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, et


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