Anthropology- Subsistence Strategies & Economic Systems

•Beneficial adjustments of organisms to environment
Cultural Adaptation
People develop ways of doing things:
-Compatible with available resources
-Thrive within limitations of habitats
•Adaptations can be STABLE OVER LONG-TERM
Cultural Evolution
Process of cultures changing over time
•Don’t always improve conditions for all
•Complex, urban societies NOT more “highly evolved” than foragers
Cultural Ecology
Branch of Cultural Anthropology
-interrelationship of society’s culture
and environment
Important Questions:
•Impact of environment on culture & vice versa
•How does subsistence strategy influence structure of society?
Subsistence Strategies
•Acquiring food from environment
•Varies by:
-Available resources
Carrying Capacity
# people environment can support
with a given subsistence strategy
Main Subsistence Strategies
1.Foraging-(Hunting & Gathering)
4.Mixed strategies
U.S. is which of the main subsistence strategies
Mostly agricultural, but also pastoral and foragers.
Foraging (Hunting & Gathering)
•Wild food sources
-Most diversity
Foraging Societies
•Small groups
•Food sharing
•Camp is center of daily activity
Coastal Foraging Societies
•Resources abundant & concentrated
•Large setts.
•Complex social org.
•Not that time consuming
•Groups continue by choice
•Bushmen interacting w/ farmers & pastoralists for 2,000
Foraging Population
•Frequent nursing of children (4+ yrs) suppress ovulation
•fewer offspring, widely spaced
•Maintain pop. below carrying capacity
•Began ca. 11k years ago
•Depended on domestication of plants
•Small-scale cultivation of crops with hand tools
Slash-and-Burn Agriculture
•Vegetation cut & burned
•Crops planted among ashes
•Can be ecologically sound
Agricultural Societies
•Permanent settlements
•Larger groups
•More elaborate social organization
•Cities & civilization
•Rely on herds of domesticated animals
•Usually nomadic
•Often interact with farmers
•Usually not egalitarian
Definition: Economic System
Means of producing, distributing, &
consuming goods
Anthropology of Economic Systems Definition:
How goods are produced, distributed, and consumed
Anthropology of Economic Systems
•Different approach than for capitalist societies
•Small scale societies-production/exchange not for profit
Small-scale non-industrial societies
•Groups of relatives usually control valuable resources
•Division of labor by age & gender, some craft specialization
•Goods produced when required
•Most goods consumed by group that produces them
Production: Types of Economic Resources
-Natural resources
-Raw materials
Production: Control of Resources
•All societies regulate access to valuable natural resources
Control of Resources: Capitalist societies
individuals determine rights to land & natural resources
Technological Resources
Technology = Tools & other equipment + knowledge of making & using
Division of Labor
Societies usually divide labor by gender & age
•Sometimes work inappropriate for women in
one society is performed by men in another
Division of Labor by Age
•What work is age appropriate varies
•Children usually play economic role in families
•Labor increases by age
Conspicuous consumption
-Display of wealth for social prestige
Distribution: 3 Modes of Exchange
1. Reciprocity
2. Redistribution
Distribution 1st mode of Exchange: Reciprocity
•Item given with some expectation of future repayment/exchange
•Tied to various social relationships
•All levels of society participate
Generalized Reciprocity
No calculation of value, no specified repayment
Balanced Reciprocity
Direct obligation to reciprocate in equal value
Negative Reciprocity
-One party tries to get better end of deal
•People negotiate a direct exchange of one trade good for
Leveling Mechanism
•Obligation compelling sharing so no one accumulates more than others
•Richard Lee-Kalahari
Distribution 2nd mode of Exchange: Redistribution
•Goods go to central authority
• Tribute to chiefs, taxes to government
•Goods stored & managed
•Goods given back to people (re-distributed)
•Feasts or public events
•Not all goes back to commoners
•Goods support chief, craft specialists, public works, etc.
Village chief gives away stockpiled food and
status goods in public ceremony
Motives: Redistribution
1.Gain/maintain position through display of wealth/generosity
2.Assure adequate standard of living for commoners
3.Establish alliances with leaders of other groups
Conspicuous Consumption
•The display of wealth for social prestige
Distribution 3rd mode of Exchange: Markets
•Goods brought to a central place
•Values assigned by supply & demand
•Items purchased with some form of money
•Anything used to pay for goods or labor, or
measure their value
•Salt, shells, stones, beads, feathers, fur, bones,
cacao beans, metals
•special purpose or multipurpose

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