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The Original Affluent Society -by Marshall Sahlins

Hunter-gatherers

Hunter-gatherers consume less energy per capita per year than any other group of human beings. Yet when you come to examine it the original affluent society was none other than the hunter's - in which all the people's material wants were easily satisfied. To accept that hunters are affluent is therefore to recognise 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.

There are two possible courses to affluence. Wants may be "easily satisfied" either by producing much or desiring little The familiar conception, the Galbraithean way- based on the concept of market economies- states that man's wants are great, not to say infinite, whereas his means are limited, although they can be improved. Thus, the gap between means and ends can be narrowed by industrial productivity, at least to the point that "urgent goods" become plentiful. But there is also a Zen road to affluence, which states that human material wants are finite and few, and technical means unchanging but on the whole adequate. Adopting the Zen strategy, a people can enjoy an unparalleled material plenty - with a low standard of living. That, I think, describes the hunters. And it helps explain some of their more curious economic behaviour: their "prodigality" for example- the inclination to consume at once all stocks on hand, as if they had it made. Free from market obsessions of scarcity, hunters' economic propensities may be more consistently predicated on abundance than our own.

Destutt de Tracy, "fish-blooded bourgeois doctrinaire" though he might have been, at least forced Marx to agree that "in poor nations the people are comfortable", whereas in rich nations, "they are generally poor".

Paradise Lost? Since Jacob stole Esau's birthright? Charles Sellers, in The Market Revolution, noted that while there were numerous stories of whites running away to join Native American societies, there were no stories of Native Americans running away to join white society, and rural, frontier aspects of that white society were far less oppressive in the early and mid 19th century than any that can now be found, save for those that are doing the oppressing.

Talk about twistedness!  

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Jan 9th, 2010 at 02:40:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You guys are what keeps me coming back here.
 Every time I think I'm lost in a hall of mirrors, one of you shows me--Sahlins.
Somewhere, in another reality, I read a study that suggested some pretty radical things about "feudalism"- to wit:
The annual hours of labor required to cover your subsistence and your feudal obligations to the principality that collected it's share of the take were far less than the hours we work today, on the average. Mass warfare, as it became a more widely admired action sport, went from the need to equip a few armored dingbats (nights) to impressing herds of cannon fodder, changed the equation, and mercantilism finished it off.
Anyone remember who did the work, or where?

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sun Jan 10th, 2010 at 03:18:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Zwackus provided the reference to Sahlins.

The Preacher long ago noted: "Every increase in understanding brings forth an increase in sorrow."

I will propose a social corollary: "Every increase in organization brings forth an increase in oppression."

This will remain the case until and unless enough people awaken sufficiently to bring about a change of governing principles from the current, which serve the elites and exploit the citizens, to one that selects elites so as to serve citizens.

Come the day!

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Jan 10th, 2010 at 01:07:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Since it has happened before, it can happen again. The source of hope.

One could write a lot of good books on when it happened, and how it slipped away. It's the slipping away part that has been rather neglected, I think.
It occurs to me that the fact that History is strongly colored by the chest-beating of the last ape standing may be changing, and the fact that current events (nascent history) are so thoroughly documented in images and from so many points of view may be the birth of a more real history, rather than it's demise.

Peter Linebaugh and Markus Rediker are a couple old geezers who do their part. Along with Zinn.
"A Many-Headed Hydra"

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Tue Jan 12th, 2010 at 03:41:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There's a difference between an hour shoveling dung, and an hour of counter at Starbucks. Especially with medical care, you last a lot more hours. Mike Rowe and Dirty Jobs notwithstanding.

Align culture with our nature. Ot else!
by ormondotvos (ormond.otvosnospamgmialcon) on Sun Jan 10th, 2010 at 07:47:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
True. Still, my view of the value, or pleasure inherent in, menial work has changed a hell of a lot over the last decade or two. Having lived in both worlds, I'll take the shovel.
The real point is that, for example, the "Dark Ages" were quite different than the story, "The Dark Ages", and may not have really existed at all. The real dark ages were the early industrial revolution.
Wage slavery is a real accepted reality, just has a slick PR package, but is twisting into the old Skinnerian story where, as in WWII, it becomes a moral obligation to sacrifice for the "common victory over the evil terrorist enemy". Too far from the truth to survive?
Dunno.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Tue Jan 12th, 2010 at 02:54:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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