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. • Cohen describes five adaptive strategies: foraging, horticultural, agriculture, pastoralism, and industrialism.
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.
What is Foraging? • Foraging relies on the collection of nutritionally significant plant resources and the capture of important animal protein sources for food.
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.
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.
Other Forager Characteristics or Correlates • 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.
Examples of Foragers • California Indians (balanophagy). • Great Basin Indians (Paiute, Shoshone, Ute). • Inuit (a.k.a. Eskimos). • Australian Aborigines. • !Kung San of South Africa. • Baka.
Cultivation • 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.
What is horticulture? • 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.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Horticulture 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.
Horticultural Groups • Yanomami. • The tribes of Papua New Guinea. • The Maya of Mexico. • Hawaiian Islanders • Various Bantu-speaking tribes of Africa.
Agriculture • 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.
Domesticated Animals and Farming • Domesticated animals, especially cattle and horses, have played an important role in raising crops, providing both labor (plowing) and fertilizer.
Irrigation and Terracing • 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.
Costs and Benefits of Agriculture • 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.
The “cultivation continuum” • 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.
Intensive Agriculture • 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.
Intensive Agriculture Gone Wrong • 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.
Pastoralism • 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.
Pastoralism as a living • 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).
Modes of Production • 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).
Capitalism vs. Non-Industrial modes of production • 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).
Industrialism • Large scale, industrial production, involving factories and mechanization. • Industrial production can be either capitalist or socialist. • Industrialism relies on corporate agriculture.
Means of Production • 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.
Economic Anthropological Questions • 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.
Distribution and Exchange • 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).
Reciprocity 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.