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The Political Economy of the Hunter and Gatherer

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"The Political Economy of the Hunter and Gatherer" The political economy of hunters and gatherers is repeatedly viewed as a tough and constant struggle against nature. While these people were living on a level of subsistence without a surplus, this struggle is a common misconception made by much of the general population as well as many historians. In fact, hunters and gatherers, through continuous movement, had a fairly easy-going lifestyle, more free time and less political oppression than the political economies of early Neolithic agriculture and feudalism. Yet because of practices of population control, a lack of stability and technological advancement, the system of hunting and gathering was less than perfect. The most important factor to the success of the hunter and gatherer political economy was ease of movement. In order for survival, these people had to be able follow their food quickly and easily. Hunters and gatherers had in their possession very few items; they took only what they needed to survive. ...read more.


What this meant was that these people "adapted the tools of their living to the materials which lay in abundance around them and which were free for anyone to take (wood, reeds, bone for weapons etc.)"(Marshall Pg.9). Since the idea of private ownership had yet to be put into action, there was a "democracy of property" in which everyone owns everything. This policy of "usufruct" gave everyone the option to employ a given economic resource like wood for example. It was because of this democracy of property and lack of a food surplus that there were not any hierarchies in society unlike those of early Neolithic Agriculture and Feudalism. While there were tribal leaders to a certain extent, these leaders did not inherit their authority nor did they forcefully take it from someone. Their authority was based upon a talent or knowledge like hunting or medicine that would gain them the respect of the tribe. But even this limited authority was weak; members of a tribe did not have to necessarily listen to this "leader" and could leave the tribe if they so desired. ...read more.


While one must realize that these actions were a necessity for the success of the hunter and gatherer system and are currently being viewed through modern eyes, they are nonetheless a barbaric event one would not see during modern or feudal time periods. Regardless, the hunter and gatherer system proved to be stable, sustainable, and efficient for thousands and thousands of years. This system is the only one that goes against the modern belief that man's wants are infinite and insatiable. The hunter is in a way, according to Sahlins, an "uneconomic man." The hunter has few wants and only a few basic needs that were easily attained through living at subsistence. These needs were reached through constant movement, which in turn provided plentiful food, a relaxed lifestyle, and a democratic political atmosphere. Despite these facts, people did eventually grow tired of the constant movement and wanted a more stable food source. This would lead not only to the downfall of the hunter and gatherer system but to the rise of the Agricultural Revolution. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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