In the European conversation about the diversity of social forms, the Scottish Enlightenment’s use of the four-stages theory was a critical moment. Smith worked to close this conversation by contrasting the poverty of the savage with the abundance and therefore unquestionable superiority of modern commerce. But such conversation resists closure, as we have seen. For Smith, the savage serves also as a critical mirror, revealing a wound that tainted his providential optimism. Steuart extends the conversation. He resists the image of history as a harmonious and uniform machine, directing our attention to the conflicts, the disorder, and the potential suffering of common people in an era of commerce. He hopes, nevertheless, that the modern state, if attuned to difference, can mitigate unruly economic processes. While Steuart leaves us only with the resources of a modern capitalist society, Ferguson expands our vision by incorporating “past” values. He counters the dark side of modern progress-imperial warfare and the corruption of domestic society-with the manly virtues of earlier ages. By disrupting Smith’s stadial scheme, Ferguson is able to deploy the “past” as a critical resource, but he only juxtaposes the savage past to commerce. He seems unable to treat other forms of life as sources of institutional innovation, as does Marx’s alternative historical forms and Polanyi’s ethnographic IPE. Hegel learns from the Scots and, like Ferguson, does not flinch when charting the sinister side of modern progress. Hegel is matchless in revealing the violence at the heart of the modern culture of political economy. His insight, his prophetic realism as we put it, threatens to break the project of modern progress. And, yet, in Hegel’s hands, modernity’s pernicious side becomes subsumed within the progressive (albeit dialectical) march of history towards a culture of individuality and freedom. The wound of wealth is both revealed in its starkest form-genocide, slavery, immiseration-and absolved as necessary to modern progress. Marx extends Ferguson’s appreciation of the violence of modern capitalism, but he also shares much with Smith and Hegel. Marx’s explicit method forecloses the past from polluting the present: the most advanced country shows the future to others while only the analyst situated in a capitalist society can comprehend the meaning of other, prior

its advantages, but haunted by its massive costs. Nevertheless, Marx himself seems to recognize the need to open space for what he thought of as precapitalist difference, but which we might easily think of as non-or acapitalist alternatives. This recessive moment in Marx re-opens the political economic conversation to new resources and allows us to imagine an ethnographic IPE.

Our language has become anachronistic: we can no longer use the term “savage” without a sense of irony. Even so, the category “hunter-gatherer” still remains vital if somewhat contested for anthropologists. Jonathan Friedman explains that the evolutionary notions of human progress that typically inform our thinking also periodically break down. This breakdown gives rise to a “culturalism” (or “primitivism”) that overturns the reign of civilized standards by emphasizing the diversity of human experience and the contemporary relevance of allegedly past values and visions.1 To return to where we began-with Trouillot-the savage and the particular utopian fantasies associated with political economy are co-constructions. We continue to insist that we are not savages, but we can never quite shake the doubts about the life we have embraced and the many savageries that it perpetuates. Nor can we completely reject the alternative vision that the savage represents. We might say that the savage, as the constitutive other of an internationalized political economy, retains a necessary position within the utopian slot filled by political economy. Thus, an examination of savage times has implications for contemporary thinking about time, space and economic life-for rethinking political economy.