Stone Age Economics
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Stone Age Economics is a classic study of anthropological economics, first published in 1974. As Marshall Sahlinsstated in the first edition, "It has been inspired by the possibility of 'anthropological economics,' a perspective indebted rather to the nature of the primitive economies than to the categories of a bourgeois science." Ambitiously tackling the nature of economic life and how to study it comparatively, the book includes six studies which reflect the author's ideas on revising traditional views of the hunter-gatherer and so-called primitive societies, revealing them to be the original affluent society. The book examines notions of production, distribution and exchange in early communities and examines the link between economics and cultural and social factors. It consists of a set of detailed and closely related studies of tribal economies, of domestic production for livelihood, and of the submission of domestic production to the material and political demands of society at large.
one of the goods at issue. Then partnership trade increases the material pressure in the course of repeatedly resolving it. Holding steady the terms of exchange, the tactic of overpayment proves equitable and endurable only if the supply-demand unbalance is reversible. Otherwise, an inherent tendency to accumulate volume makes it unsupportable. For by an attack on a partner’s obligation to receive, granted his possible delay in response, exchange proceeds always at the quantity sought by the most
percent of the calculable maximum population (Carneiro, 1960). Given the Kuikurus’ agricultural practices, their present population of 145 is supported from the cultivation of 947.25 acres. In fact, the community has a base of 13,350 acres (arable), sufficient for 2,041 persons. Although studies such as these remain few, the results they present do not appear to be exceptional nor limited to the instances in question. On the contrary, reputable and sober authorities have been tempted to
Although the essential qualities of production to be discussed—dominance of the sexual division of labor, segmentary production for use, autonomous access to productive means, centrifugal relations beween producing units—appear to hold across these formal variations, the proposition of a domestic mode of production is surely a highly ideal type. And if one is nevertheless permitted to speak of a domestic mode of production, it is always and only in summary of many different modes of domestic
resulting in a definitive division and precise bounding of fraternal claims (Firth, 1959b; Spillius, 1957, p. 13). The movement in the sphere of food distribution was more complicated. Exchange showed a predictable pulsation between an expansion of sociability and generosity under trial, and a reversion to domestic isolation as the trial turned into disaster.13 At those times and in the places food shortage was less severe, the household economy would even efface itself: closely related families
miserable necessity of subsisting on certain sorts of food, which they have found near their huts; whereas, in many instances, the articles thus quoted by them are those which the natives most prize, and are really neither deficient in flavour nor nutritious qualities.” To render palpable “the ignorance that has prevailed with regard to the habits and customs of this people when in their wild state,” Grey provides one remarkable example, a citation from his fellow explorer, Captain Sturt, who,