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Money and the Morality of Commensuration: Currencies of Poverty in Post-Soviet Cuba

Holbraad, M; (2017) Money and the Morality of Commensuration: Currencies of Poverty in Post-Soviet Cuba. Social Analysis , 62 (4) pp. 81-97. 10.3167/sa.2017.610406. Green open access

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Abstract

Based on ethnographic research in Havana over the past two decades, this article examines how Cubans’ experience of poverty, or ‘need’, is linked to the increasing dollarization of the Cuban economy. Dollars, I argue, are not just the emblem of a new moral disorder, but also its main catalyst, inasmuch as they expand the realm of ‘need’, as defined by a socialist paradigm of consumption rooted in the era before the introduction of the dollar, by stripping it of its (socialist) moral essence through acts of quantitative commensuration. This account of Cubans’ experience of poverty since the end of the Soviet era, I suggest, provides more general insights about the power of the money form itself as a catalyst of moral transformation

Type: Article
Title: Money and the Morality of Commensuration: Currencies of Poverty in Post-Soviet Cuba
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.3167/sa.2017.610406
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.3167/sa.2017.610406
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Commensuration; Cuba; dual currency; money; morality; poverty; quantification; socialism
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10042795
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