Gillian Tett’s Anthro-Vision

I would struggle to find a book that I could recommend more wholeheartedly than Gillian Tett’s recently published Anthro-Vision: How Anthropology Can Explain Business and Life

Tett has a stellar reputation as a financial journalist, not least built on her prescience in being one of the few to foresee the financial crash of 2008. Anthro-Vision explains how her background in Social Anthropology facilitated this insight, together with a number of others, some of them of similar significance. Tett’s great strength is her ability to stand back from economic and financial events and to see them in a much broader interpretive context than her peers, a context that encompasses a wide range of human behaviour patterns, and is not constrained by the disciplinary dogmas of economics and finance. In a nutshell, she suggests that looking at things as though one were a Martian (a Martian social anthropologist, at that!) is frequently a better way of understanding human behaviour, institutions and affairs. I couldn’t agree with her more.

[ Here’s a confession, and, perhaps, an indication of confirmation bias. In the decade leading up to the 2008 crash I was taking very little notice of financial and economic matters. I spent a lot of time online, but it was all in pursuit of my artistic and musical interests. I would look at a lot of USA-based websites and frequently see advertisements for mortgage loans where low income or poor to non-existent credit ratings were no barrier to progress – indeed, compromised credit status was often a key selling point. I took little notice, except to think, fleetingly in passing, ‘That can’t really be,’ or ‘That’ll end in tears’. I was right, but I was too preoccupied to take my own advice: you see, for some years I had been urging friends confronted by inexplicable phenomena such as this to adopt the approach of an imaginary social anthropologist from Zeta Reticuli. So, the big difference between me and Gillian Tett? My social anthropologist comes from much further afield, that’s all… ]

Tett’s success at the FT has seen her become chair of the editorial board and editor-at-large, USA – a just reward for her insightful work. Right now she is leading the FT’s adjustment to a re-orientation in the world of finance: the Moral Money initiative that seeks to make the FT ‘The trusted destination for news and analysis about the fast-expanding world of socially responsible business, sustainable finance, impact investing, environmental, social and governance (ESG) trends, and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.’ After reading Anthro-Vision, you may be impressed by her ability to think ahead of the curve. Moral Money is yet more evidence of this.

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