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Making A Living Subsistence, Economy, and Distribution: How Humans Do It Economic Production as an Adaptive Strategy Food is necessary for survival; the means of subsistence of a given group has been called their adaptive strategy.

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Making a living l.jpg

Making A Living

Subsistence, Economy, and Distribution: How Humans Do It


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Economic Production as an Adaptive Strategy

  • Food is necessary for survival; the means of subsistence of a given group has been called their adaptive strategy.

  • Cohen describes five adaptive strategies: foraging, horticultural, agriculture, pastoralism, and industrialism.


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Foraging (a.k.a. Hunting and Gathering)

  • Foraging was the only means of subsistence for the first 5 million years of human history.

  • Hunting and gatherer continued to exist after the multiple inventions of agriculture in those areas ill suited to growing crops.


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What is Foraging?

  • Foraging relies on the collection of nutritionally significant plant resources and the capture of important animal protein sources for food.


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The Importance of Gathering

  • For much of the 20th Century, anthropologists assumed hunting was more important than gathering.

  • Subsequent ethnographic work showed plant resources usually make up 80% of the diet.


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Foragers live off the land, usually in small groups called “bands”

  • Because foragers are highly mobile and frequently live in marginal environments, they tend to live in groups of 100 or less.

  • This mobile lifestyle leads to temporary housing structures.


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Other Forager Characteristics or Correlates “bands”

  • Most members of bands related.

  • Practice band exogamy.

  • Membership of band may change during the course of a year.

  • Practice seasonal transhumance.

  • Egalitarian.

  • Sexual division of labor.


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Examples of Foragers “bands”

  • California Indians (balanophagy).

  • Great Basin Indians (Paiute, Shoshone, Ute).

  • Inuit (a.k.a. Eskimos).

  • Australian Aborigines.

  • !Kung San of South Africa.

  • Baka.


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Foragers “bands”


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Cultivation “bands”

  • Cultivation is food production rather food gathering.

  • According to Cohen’s scheme, the three forms of food production are horticulture, agriculture, and pastoralism.

  • Horticulture and agriculture focus on plant resource production; pastoralism focuses on herding and “harvesting” their animals.


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What is horticulture? “bands”

  • Horticulture is the small-scale planting and harvesting of food plants using simple tools and small garden plots.

  • Horticulturalists frequently use swidden or “slash-and-burn” techniques for fertilization of the soil.

  • Shifting cultivation common.




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Advantages and Disadvantages of Horticulture “bands”

Advantages:

  • Can sustain large groups (example: Kuikuru of South America).

  • Allows for flexible sedentism (staying in one place).

    Disadvantages:

  • Limited carrying capacity.

  • Leads to rapid soil exhaustion.


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Horticultural Groups “bands”

  • Yanomami.

  • The tribes of Papua New Guinea.

  • The Maya of Mexico.

  • Hawaiian Islanders

  • Various Bantu-speaking tribes of Africa.


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Agriculture “bands”

  • Differs from horticulture in that it is more labor intensive, uses more sophisticated tools (such as plows), engages the use of draft animals, may use terracing, and employs irrigation.

  • More land is used, and greater quantities of crops are produced.


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Domesticated Animals and Farming “bands”

  • Domesticated animals, especially cattle and horses, have played an important role in raising crops, providing both labor (plowing) and fertilizer.


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Irrigation and Terracing “bands”

  • Irrigation provides nutrients and a continual source of water to crops, allowing for continual use of fields (rather than shifting).

  • Terracing allows for cultivation of crops in mountainous areas.


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Costs and Benefits of Agriculture “bands”

  • Human labor input greater for agriculture, since time and energy are required to build and maintain canals and terraces, as well as to feed and care for animals.

  • Yields are much greater with agriculture over horticulture; provides long-term, dependable crops that translates to lower labor costs per unit.


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The “cultivation continuum” “bands”

  • Horticulture = low-labor, shifting-plot

  • Agriculture = labor-intensive, permanent plot.

  • Some world economies are intermediate between horticulture and agriculture, using sectorial fallowing, which is a form of horticulture that is employed by larger populations.


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Intensive Agriculture “bands”

  • Intensive agriculture allows for large populations.

  • However, large populations combined with intensive agricultural practices result in extreme environmental degradation.

  • Intensive agriculture often leads to specialization in certain crops (i.e., rice, maize, potatoes), thereby sacrificing dietary diversity.


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Intensive Agriculture Gone Wrong “bands”

  • The ancient Maya civilization collapsed about A.D. 800, following a combination of agricultural intensification and population growth that led to deforestation and soil erosion.


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Pastoralism “bands”

  • Pastoralists are herders who focus on animals such as goats, sheep, cattle, camels, and yaks.

  • Traditional pastoralists are found in parts of north and eastern Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Europe.


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Pastoralism as a living “bands”

  • Pastoralists use their herds for food (milk, blood, meat).

  • Pastoralists frequently trade with farmers for grains and vegetables, or may engage in limited horticulture or foraging.

  • Pastoralists practice pastoral nomadism (the whole group moves) or transhumance (only certain members of the group follow the herd animals).


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Modes of Production “bands”

  • Economy = a system of production, distribution and consumption of resources.

  • A mode of production is a way of organizing production:

    “A set of social relations through which labor is deployed to wrest energy from nature by means of tools, skills, organization, and knowledge.”

    (Wolf 1982).


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Capitalism vs. Non-Industrial modes of production “bands”

  • In non-industrial societies, labor is given as a social obligation, and is frequently kin-based.

  • In capitalist industrial societies, money buys labor power, and their exists a social gap between the purchasers of labor and their laborers (bosses and workers).


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Industrialism “bands”

  • Large scale, industrial production, involving factories and mechanization.

  • Industrial production can be either capitalist or socialist.

  • Industrialism relies on corporate agriculture.


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Means of Production “bands”

  • The means, or factors of production, involve territory, labor, and technology.

  • In non-industrial societies, there is a closer relationship between laborers and the means of production.

  • In industrial societies, there is frequent alienation of the workers from the means of production.


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Economic Anthropological Questions “bands”

  • How are production, distribution, and consumption organized in different societies? The focus of this question is on systems.

  • What motivates people in different cultures to produce, distribute or exchange, and consume? The focus of this question is on individuals.


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Distribution and Exchange “bands”

  • The Market Principle: operates in a capitalist economy by governing the distribution of land, labor, natural resources, technology, and capital. Items are bought and sold, and rely on the law of supply and demand.

  • Redistribution: goods and services move towards the center, then redistributed (example: Cherokee chiefs).


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Reciprocity “bands”

Reciprocity is an exchange between social equals; common in egalitarian societies. There are three types:

  • Generalized: someone gives with no explicit expectation for a like gift.

  • Balanced: giving with expecting something in return.

  • Negative: giving with the expectation of immediate return.


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