Petty Capitalists and Globalization

Flexibility, Entrepreneurship, and Economic Development

Edited by Alan Smart & Josephine Smart

Subjects: Social Change, Economy And Society, Anthropology
Series: SUNY series in Anthropological Studies of Contemporary Issues
Paperback : 9780791464007, 325 pages, January 2006
Hardcover : 9780791463994, 325 pages, March 2005

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations

1. Introduction
Alan Smart and Josephine Smart

2. Petty Production: The Enduring Alternative
Hill Gates

3. Movers and Fixers: Historical Forms of Exploitation and the Marketing of a Regional Economy in Spain
Gavin Smith and Susana Narotzky

4. Flexibility for Whom?: Small-Scale Garment Manufacturing in Rural Mexico
Frances Abrahamer Rothstein

5. Capitalism from Below?: Small Firms, Petty Capitalists, and Regional Transformations in Eastern Europe
Adrian Smith

6. Global Market and Local Concerns: Petty Capitalists in the Brianza
Simone Ghezzi

7. They Were Promised a Rosegarden: Reunification and Globalization in Small- and Medium-size Firms in Eastern Germany
Hans Buechler and Judith-Maria Buechler

8. New Firm Formation and Technical Upgrading in the Taiwanese Semiconductor Industry: Is Petty Commodity Production Still Relevant to High-Technology Development?
Jinn-yuh Hsu

9. Toward A (Proper) Postwar History of Southeast Asian Petty Capitalism: Predation, the State, and Chinese Small Business Capital in Malaysia
Donald M. Nonini

10. Labor Standard Regulation and the Modernization of Small-Scale Carpet Production in Kathmandu Nepal
Tom O'Neill

11. Fair(er) Trade for the Global Markets: Capitalizing on Work Alternatives in Crafts in the Rural Philippines
B. Lynne Milgram

12: The Moral Significance of Petty Capitalism
Michael Blim


List of Contributors


Examines how small firms, like large ones, are mobilizing to compete in a global economy.


Globalization is often seen as driven by large corporations and supranational organizations. Enterprises operated by petty capitalists may be small, but there is nothing petty about their significance for the operation of economies or our understanding of contemporary societies, families, and localities. Petty Capitalism and Globalization uses ethnographic research to examine how small firms in Europe, Asia, and Latin America have been compelled to operate and compete in a fast-moving transnational economic environment. From Nepalese rug makers to German bakers to Taiwanese memory chip designers, these fascinating case studies delve into the complex situation of petty capitalists, often ambiguously situated between capital and labor, cooperation and exploitation, family and economy, tradition and modernity, friends and competitors. Understanding the position of petty capitalists in a global economy provides lessons in the potential and limitations of promoting small firms and entrepreneurship as a route to sustainable development.

Alan Smart and Josephine Smart are Professors of Anthropology at the University of Calgary. Alan Smart is the author of Making Room: Squatter Clearance in Hong Kong. Josephine Smart is the author of The Political Economy of Street Hawkers in Hong Kong and the coeditor (with Martha W. Rees) of Plural Globalities in Multiple Localities: New World Borders.