Ambitiously tackling the nature of economic life and how to study it comparatively, the book includes six studies which reflect the author's ideas on revising traditional views of hunter-gatherer and so-called primitive societies, revealing them to be the original affluent society. The book examines notions of production, distribution and exchange in early communities and examines the link between economics and cultural and social factors. It consists of a set of detailed and closely related studies of tribal economies; of domestic production for livelihood, and of the submission of domestic production to the material and political demands of society at large.
"This book is subversive to so many of the fundamental assumptions of Western technological society that it is a wonder it was permitted to be published. Calling on extensive research among the planet's remaining stone-age societies--in Africa, Australia and South-East Asia as well as anecdotal reports from early explorers, Professor Sahlins directly challenges the idea that Western civilization has provided greater leisure' or affluence,' or even greater reliability, than primitive' hunter-gatherers."--Whole Earth Review.
"His book is rich in factual evidence and in ideas, so rich that a brief review cannot do it justice; only another book could do that." E. Evans-Pritchard, Times Literary Supplement
"Sahlin's concept of the domestic mode of production' starts to give economic anthropology its necessary comparative basis." Mary Douglas
Marshall Sahlins is one of the most prominent American anthropologists of our time. He holds the title of Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor of Anthropology at the University of Chicago. His most recent book is How Natives Think: About Captain Cook, for Example.
This book is subversive to so many of the fundamental assumptions of Western technological society that it is a wonder it was permitted to be published. Calling on extensive research among the planet's remaining stone-age societies - in Africa, Australia, and Southeast Asia - as well as anecdotal reports from early explorers, Chicago University Professor Marshall Sahlins directly challenges the idea that Western civilization has provided greater "leisure," or "affluence, " or even greater economic reliability, than primitive" hunter-gatherers. He concludes that for from being on the edge of starvation and having to devote all their time to survival, preindustrial peoples usually satisfied their basic needs in 3-4 hours per day and spent the rest of their time hanging around, flirting, creating art, music, and games, and sleeping. Sahlins also argues persuasively that subsistencebased societies clearly preferred their lives to more settled agricultural ways. He offers extensive research showing that they consistently under-produced, in terms of the maximum carrying capacity of their environments, just so they would hove the ability to move around without dragging surplus food or commodities, and as o means of keeping population down. A Bushman is quoted: "Why should we plant when there are so many mongomongo nuts in the world?" Sahlins charges establishment anthropalogists and economists with creating imaginary horror scenarios for the purpose of making our society look good by comparison. He describes the traditionally dismal view of the hunter-gatherers' existence as "most congenial for the task of depriving him of the same." In other words, if they ever let it out that subsistence societies lived banker's hours," as Sahlins puts it, certain question might arise as to why we stole their lands, paved them, and work 40-50 hours/week, seeking leisure. ...