as we will see in the conclusion.

            At the macrosocial scale, causality is constructed on the basis of indicators that are correlations between independent and dependent variables. It brings to light the forces that govern societies, the consistencies that organize them, and the divisions that account for their conflictuality. The subject and the behavior of actors are invisible at this level. Causality is external to social actors.

            At the meso and microsocial scales, causality depends upon the situational effect and the interactions among actors. The situational constraint is the explanatory “variable” of the interplay among actors. There is no correlation. The explanation varies according to the situation. With the constraint, causality is systemic.

            At the microindividual scale, causality is a variable that is more internal to the individual. It has to do with meaning (and motivation or emotion) and cognition, understood as a framework of perception or as a calculation. Causality can pertain to the conscious or subconscious. Causality can depend on correlation in experimental psychology and in the neurosciences. Correlation does not merge with causality, which is never visible. It is the indicator of a causality that can also depend on a hidden variable. In any case, correlation serves as an indicator, as a visible sign of the invisible causality.

            There is no mechanical link among quantitative approaches at the macrosocial scale. The sociologist Max Weber, who analyzed protestant culture at a macrosocial scale, without the behavior of actors, did not use statistical tools (Weber, 1904, 1905).[xxv] In practice, macrosocial approaches are often combined with quantitative approaches. Microindividual approaches can likewise be qualitative or quantitative. However, the mesosocial and microsocial approaches, because of their systemic and interactionist interpretive models (whether this interaction is symbolic as in the Chicago School, or utilitarian as in organizational analysis), make little use of statistical models. On the other hand, it is entirely possible to construct a closed and quantitative questionnaire on the basis of a qualitative study, or to use scales of attitudes.

            There is a subtlety, however. A qualitative analysis that follows a quantitative study in order to explain the meaning of correlations and causality on the basis of interviews is not of the same order as a qualitative analysis undertaken with the aim of ending up with a system of action. This difference explains the discontinuity of observation between the scales. A qualitative study can serve to generate hypotheses in order to construct a quantitative closed questionnaire. Unlike with qualitative exploratory studies, it is not possible to construct a closed questionnaire without forming hypotheses. A quantitative analysis constructed on the basis of a qualitative study will no longer be of the same order as a quantitative study. Its primary objective will be to measure the weight of certain behaviors detected during the qualitative analysis. This is why this kind of quantitative study does not necessarily pertain to the macrosocial scale.

            In a quantitative study, causality pertains to the why, whose indicator is the emergence of a strong correlation. In a qualitative study based on a system of action, causality pertains to the how. The description of the behavior of actors in a given situation allows us to show how each actor behaves and under what constraints. The constraint becomes the causality that explains the behaviors of actors who may conform to or transgress this constraint. If the situation changes, and thus the constraint changes, the actors’ behavior will change. What matters therefore is describing how the situation of social interaction functions.

            Another confusion that arises frequently is confusing the macrosocial with the central level in relation to the local. In reality, the link between a level of central decision-making and a local level belongs in a strategic study of systems of action, and thus to the mesosocial scale. Finally, working at a macrosocial scale should not be confused with having attained a more fundamental level of generalization than at the microsocial scale. It is possible to generalize at every scale. The macrosocial scale, which is focused on large numbers, will emphasize consistencies and determinations. The meso and microsocial scales, which are focused on smaller numbers and singular cases, will generalize the diversity of results and social mechanisms. The impact of a generalization is only valuable within that same scale of observation. It is thus a limited generalization, in comparison with a global generalization that is impossible to attain in the human and social sciences, as is also the case for quantum physics, it seems.

Conclusion: The 10 Rules of Rigor for Qualitative, Inductive, and Applied Studies in Anthropology (Desjeux, 2018)[xxvi]

Rule 1: The inductive qualitative method is only useful if it enables the liberation of thought. If the inductive method impedes reflection, exploration, or transgression, it is better to select another method. It is the opposite of a state-of-the-art review, which more often seeks to verify than to explore. It is more sensitive to the quality of the data presented than to theoretical concepts or a priori definitions. The inductive method allows us to give a semblance of order to the disorder of societies, while respecting the uncertainty of the present and the unpredictability of the future.

            Rule 2: Observation is at the base of the inductive method. Description is a means of exploring reality by virtue of methodological hypotheses in terms of systems of action, itinerary, life cycle effects, or scales of observation. Description, comparison, analogy, intuition, and cross-checking of information constitute the five tools of inductive observation. The key moment of the method is the information gathering, which depends on the information-gathering techniques and the methods for classifying observed facts. It is a cumulative approach that starts with the knowledge acquired through earlier anthropological studies. From an epistemological point of view, this knowledge is partially tied to the “psychology” of the observer. To this are added numerous readings focused on subjects at various scales.

            Rule 3: Reality is continuous, observation is discontinuous. One cannot simultaneously observe practices and representations, meaning and interest, social classes and the individual, the emotional and the rational, correlations and situational effects. There exists no global observation of reality. The inductive approach is an asceticism, because it requires resisting for as long as possible the illusion of an all-powerful control of reality within a single theoretical system. This is why the human sciences are focused on researching the true and not the Truth. There is no knowledge without découpage, and thus without observational bias. In the human sciences, bias is a way of working, while in the experimental sciences it is an obstacle. Abstract logical coherence is not a criteria of the true in the human sciences. Paranoiacs are very coherent, as I was able to observe when working on “sorcery” in the Republic of the Congo in 1975, and on conspiratorial theories of power (Desjeux, 2018, chapter 6).[xxvii]

            Rule 4: All social reality is ambivalent. Every reality includes a negative side and a positive side. They are indissociable, like the Yin and the Yang, Yīn Yáng 阴阳.

            Rule 5: Generalizations about the diversity of practices or customs can only be made in accordance with their occurrence. Qualitatively, the diversity of occurrences is the only proof of the “true” at the meso and microsocial scales. It is thus necessary to avoid any interpretation in terms of frequency, which has no statistical significance given the small qualitative sample size of 20 to 200 people in anthropological studies. A quantified frequency is thus no more true than the diversity of occurrences. It teaches us something different, particularly consistencies outside of the situational effect.

            Rule 6: The anthropological study is comprehensive. It starts from the point of view of the actors in order to understand their practices, their experiences, and the meaning these give them. Implicit social logics are also sought, stakes that go beyond simply the perceptions or lived experiences of the actors. We do not start with an a priori definition. It is a critical approach, which deconstructs part of the spontaneous explanatory models in order to reveal other possible angles of approach. It seeks to objectify without value judgments or condemnation.

            Rule 7: Respect the principle of symmetry of studies. Studies must be conducted on successful projects just as much as on failed projects. The success or failure of an action depends on the constraints of the social network in which it is embedded. Transposing it as a “best practice” into another social universe is thus not self-evident because the situations are not necessarily equivalent. Moreover, the terms “success” or “failure” depend on the point of view of the actors and thus depend on the situation, and on who wins or loses as a result of the change.

            Rule 8: Adopt methodological agnosticism. To be agnostic is to rule out affirming that just because one has not seen something, it does not exist. It means accepting that a phenomenon that is invisible for one observer may be visible and true from another point of view (methodological relativism).

            Rule 9: Accumulate empirical studies. Induction is a clinical method that, in order to be relevant, requires carrying out numerous field studies.

            Rule 10: Practice mobile knowledge. Frameworks of knowledge are embedded in the methods and techniques of information gathering. They function in synergy, following a perpetual movement that constitutes mobile knowledge for which the scales-of-observation method is the basic tool.

            This “epistemological decalogue” outlines open rules that have been formed over the course of studies representing around 150 contracts and about fifty years, and thus many business and epistemological negotiations arguing about the scientificity of qualitative studies. It must be demonstrated that they are useful when they take into account the customs and practices of actors in an organization or a domestic space, along with their imaginaries and the relations of power that organize their decision making. These studies have most often allowed me to explain why such-and-such innovation, project, new product, change, collaborative system, or public policy was not working and how it could work by taking into account some of the 11 constraints constructed in the course of the studies. This is why they enable us to explain a great number of situations, in organizations as much as in the domestic sphere or in the public space of social movements.

            However, it is probable that the challenges we face today will lead us to change our methods and modes of reasoning. We may ask ourselves whether sustainable development, which focuses on saving energy, cutting greenhouse gas production, reducing pollution and the use of rare earth metals, and transforming culinary and dietary behaviors, notably in favor of plant proteins, is already changing the “traditional” process of innovation with which we have been familiar since the middle of the 18th century when the intensive use of carbon first emerged in Great Britain (Pomeranz, 2010).[xxviii]

            If we look at the processes of technological innovation over the past 200 years in agriculture, industry, commerce, and the domestic sphere, which for the most part were not concerned with the environmental consequences of the changes they brought about, we see that innovation meant simplifying usage, saving time, spending less human energy, increasing productivity, and paying less. Yet the transformations that sustainable development requires of companies and consumers are partially in contradiction with these five practices and thus have the potential to transform our entire relationship to the world.

            Applied anthropology represents an opportunity because it has developed a competency, the ability to take detours through unknown lands, and thus a capacity to explore problems in the absence of any bearings or ready-made solutions. 

Further Reading

Barney G. Glaser, Anselm A. Strauss, 2010, Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research, Armand Colin
Belk Rusell, Sobh Rana, “No assemblage required: On pursuing original consumer culture theory”, First Published November 9, 2018, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1470593118809800 

Boudon Raymond, 1973, L’inégalité des chances. La mobilité sociale dans les sociétés industrielles, A. Colin

Bourdieu Pierre, 1979, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, Minuit

Bronner Gerald, 2007, L’Empire de l’erreur. Éléments de sociologie cognitive, PUF

Crozier Michel, 1964, The Bureaucratic Phenomenon, University of Chicago Press

Desjeux Dominique , 2018, The Anthropological Perspective of the World. The inductive method illustrated, Peter Lang

Goffman Erving, 1974, Interaction Ritual: Essays on Face-to-Face Behavior , Minuit

Frankopan Peter, 2015, The Silk road. A New History of the World, Bloomsbury

Firenstein Stuart, 2012, Ignorance. How It Drives Science, Oxford University Press

Marks Robert B., 2007, The Origins of the Modern World. A Global and Ecological Narrative from the Fifteenth to the Twenty-first Century, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

Noris Pippa, Inglehart Ronald, 2014, Sacred and Secular. Religion and Politics Worldwide, 2004, Editions de l’université de Bruxelles

Sherry John F., 1995, Contemporary Marketing and Consumer Behavior: An Anthropological Sourcebook, SAGE Publications Inc

Vellinga Pier, 2013, Le changement climatique, mythes, réalités et incertitudes, Ed. Université de Bruxelles

Wallendorf Melannie, Arnould Eric J., « We Gather Together »: Consumption Rituals of Thanksgiving Day, JOURNAL OF CONSUMER RESEARCH, Inc, Vol. 18. June 1991

Zaccai Edwin, 2019, Deux degrés. Les sociétés face aux changements climatiques, Les Presses de Sciences Po 

[i] https://www.ux-republic.com/powers-of-ten-lincontournable-film-couple-eames/ (1977 film about changes in the level of reality)

[ii] For an in-depth look at stages, see Georges Gurvitch’s 1950 book, La vocation actuelle de la sociologie, PUF

[iii] Silhouette-Dercourt Virginie, Saidou Sy Ousseynou, Desjeux Dominique, “Cosmopolitan veiling in Paris: young French Muslim women in transition”, Youth and Globalization

[iv] Beauvois Jean-Léon, Joule Robert Vincent, 1987, Petit traité de manipulation à l’usage des honnêtes gens, PUG

[v] http://www.argonautes.fr/2012-11-d-desjeux-comment-apprivoiser-le-hasard/   

[vi] Bronner Gérald, 2007, L’empire de l’erreur. Éléments de sociologie cognitive, PUF

[vii] Cited by Barrault Servane, 2012, Études des distorsions cognitives, des troubles anxiodépressifs et de la personnalité chez des joueurs pathologiques en ligne, doctoral thesis in psychology, University of Paris Descartes.

[viii] Akerlof George A., Shiller Robert J., 2009, Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy, and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism, Princeton University Press

[ix] PowerPoint on the itineraries and scales methods: https://consommations-et-societes.fr/2004-d-desjeux-introducing-anthropology-of-consumption/ 

[x] Gouldner Alvin W., 1955, Patterns of Industrial Bureaucracy, Routledge

[xi] Crozier Michel, 1964, The Bureaucratic Phenomenon, University of Chicago Press

[xii] Bailey F. G., 2001, Strategems and Spoils. A Social Anthropology of Politics, Westview

[xiii] Briody Elizabeth, Trotter II Robert T, Meerwarth Tracy L., 2010, Transforming Culture. Creating and Sustaining A Better Manufacturing Organization, Palgrave Macmillan

[xiv] Jing Hung-Sying, Batteau Allen W., 2015, The Dragon in the Cockpit. How Western Aviation Concepts Conflict with Chinese Value Systems, Routledge

[xv] Batteau Allen W., 2010, Technology and Culture, Waveland Press

[xvi] Cf Telt Gillian, 2015, The Silo Effect. Organization Needs to Disrupt Itself to Survive, Abacus

[xvii] On the link between advertising and anthropology cf. De Waal Malefyt Timothy, Moray Robert J., 2012, Advertising and Anthropology, Bloomsbury Publishing

[xviii] Miller Daniel, 1987, Material Culture and Mass Consumption, Blackwell

[xix] Malinowski Bronislaw, 1922  Argonauts of the Western Pacific: An Account of Native Enterprise and Adventure in the Archipelagoes of Melanesian New Guinea, Routledge and Kegan Paul)

[xx] Mauss Marcel, 1923-1924, « Essai sur le don. Forme et raison de l’échange dans les sociétés archaïques, » l’Année Sociologique

[xxi] Desjeux Dominique, 1991, « La place de la prescription de l’enfant dans le comportement d’achat alimentaire des parents, » Économie et Gestion, no. 19 April 1991

[xxii] Cf. study on disability and consumption, Dominique Desjeux, Cyril Desjeux. Video: https://vimeo.com/464128625  

[xxiii] Desjeux Dominique, Ma Jingjing, 2018, “The Enigma of Innovation: Changing Practices of Nonalcoholic Beverage Consumption in China”, in McCaby Maryann, Briody Elizabeth K. (eds.), Cultural Change From A Business Perspective, Lexington Books. In the UK one uses the term social anthropology and in the United States, the term cultural anthropology. Social and cultural mean close to the same thing here. In French on the other hand, the term cultural designates values and representations that do not reference social practices or relations.

[xxiv] Lévi-Strauss Claude, 1949, Les structures élémentaires de la parenté, PUF

[xxv] Weber Max, Protestant ethics and the spirit of capitalism

[xxvi] Desjeux Dominique , 2018, The Anthropological Perspective of the World.The inductive method illustrated Peter Lang

[xxvii] Cf. witchcraft in the Congo and today, the conspiracy theories of power

[xxviii] Pomeranz Kenneth, 2000, The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy, Princeton University Press



  • Applied Anthropology