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Chapter 6

Chapter 6 Textbook Notes – Economic Systems

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ANTH 1150
Susan Chuang

Chapter 6 – Economic Systems Economic System: the production, distribution, and consumption of goods  All societies, each distinct culture and every group of people operate within an economic system Economic Anthropology  Typically interpreted in terms of our own technologies, sense of work, properties and determination of what is rational  In many cultures, people’s wants are maintained at levels that can be full and continuously satisfied without jeopardizing the environment  People will work when hard work is required, but will always have available time to devote to “unproductive” activities – these people depicted as “lazy” in Western culture  First Nations people were present-oriented and survival-centered societies – only worked when it was required for survival  To understand how the schedule of wants/demands of a given society is balanced against the supply of goods and services available, it is necessary to introduce the variable of culture  The economic sphere of behaviour is not separate from the social, religious, and political spheres thus not free to follow its own purely economic logic (noneconomic factors must also be considered)  Trobriand men spend a great deal of time raising yams to give to their sisters and married daughters – to show his support for her husband and to enhance his own influence o Loaded into a husband’s yam house – symbolizing power and influence in community o Used to buy a variety of things, discharge obligations – presenting to daughter’s relatives at wedding, or payments following the death of a family member o To establish high status and power must show worth by organizing a yam competition by giving away to guests o Used as a currency until they are cooked or rot o Giving yams to sister/daughter makes their husband indebted to him – repaid only in the women’s wealth (bundles of banana leaves and skirts dyed red) o Large quantities of skirts are essential in paying off the members of other lineages close to a recently deceased relative, wealth and vitality of dead person’s lineage is measured by the quality and quantity of bundles and skirts distributed  Trobriand people and other people assign meaning to objects that make the objects worth more than their cost in labour or materials – yam exchanges are as much social and political transactions as economic transactions  Small-scale cultures do not operate in isolation; each group of people is connected to a larger economic system – market economy and political organization, the state Resources  Raw materials, labour and technology are the productive resources a social group may use to produce desired goods and services – rules surrounding their use are embedded in the culture and determine the way the economy operates Patterns of Labour Sexual Division of Labour  Increases the chances that learning necessary skills will be more efficient as only half the adult skills need to be learned by any individual  “Women’s work” – near home  “Men’s work” – require strength, rapid bursts of energy, frequent travel, risk and danger  Many exceptions occur (ie. women working in Canadian farms, Dahomean women as warriors)  Cannot be explained as just a consequence of male strength, expendability or female reproductive biology  3 Configurations – flexibility and sexual integration (Ju/’hoansi people, some joint work), rigid segregation by sex (little joint work), elements of the two (dual sex, work separately but balance instead of inequality between roles, no dominant role, First Nations) Age Division of Labour  Ju/’hoansi children not expected to contribute to subsistence until late teens  Retired/elderly not expected to contribute as much food  Elderly play a role in spiritual matters, repositories of wisdom, suggest solutions – productive members of society  Elderly women continue to make contribution to provisioning – lactation takes time away from foraging efficiency, grandmothers assist with foraging to feed children (also in situations where disease, AIDS prevalent – sustain families)  In many nonindustrial cultures, children may make a greater contribution to the economy in terms of work and responsibility (taking care of younger siblings, housework)  Industrial societies may also have children with significant roles in economy – children learn skills to enable them to work and turn wages over to parents  Child labourers in poorer countries – Western companies importing product from children manufacturers  Infrastructure and stability in place around child workers – concern about future of children and their families if they ban it Cooperation  Long heritage - foraging times  Cooperative work in industrial and nonindustrial societies – festive spirit may permeate the work if involves a whole community (Kenyans singing and dancing after work)  Ju/’hoansi women are social when they work, travel in groups, talk loudly – monotonous task is a social occasion, and large animals move elsewhere  In human societies, the basic operative unit is the household – unit of production and consumption (in industrial societies, these activities have been separated)  Maya farmer runs a household – motivated by a desire to provide for the welfare of his family  Each family, as an economic unit, works as a group for its own good  Cooperative work may be part of fulfilling duties to in-laws, performed for political officials or priests by command, means of binding a community together (quilting bees, barn raising), community harvesting  Institutions of family, community, religion and the state all act as organizing elements that define the nature and condition of each worker’s cooperative obligations Craft Specialization  Nonindustrial societies – each person has knowledge and competence in all aspects of work appropriate to his/her age and sex, some specialization  Industrial societies – more specialized tasks are performed and no individual can begin to learn them all  Often minimal in foraging societies, First Nations groups experiencing resurgence of traditional crafts – income source, passing on culture  Among people who produce their own food, specialization is more apt to occur (Trobriand people traveled distance to get stone for axe blades)  Afar people (salt miners) traveled to mine was risky and difficult (heat, no food or meat source, Christian Tegrean miners were enemies)  Successful mining required skills in planning and organization, physical strength, and willpower Control of Land  All cultures have regulations that determine the way land resources are allocated  Foragers – determine who can hunt and gather, and where; Horticulturalists – how farmland is acquired, worked and passed on; Pastoralists – system to determine rights to watering places and grazing land, right of access to land they passover; Agriculturalists – means of determining title to land and access to water for irrigation; Industrialists – private ownership of land and rights to natural resources  Nonindustrial societies – land controlled by kinship groups (lineage or band) rather than by individuals  Ju/’hoansi – territories defined by water holes within them, land owned by longest living people in band, ownership symbolic, cannot sell/buy, outsiders ask permission to pass – denial is unthinkable  Practice of defining territories on the basis of their core features is typical of foragers – territorial boundaries vaguely defined, adaptable to adjusting size and resources available  Agriculture brings more secure forms of tenure to land ownership – West Africa all land belongs to head chief and distributed by him, a form of lease  The system extends individual’s right to use land for an indefinite period, but the land is not “owned” outright – maintains the integrity of valuable farmland preventing loss through subdivision and conversion to other uses Technology  Technology: tools and other material equipment, together with the knowledge of how to make and use them  Number and kinds of tools a group uses and technology are related to the lifestyle of its members  Foragers make and use a variety of tools, generous in giving/loaning to others  Horticulturalists use axe, machete, digging stick/hoe, easy to produce, any family member able to use – ownership is shared when a relative helps raise the crop traded for a tool  Outright ownership of tools has become entrenched – individual ownership and conditions of borrowing more absolute  Rights to ownership more applied, bank loans, repossession if failure to pay Resource Depletion  Ecological crisis facing fisheries threatening the economic future of those who depend (Newfoundland)  Moratorium on cod caused the disappearance of Newfoundland’s main economic activity – much out-migration, viability of communities in question  Aboriginal groups of Canada affected by loss of fishing industry, Kwakwaka’wakw, Innu, Inuit  Marine Transhumance: seasonal migration of people from one marine resource to the next – small boat family operations in the 1800s  Commercial fleets in mid-20 century collected large fish harvests, marginalized small fishers  Stocks dwindled, competition between fishers rose – aboriginal fishers had treaty rights, non-aboriginal fishers had to content with government controlled quotas  Foreign fishers fished off Newfoundland – overexploitation of fish stocks  Environmental problems posed more issues on fish stocks – smaller, mother fish and groundfish gone – cod moratorium  An entire way of life in the maritime is in danger of disappearing due to the depletion of ecology and economy of fisheries Distribution and Exchange  In cultures without money – rewards for labour direct  All forms of human exchange classified into one of three modes: reciprocity, redistribution and market exchange Reciprocity  A transaction between two parties whereby goods and services of roughly equivalent value are exchanged  Gift-giving, dinner parties in North American society – sense of social obligation and expectation of return  Social customs dictate the nature and occasion of exchange – aboriginal hunters in Australia share of meat determined by nature of kinship tie to hunter, giving an receiving obligatory as is distribution  Food sharing reinforces community bonds, saving perishable goods, social IOUs  Generalized Reciprocity: A mode of exchange in which the value of the gift is not calculated, nor is the time of repayment specified – food distribution practices of aboriginals, gift giving, good Samaritan “pass it on”  Mostly between close kin or closely tied people  Balanced Reciprocity: a mode of exchange whereby the giving and the receiving are specific in terms of the value of the goods and the time of their delivery  Not a long term process, specific giving and receiving and time involved, direct obligation to reciprocate promptly in an equal value for the social relationship to continue  Trading baseball cards, buying drinks when it’s ones turn at a gathering, Crow tipi making with buffalo skins (feast and property reward for woman)  Giving, receiving, sharing are a form of social security and insurance – give with hopes others will give back when in need  Levelling mechanism at work, egalitarian distribution of wealth over the long run  Negative Reciprocity: A form of exchange whereby the giver tries to get the better of the exchange  Parties have opposing interests, from different communities, not related, could take something by force, guile and deception, or hard bargaining (ie. car salesman) Barter and Trade  When exchanges occur between two groups, potential for hostility and competition  Barter – a form of negative reciprocity, exchange of scarce items from one group for desirable items from another, relative value calculated, sharp trading  Woodland and Plain
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