Comparative Studies in Society and History

Coin of the Realm

The Value of Coins in a Sakalava Polity: Money, Death, and Historicity in Mahajanga, Madagascar

Michael Lambek a1
a1 University of Toronto


In these remarks Durkheim presages both Mauss's influential discussion of total facts (Mauss 1966) and Bloch's significant analysis of the way human supplicants produce the blessing they subsequently receive from Merina royalty in central Madagascar (Bloch 1989). Not unconnected are the ideas of two of the most influential thinkers on economy. That religion is a human construction whose objects come to appear as autonomous living beings to those who worship them provided a touchstone for Marx's analysis of commodity fetishism (1977). And Polanyi's formulation of the embedded economy (1968) resonates with Durkheimian and Maussian conceptions of the social whole.