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Wealth

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Wealth usually refers to money and property under the control of a single individual person[?], immediate family[?] or cohesive extended family. The use of the word itself assumes some socially-respected means of identifying funds or lands as "belonging to" someone, i.e. a broadly accepted notion of property and a means of protection of that property that can be invoked with minimal (or, ideally, no) effort and expense on the part of the owner. Concepts of wealth tend to vary drastically among hominid societies.

Anthropology characterizes societies in part due to concepts of wealth and power, which protects wealth by definition:

Michel Foucault commented on this evolution of ideas in the context of Man as a concept, arguing that "before the 18th century, Man did not exist." The shift from the field called analysis of wealth to the one called first political economy and then just economics, took place as a result of the Enlightenment cultural bias that wealth was an objective fact of living as a human being in a society. The neoclassical economics in particular had the effect of convincing many that economics was in fact a social science and not a set of means of persuasion as it had always been assumed to be in prior eras - self-interested arguments by the powerful why they should remain in power. In The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli had commented in that earlier era on the prudent use of wealth, and the need to tolerate some cruelty and vice in the use of it, in order to maintain appearances of strength and power. Jane Jacobs later offered the observation that there were two different moral syndromes[?] that were common attitudes to wealth and power, and that the one more associated with guardianship[?] did in fact require a degree of ostentacious conspicuous consumption if only to impress others.

This logic is almost entirely absent from neoclassical economics, which in its extreme form argues for the abolition of any political economy apart from the service markets[?] wherein favours may be bought and sold at will, including political ones - the so-called political choice theory popular in the U.S.A.. While it is entirely likely that such assumptions apply in the subcultures that dominate modern discourse on technical economics[?] and especially macroeconomics, the less technical notions of wealth and power that are implied in the older theories of economics and ideas of wealth, still continue as daily facts of life, as home economics and as family values[?].

The 21st century view is that many definitions of wealth itself can exist and continue to co-exist, however prejudiced by a particular money supply and banking system. Measuring well-being is a difficult process but many believe it possible - human development theory being devoted to this. For more on the modern notions of wealth and their interaction see the article on political economy, and for broader ideas consult the list of economics articles and list of ethics articles which put wealth notions in context.

See also: poverty



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