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Stone Age Economics

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“If economics Is the dismal science, the study of hunting and gathering economies must be its most advanced branch” (Sailings 1972: 1). Stone Age Economics is one of the well-known books in the subfield of economic anthropology provided by an American cultural anthropologist. Marshall Salons. This book is a slight representation in the literature dealing with ‘primitive’ or tribal’ economic life. This book consists of a series of chapters that lacks a proper conclusion of Sailings discoveries.

In context it is comprehensive and adherent, manifesting as it does ethnography, social theories, Marxian, Neoclassical and Substantially’ economics, Interpretations, and incisive logic sometimes applied in support of debatable notions.

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It is a collection of chapters written to provoke as well as to document. Although Sailings identifies himself with the so-called ‘substantive’ school of economic anthropology (Cook 1966), his approach is by no means a carbon copy of Policy’s transactional substantially nor of the material substantially of certain Marxist-oriented scholars (Cook 1966).

His approach is distinctive, combining elements of the others, but representing what is considered “structural obscurantism,” the view that the economy, as a function of society, provisions society by maintaining social relations or the social structure regardless of the standard to which the material needs of a given population Is satisfied.

The substantive view economics as a category of culture as a “sense-making system” that determine human behavior; economics Is organized by domestic groups and kinship relations. Economic behavior is a cultural construction.

Our bourgeois of economic values are not universal, argues Sailings; they are a product of culture. “The primitive order is unrealized, A clear differentiation of spheres into social and economic does not there appear (Sailings 1972: 182). Salons was a student of Leslie White and was Influenced by Karl Poland and Julian Steward. Sailings has written original works on economic anthropology. In his book, Stone Age Economics, Sailings is criticizing the evolutionist ranking of societies on universalistic measures such as the Intensity of economic production.

Economic anthropology tends to take an approach, there is little use calling something “money” or “primitive money’ based on outside appearances. The term economics can refer to he study of how humans make a living from their social and natural environment. Formalist versus substantially Approach The concept of economics has two approaches, which are formalist and substantive. The formalist view calls attention to economics as the logic of rational effort and decision-making, as rational choice between the alternatives uses of limited, or scarce means.

The substantive view calls attention to the study of how humans make a living from their social and natural environments. The substantive conception of rationality will differ accordingly from the formal In its supposition of lawfulness or intentionality. This view does not apply to formal models. Formalism in economic anthropology Is concerned with discovering generalized relationships such ton variables then are linked into relationships into generalized models, which are then used for understanding data and making predictions.

Exchange takes place within and is regulated by the society. A substantive analysis of economics will therefore focus on the study of the various social institutions on which people’s livelihoods are based. The substantive economy is an instituted process of interaction between man and his environment, which results in continuous supply of want satisfying material means. Sailings further supports his ideas in the book through the substantive economy and shows examples of this type of economy. This is supported through the subject of hunter-gatherer societies.

Hunter-Gatherer Societies Influenced by Karl Poland, Sailings argued that economic systems are culturally ordered, serving different ends in different societies. For example, hunter-gatherer societies may seem poor because the people have few possessions, but in fact these societies enjoy a kind of material plenty Just by attributes of being unlimited by wings that interfere with their mobility. Traditionally, people who subsisted from their land can easily pack up and move to a richer area when needed.

Many hunter- gatherer societies also used the technique of slash-and-burn to create fields for agriculture. Certainly, to the extent that poverty is a social status and a matter of wanting more than one has, hunter-gatherers have far less poverty than do the unequaled societies of advanced modern civilization. Their culture leads them to share scarce resources rather than possessing of consuming them individually like a hunter-gatherer society does. These hunter-gatherer societies are what Sailings refers to as the original affluent societies.

Sailings challenged the popular view of hunter-gatherer societies. Original Affluent Society The original affluent society is a theory that hunter-gatherers were the original affluent society. This theory was introduced by Sailings and was argued that hunter- gatherer societies are able to achieve affluence by desiring little and meeting their needs with what is available to them. Sailings referenced this to the “Zen road to affluence, which states that human material wants are finite and few, and technical means unchanging but on the whole adequate” (Sailings 1972: 2).

To accept that hunters are affluent is therefore to recognize that the present human condition of man slaving to bridge the gap between his unlimited wants and his insufficient means is a tragedy of modern times. Sailings then identifies what exactly are the affluence towards a society: “There are two possible courses to affluence. Wants may be easily satisfied either by producing much or desiring little. The gap between means and ends can be narrowed by industrial productivity, at least to the point that “urgent goods” become plentiful.

Adopting the Zen strategy, a society can enjoy an unparalleled material plenty with a low standard of living. The Zen strategy is what describes the hunters and it helps explain more of the hunters’ economic behavior; their way of spending money for example is through the inclination to consume at once all stocks in hand, as if it has been made for them. Free from market obsessions of scarcity, hunters’ economic inclinations may be more consistently predicated on abundance than the modern world” (Sailings 1972: 1-2). Affluence, the former by desiring little and the latter by producing much.

Hunting ND gathering has all the strengths of its weaknesses. Periodic movement and restraint in wealth and adaptations, the kinds of necessities of the economic practice and creative adaptations the kinds of necessities of which virtues are made. Precisely in such a framework, affluence becomes possible. Mobility and moderation put hunters’ ends within range of their technical means. An undeveloped mode of production is thus rendered highly effective. The hunter’s life is not as difficult as it looks from the outside.

In some ways the economy reflects a dreadful ecology, but it is also a complete inversion. Sailings states that hunter-gatherer societies have a marvelously varied diet based on the abundance of what the environment can provide. I would suggest that the affluence is greater than that found in an industrial society. Such is the case if affluence is a measure of the ratio of the means and products available, I. E. , the technological knowledge and goods produced, relative to the desired wants, I. E. , the expectations. Of course, speaking of the material affluence relating to food, health and physical comfort.

In hunter-gatherer societies, we find that the material expectations of the people closely match their means to obtain hose expectations. What people desire is obtained. It is acknowledged that what is desired in hunter-gatherer society may not be even remotely similar to that desired in industrial society. Nevertheless, in a hunter-gatherer society the desires of food, health and physical comfort are fundamentally secured. What is not as easily obtainable are desires relating to social, aesthetic and spiritual fulfillments. Here the quests continue.

In contrast, the quest for material affluence has become a driving force in an industrial society; while the quests for social, aesthetic and spiritual fulfillments continue but re apparently less overtly emphasized. All things considered, given the quality of diet and of health, and the relative affluence, life in a hunter-gatherer society is anything, but concise and appalling. After all, the hunter-gatherer society rarely has had an opportunity to tax the carrying capacity of their landscapes and what the environment provides.

Their simple technology more than met their physical needs and expectations. By comparison, the wide expanded population of our contemporary world demands a resource base and technology infrastructure of a magnitude incomprehensible to the hunter-gatherer society. Gung Sailings examines the ! Gung Bushmen, studies done by Richard Boorish Lee in the asses. By looking at the ! Gung (or San as they are called) hunter-gatherer methods of production, Sailings describes culture of work and the philosophy of work ethic produced in these cultures. Through the !

Gung Bushman’s lack of work ethic, their sense of no need to work too hard in order to get through their lives, Sailings speaks of the use of labor and leisure in society. Sailings maps out the evolution of work culture in America from the early colonial period and the effect industrialization had on society. By addressing the paradox of how industrialization and computer-culture has actually made us have to work more rather than less in the 21st Century, Sailings addresses how a society turns into a work culture as opposed to a leisure culture.

Sailings’ study on the development of work through Western society, the role of women’s work, work in contemporary develops an intriguing theoretical method of work. Sailings illustrates how the hunter/gatherer cultures he researched in the study have a more superior quality of working life than modern Western societies. They had shorter hours, more flexible irking hours, and a more reliable support network of general food, sharing, and community support. As to quality of life and culture, they enjoyed a long and healthy lifestyle, unlike our overworked, under-exercised culture of modernity. Hunter- gatherers had plenty in good times.

The majority of humans for the majority of the species’ existence have been hunter-gatherer cultures. These hunter-gatherer societies were nomadic and understood the environment around them to adapt in able to survive. Hunter-gathering societies survive by knowing the seasons and knowing good food sources. They don’t simply Just wander around. Affluence is the point in which you no longer have to worry about the basic necessities in life, and can instead focus on things that interest you, and things you want to do, rather than things you need to do; that is what Sailings is trying to have his readers comprehend.

Displaying the ! Gung helps the readers understand an original affluent society in comparison to the modern world. Primitive Exchange Sailings demonstrates the inadequacy of formal analysis through the development of a new theory of primitive exchange. In anthropology, reciprocity is a way of defining people’s informal exchange of goods and labor through economic systems. It is the basis of most non-market economies. Reciprocity is common in every culture as it is apart of some kind of society.

Sailings identifies three main types of reciprocity that occur in human societies around the world – generalized, balanced, and negative. Generalized reciprocity is gift giving without the expectation of an immediate return. An example of this would be if one were to give gifts to a friend on her/his birthday. Generalized reciprocity is a less structured form of trade and takes place mainly within families and kinship groups. With balanced reciprocity, there is an explicit expectation of immediate return.

Simple barter or supermarket purchases involve this understanding. If you walk out of a store without paying for the goods that you have taken, you are very likely to be stopped by the store employees or sometimes the security and may possibly end up getting arrested because you failed to immediately reciprocate with the appropriate amount of money. Christmas gifts are another form of balanced reciprocity. There is an expectation that when you received a gift on Christmas, you return the gesture at the same time.

Negative reciprocity occur when there is an attempt to get someone to exchange something he r she may not want to give up or when there is an attempt to get a more valued thing than you give in return. This may involve trickery, forced, or hard bargaining. Negative reciprocity occurs when one party in a trade relationship receives less than they give. Sailings posited that negative reciprocity is most common when dealing with people from other societies for negative reciprocity within one’s own society would seriously disrupt social relationships.

Theories of reciprocity that Sailings established, emphasizes the needs of inventing alliances not only to protect the primitive societies, but also to encourage he trade and travels. It is clear that Sailings’ theory opens the door for a new alternative in primitive exchange. Some economic exchanges are intended to referred to as redistributive exchanges. Redistributive Exchanges Redistribution exchange is a mode of primitive exchange in which the operation was directed and controlled by some central organizing authority; a complex process that was a critical part of the evolution of civilization.

Goods are received or appropriated by the central authority and that authority to other locations sends subsequently some of them. It might involve the physical collection and pooling of coolly produced items and their subsequent reallocation, or merely controls the flow without central collection. Storage facilities and a system of record keeping are often associated with the central power. The goods exchanged may be local products, which would permit some degree of craft specialization, since the specialists will be able to depend on the central authority for the supply of all necessities.

The products received in return for these exports may be treated as prestige items and made available to only a restricted number of the local people in the upper levels of the social hierarchy. Redistribution is often associated with societies organized as chiefdoms with a central authority and marked differences in social ranking. This exchange usually functions as economic leveling mechanisms. In the Western World, charity and progressive income tax systems are examples of redistributive exchanges. Progressive income taxes are intended to make people with greater wealth give at higher rates than those at the bottom of the economic ladder.

Some of the tax money is then allocated to help the poorer members of society. The intended net effect is to reduce or prevent extremes of wealth and poverty. When wealthier individuals in a society make charitable donations, it can have a similar effect. Redistributive exchanges are not unique to the Western world. Some of the most elaborate ones that we know of have been in small-scale societies with non-market economies. The potlatch of North American Indian tribes is a prime example of this. The potlatch is a complex system of competitive feasting, speechifying, and gift giving intended for the opposite clan.

The acceptance of the gifts was an affirmation of the host’s generosity and subsequently of his increased status. The feast and the fits essentially placed the guests in debt to their host until they could at some future time invite him to their own potlatch and give him more than he gave them–in essence a return on an investment. This event is an important social gathering and can be used transfer ownership of economic and ceremonial privileges. Today, they are used to commemorate important family and clan events such as baby showers, weddings, school graduations, special anniversaries, and in memory of dead relatives.

Amok Exchange The Amok is a highly radicalized system of exchange in Papua New Guiana. This society has anthropological concepts of a gift economy through the gifts of pigs, which is a result of social status. Sailings analyzed this gift exchange differentiating between the exchange principles of reciprocity and redistribution, along with status and rank. Sailings was able to contrast the political differences between the status- based “Big man” political system of Melanesia and the socially ranked “Chiefly’ political system of Polynesia linked with redistributive systems. Big man” is the preferred people to give gifts to. One adds Amok to the gift to increase one’s prestige, and to place the receiver in debt. It is this constant renewal further interaction. Gift giving thus becomes a competition between a limited numbers of high-status men, each of whom tries to give bigger gifts than they have received. The networks can grow to encompass several hundred men, each competing with the others, to give the biggest gift to a competitor (Sailings 1963). Primitive Trade Primitive societies do not face scarcity, in either relative or absolute terms.

This of course does not deny that it may be difficult to find reliable sources of water and food, but the economic organization put in place through experience is able to revive for needs on a routine basis; there is no constant struggle in meeting basic needs: This is not to deny that a pre-agriculture economy operates under serious constraints, but only to insist, on the evidence from modern hunters and gatherers, that a successful accommodation is made (Sailings 1972: 279). Trade may generate a growth process, but the latter is more a byproduct of a socio-economic organization.

The goal of which is the survival and reproduction of the society. In addition, while growth may occur, economists usually see it as irrelevant because it’s not based on market transactions. Most economists would argue that it is not possible to use economics as scarcity as it does not exist. One essential characteristic of trade that has been noted by anthropologists and ethnographers is that customary rates are fixed at levels that ensure economic and social reproduction. Trade partnerships play a definite role in the regulation of trade.

Once a trade relationship is established, a party should always respond to the trading call of the other, even thought the latter has nothing of interest to trade with the former: “partnership is not merely the privilege but the duty of reciprocity’ (Sailings 1972: 309). The partnership is dissolved when one cannot satisfy the needs of the other for an extended period of time. Trade is not performed between individuals, but between primitive societies so the interests at stake are not necessarily in accordance with each individual.

Individualism is not a characteristic of primitive societies. Survival is the principle that drives trade because the focus is on the basis of needs. If a primitive society sees its population decrease it may be because trade ratios are not fair enough and so must be adjusted. Over time, fair trade ratios will change with the composition ND size of population. “Exchanges are peacefully resolved wars, and wars are the result of unsuccessful transactions” (Levi Strauss, quoted in Sailings 1972: 181).

It assumes that trade is a confrontational matter in which each party is only concerned with its own interests in a world of scarcity, territory, competition, and domination. Sailings defends this notion, as trade is something peaceful in a great uncertainty. To understand primitive trade, one must understand generosity. Primitive trade can only be explained through understanding the social relations of primitive societies. The key o these relations is the principles of generosity, a unifying principle that is generated from different outlooks than that associated with modern individualism.

Primitive trade relations can only be understood once the principle of generosity is taken charge. Economic Anthropology and consumption. To understand the economy doesn’t Just mean we should study it; rather, we are in the unique and enviable position to “anthropologist” it. It is to look at the social and cultural basis of economic behavior. Sailings have shown us that both western type of economic activity and primitive exchange occur in primitive societies. In the asses to asses, the world was lead by industrial powers that concluded industrialization among societies.

Poland introduced the two meanings of the word economic: formalist and substantive. In Stone Age Economics, Sailings has a structural substantive approach throughout the text. This is because of the arguments he places in his book about primitive societies or hunter-gatherer societies. Formalism now in economic anthropology represents itself most conspicuously as a neo-institutionalism approach. This consists mainly in extending market models and rational choice approaches into new areas. Economic anthropology has been much more influenced by the recent focus on culture.

The purpose of economic anthropology, when still known as the economics of primitive man, was to test the claim that a world economic order must be founded on capitalist principles. Since society was understood to be in movement and had not yet reached its final form. Anthropology was the most inclusive way of thinking about economic formation. Sailings was not new to the field of anthropology, but he did bring insight and critiques of anthropologists who had came before his time. The status of economics mongo primitives can be seen from the theory given by Mammalians.

His thesis was that among trial’s the economy is an integrated part of social and cultural totality. His observation was that economic systems and actions can only be fully understood if we look into their interrelations with other aspects of culture and society. Sailings has worked on the processes of evolution and his studies have become quite interesting to this subfield of anthropology. His study of primitive economy very clearly establishes and differentiates the relations between social anthropology and economics. The tribal economics as discussed by anthropologists has a functional nature.

It is related to other parts of tribal life such as religion, kin, clan and polity. The modern economy is different in its perspective and approach. This economy is rational and is importantly based on market principles. The academic economics is quite different from the economy of social anthropology. Modern economy is basically a capitalist economy. It is a newcomer to the world. Its theory and principles are helpful in understanding the general economic behavior, but the tribal economy is essentially different for it stresses ethnicity rather than rationality.

The exchange of gift systems fully explains the nature of tribal economy. What we find in the relationship of economics and social anthropology is that both are concerned with the study of production, distribution, exchange and consumption. One may ask why did Sailings write Stone Age Economics and how does it contribute to the subfield of economic anthropology? The debate of the original affluent society that signifies hunter-gatherer societies as primitive and seeing them as practitioners of a mode to subsistence as their production opens perspective to classification to economics in terms of

Cite this Stone Age Economics

Stone Age Economics. (2017, Oct 07). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/stone-age-economics-essay/

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