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Society / Culture

Tsukiji: The Fish Market at the Center of the World

(University of California Press 2004)

Theodore C. Bestor

This book is an ethnography of the Tsukji fish market in Tokyo.
It offers a detailed account of the economic trends, the political constraints and incentives, the consumer preferences and the whole complex web of social activities that support this typical and necessary organization.
Of it the author has said: “Corporations, cartels, and markets should be of as much interest to anthropologists as communities or clans.
The critical issues of organizing social relations around production, exchange, and consumption—activities that determine ownership, distribute surpluses,
legitimate property rights, and structure access to common resources—are of no less anthropological significance than the study of a moiety.”
Here Bestor has carried out his extensive fieldwork.
What most interests him is how economic transactions are embedded in social institutions and how markets are as much about social and cultural trends as they are about pure economics.
The ideas that organize Bestor’s book are here used to define a Japanese food industry which is no more or no less socially embedded than any other complex economic institution in any other society.
Tsukiji is a study through which we can gain an understanding as to how culture can influence the patterns of economic activity.

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