james suzman

james suzman.png



david hogdsen fb share:


Mr Suzman is an anthropologist who has spent years studying the Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert: a San people related to those who greeted Dias on the beach, some of whom maintain the hunting and gathering lifestyle that sustained them for 150 millennia. But “Affluence Without Abundance” is not simply a description of Bushman life. Mr Suzman deftly weaves his experiences and observations with lessons on human evolution, the history of human migration and the fate of African communities since the arrival of Europeans. The overarching aim of the book is more ambitious still: to challenge the reader’s ideas about both hunter-gatherer life and human nature.

human nature

hunter gatherer

Life spent hunting and gathering, while occasionally trying, was not a tale of constant toil and privation. Food could run short during droughts or annual lean periods, but reliance on a broad range of food sources typically afforded such tribes a reliable, well-balanced diet. Even around the arid Kalahari food is plentiful (at least when the tribes are not forced to share the land with farmers and ranchers)—so much so that the typical adult need work less than 20 hours per week.

Mr Suzman argues that the dramatic cultural shift resulting from the adoption of agriculture gave rise to impulses that people in modern rich countries, the heirs of farming societies, regard as naturally human—especially the insatiable desire to accumulate. Farming teaches people to accept inequality and to valorise work. But for the vast majority of human history there was little point in accumulating, since most of what was needed could easily be got from the surrounding environment. Nor was there anything heroic about work; spending time getting more food than one could eat was a foolish waste.

Mr Suzman also reckons, after years of studying the Bushmen, that

a world in which people work and worry less is possible.

Humanity spent many more thousands of years living that way than working its fingers to the bone, after all.

It is a nice idea. But Mr Suzman’s recounting of recent history makes clear that modern life is like riding a bicycle, in which stopping means toppling over. Having created countless problems by turning to agriculture, rich societies have little choice but to press on: working, striving and inventing, even as this progress creates more problems in need of solving.


there’s a way to leap to less work/worry

ie: hlb via 2 convos that io dance.. as the day..[aka: not part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake…]..  a nother way


so started looking into James’ work and ordered his book from library..


adding page next day as Jon shares this (and while reading Paul Mason‘s postcapitalism):


Yet our collective appetite for work is undiminished.


if our working culture is an artifact of the economic problem, then perhaps we would do better to embrace automation as an opportunity to reimagine our relationship with work so that we may, as Keynes put it, “look forward to an age of leisure and abundance without dread.”


about book – affluence w/o abundance


They’ve been around an astonishingly long amount of time, and most likely lived in a similar manner for a period stretching back 70,000 years, possibly longer. This may give us pretty good insight into how homo sapiens lived for 95 or 98 percent of human history.

Looking back at how the most sustainable cultures in human history organize themselves might give us some idea of how to organize ourselves in the future.

It was only in looking at the Bushmen that I saw how our attitudes toward work are this kind of elementary particle to our society. Where does this come from? It obviously didn’t come from our lives as hunters and gatherers, who were content to work as little as possible.

There wasn’t this obsession with being busy

with full employment, with having enough for everyone to do all the time. It became clearer and clearer that this was a product of the agricultural revolution and what it forced on us, placing this premium on labor. And so many modern institutions and behaviors seem contingent on this. At the same time, a lot of these institutions are seemingly at odds with the way we’re able to live now. The agricultural revolution was sort of an accidental one, and once we developed it we became hostage to it. The population became hostage to its own growth, and this has shaped a huge amount of the economic and intellectual architecture of our modern culture. We’re still obsessed with growing, even when there’s not much room left to grow in.

I thought people might use it as a way to look at themselves from the perspective of a hunter-gatherer.

holmgren indigenous law

As it evolved, it became more about big ideas: the origin of money, our sense of equality, our sense of time, and how these all integrate to create quite a sophisticated coherent view of our world, and in some ways quite a critical view. It shifted from being a far more localized book, an intimate insight into their world, and more into something that looked in a bigger way at some of the things that shaped our world.

If we judge a civilization’s success by its endurance over time, then the Bushmen are the most successful society in human history. Their experience of modernity offers insight into many aspects of our lives, and clues as to how we might address some big sustainability questions for the future.


When a 200,000-Year-Old Culture Encountered the Modern Economy


1966 when a young Canadian anthropologist, Richard Lee, conducted a series of simple economic input-output analyses to get a better idea of how hard hunter-gatherers like Ju/’hoansi had to work to get by. Up until then, anthropologists, historians, and economists assumed that hunter-gatherers endured lives of unremitting hardship, and that it was only with the advent of agriculture that humanity began to gradually liberate itself from the tyranny of nature. The Ju/’hoansi were considered to be a particularly good example of how humans’ long-suffering ancestors lived. Not only were they isolated from modernity, but they also lived in as hostile an environment as it is possible to find.

To his surprise, Lee established that the Ju/’hoansi

not only managed to feed themselves better than many in the industrialized world, but that they did so on the basis of only around two hours foraging a day, and cheerfully spent the rest of their time on more leisurely pursuits such as napping, playing games, and making art.

On the strength of Lee’s findings and the growing weight of evidence from similar societies elsewhere, anthropologists started calling hunter-gatherers “the original affluent society and turned the established narrative of social evolution on its head.

hard time reading article (same as first article on this page).. heavy with ads..?


3013 lecture on affluence and abundance


13 min – bushmen leave little footprint/monument.. so.. getting into genetics is huge

14 min – find bushmen have more genetic diversity than europe

26 min – h g’s are not nomads at all.. they are territorial.. in order to hunt.. have to know land intimately

28 min – rather gatherer/hunters.. hunting was more like 20%.. rather lived off wild plants

34 min – no big ceremony – for couples.. rather.. sharing the same fire..

44 min – he lives in the animal he’s chasing..

48 min – on insulting meat.. of killing big/unnecessary..  brings bad luck et al.. if someone shares too much.. got to debt.. ness.. anyone was too good a provider..  a leveling mech

51 min – hg econ – immediate return econ.. all kinds of problems for them.. integrating into current econ

52 min – environment able to provide us w needs when/how we need it

56 min – no way today we can behave like h g’s.. but we can learn.. that maybe producing things to end up throwing out.. et al..

reducing gap between our desires and needs.. by wanting less


find/follow James:

link twitter


from back cover of a w/o a:

recently James founded anthropos (greek for human) – a think tank that applies anthropological methods to solving contemporary social/econ problems..

anthropos site:


wikipedia small

Dr. James Suzman is an anthropologist and the author of Affluence Without Abundance: The disappearing world of the Bushmen published by Bloomsbury in 2017. He is the nephew of Janet Suzman and great nephew of Helen Suzman. He is based in Cambridge, UK.

Suzman was born in Johannesburg South Africa and educated at Michael house. He graduated with an MA(Hons) in Social Anthropology from the University of St Andrews in 1993. He was awarded a Ph.D in social anthropology from Edinburgh University in 1996.

Suzman was the first social anthropologist to work in Namibia’s eastern Omaheke among “Southern Ju/’hoansi” where he exposed the brutal marginalisation of San that had lost their lands to white cattle ranchers and pastoralist Herero.

In 1998 Suzman was appointed to lead the landmark study, The Regional Assessment of the Status of the San in Southern Africa. Based on an ACP/EU resolution.

Suzman later led an assessment by the Minority Rights Group International to assess how Namibia’s ethnic minorities had fared in the first ten years of Namibian Independence. The subsequent report was published in 2002. Emerging during period of political upheaval in Namibia, it led to calls for the better protection of ethnic minorities in Namibia. The Namibian Government rejected the report’s findings and the President, Sam Nujoma, accused Suzman of amplifying “ethnic tensions”.

In 2001, Suzman was awarded the Smuts Commonwealth Fellowship in African Studies at Cambridge University.

Suzman later established a program to establish opportunities for Hai//om San to benefit from tourism revenues in Etosha National Park. Suzman was also involved in the dispute that arose as a result of the illegal relocation of Gwi and Gana San from Botswana’s Central Kalahari Game Reserve. Suzman was highly critical of the Botswana Government’s actions and, later, Survival International’s campaign which he claimed undermined ongoing negotiations between the Botswana Government and a coalition of organisations supporting the evicted San. Survival International, in turn, criticised Suzman and members of the negotiating team lead by Ditshwanelo, The Botswana Centre for Human Rights of complicity with the Botswana Government.

In 2007, Suzman joined De Beers where as Global Head of Public Affairs he developed De Beers award-winning sustainability functions. He resigned in 2013.

In 2013 Suzman and Jimmy Wales teamed up with Lily Cole to launch Impossible.com at the Cambridge Union. In the same year he was invited to deliver the 2nd Protimos Lecture at the Parliament Chamber of London’s Inner Temple

Suzman has published widely on San and other issues in academic journals, magazines and newspapers including the New York Times. His most recent book, Affluence Without Abundance: The Disappearing World of the Bushmen is due for release in the USA on 11 July 2017 and in the UK, New Zealand, Australia South Africa and elsewhere in September 2017.


james suzman (@anthrowittering) tweeted at 9:30 AM on Tue, Sep 05, 2017:
Stories and Change in the Kalahari. . . .my latest piece in Undark https://t.co/4nHa5TpD1s

WHAT I LEFT OUT is a recurring feature in which book authors are invited to share anecdotes and narratives that, for whatever reason, did not make it into their final manuscripts. In this installment, James Suzman shares a story that was left out of his new book, “Affluence Without Abundance: The Disappearing World of the Bushmen” (Bloomsbury).


reading Gabor’s scattered:


infants, particularly sensitive infants, intuit the diff between a parent’s real psychological states and her attempts to soothe and protect the infant by means of feigned emotional expressions.. it is much easier to fool al adult w forced emotion than a baby.. *the emotional sensory radar of the infant has not yet been scrambled.. it reads feelings clearly.. they cannot be hidden from the infant behind a screen of words, or camouflaged by well-meant but forced gestures..it is unfortunate but true that we grow far more stupid than that by the time we reach adulthood.

*why/when does this change..?

asking Gabor and James

any observations of this that you have seen ..?