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Presentation on theme: "Lecture 5 MODES OF SUBSISTENCE."— Presentation transcript:


2 How to distinguish economic systems:
By mode/systems of production By mode of subsistence

3 1. By modes/systems of production
Capitalist (private ownership) Socialist (state ownership) In Marxist scholarship: Relations of production (property and the ability to control other people’s labour power) and forces of production (raw materials, technology) make up a mode of production, and this is considered decisive for the organisation of society

4 2. By dominant mode of subsistence
It is not the same as mode of production but is related to dominant production techniques. Three modes: Hunting and gathering Herding of livestock (pastoralism) Cultivation of plant crops (agriculture and horticulture)

5 This classical division of human modes of subsistence stems from popular scenario of human social evolution: hunting and gathering correspond to the stage when men and women could scarcely be distinguished from other animals. Present hunters and gatherers lack wit to improve their condition. Evolutionary model: a hunter who herds animals is seen as a pastoralist, but a pastoralist who does hunting is NOT a hunter; Why are there so few hunters and gatherers in the world? Defined out of existence by us. No society where people do not do some hunting and gathering.

6 Lewis Henry Morgan “Ancient Society” (1877)
Three universal stages of human social evolution: Savagery, characterised by the economy of hunting and gathering Barbarism, characterised by the so-called ‘food-producing’ economies of agriculturalists and pastoralists; and Civilisation, characterised initially by the rise of urban settlements including non-food producing specialists (merchants and artisans). Invention of writing. Further divided into bronze age with city states, iron age with slave empires, the era of feudalism, and finally mercantile and industrial capitalism

7 What are subsistence economies?
Economies in which people are producing for the most part what they themselves consume.

8 Are people practising these economies poor?
Are they on the verge of starvation? - Do they live a ‘hand to mouth’ existence? Yes, insecurity, but only as a symptom of the breakdown of indigenous economies due to their having been caught in an increasingly exploitative system of global political and economic relations.

9 Marshall Sahlins “Stone Age Economics” (1972)
Hunter-gatherer societies are not poor. Poverty is relative deprivation. People are poor when they have access to only a fraction of what they need. Hunter-gatherers’ needs are minimal. There is always enough to satisfy the needs. ‘Original affluent society’.

10 Hunting Often small animals are hunted. Contrary to expectations experience, sharp eye and skill are required as opposed to physical strength and weaponry Lots of hunting is done by women Use of traps, nets How about fishing?

11 Gathering Not only plants are gathered. E.g. shellfish;
Gathering honey, birds’ eggs, large tree-fruits. Prowess and skill; Gathering – collecting up; hunting – seeking out. E.g. Aymara people hunting for yams. Difference between hunting and gathering hinges between the stages of search and retrieval;

12 Critically approach: ‘Man the hunter’ myth. ‘Foragers’ ‘Hunter-gatherer societies’

13 Pastoralism Large stock: cattle, camels, horses
Small stock: sheep and goats Animals: a source of labour, transport, as food on special occasions (emergencies or ritual); Source of income for subsistence: trade or hunting; Animal value in products: milk, dung, meat, skin, bone, sinews.

14 Animals for pastoralists:
 a form of property  source of security  food providers (secondary)  act as the material embodiments of social relations. Edward Evans-Pritchard: cattle form ‘the chains along which social relationships run’ In societies where cattle are most highly valued as tokens of alliance, their role in subsistence is correspondingly low. Most of the food in such societies consists of agricultural produce or comes from small stock.

15 Agriculture or cultivation
By far the largest proportion of the world’s human population Practices are diverse, yet their aim is to increase the rate at which plant nutrients are restored to the top soil, thus maintaining its fertility and allowing a higher rate of offtake from the land than under a regime of gathering.

16 Three ways of doing agriculture:
Swidden or slash-and-burn cultivation Fixed field agriculture involving ploughing and manuring Irrigation agriculture Ground preparation, resulting separation of planting from harvesting – distinguishes cultivation from gathering

17 Swidden vs Fixed field agriculture
Tools for cutting and digging, fire Crops: up to varieties Tuberous plants Plough, domestic animals Staple crops Cereal grasses

18 The more intensive the system of cultivation – the harder people have to work
Gathering is comparatively light work but can usually maintain human populations at low densities. The need to extract more food to support growing human population drove the transition from gathering to cultivation and from land-extensive swidden cultivation to land-intensive fixed field agriculture. Continuous mode of subsistence based on gathering signifies lack of pressure to move to another form.

19 Transition to a more intensive system increases population growth
Thus, growth of population was both cause and consequence of the transition from gathering to cultivation and of its subsequent intensification.

20 Irrigation system of agriculture: repeated flooding of the ground.
Harvesting the same fields year after year. Labour intensive Supported some of the highest rural population densities (South, Southeast and East Asia)

21 How does a shift from gathering to cultivation, from hunting to pastoralism occur?
NOT according to evolutionary model of human development. Evolutionary model - a form of historical consciousness of western tradition of thought. BUT: Due to growing population; Due to increasing pressure on maintaining life by a certain mode of subsistence.

22 Viewing hunter-gatherers from western perspective:
Two extremes: primitive/backward or idealised Garden of Eden Environment is harsh and hostile. Indigenous perspectives: Environment is a dwelling place, home Animated environment. Aiylha, Sakha word for nature. Consideration and respect

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