stone age econ

stone age economics (1972) by marshall sahlins via 363 pg pdf [].. after reading david graeber‘s foreword to stone age econ


Introduction Xl
1 The Original Affluent Society
2 The Domestic Mode of Production: The Structure of Underproduction 41
3 The Domestic Mode of Production: Intensification of Production 101
4 The Spirit of the Gift 149
5 On the Sociology of Primitive Exchange 185
6 Exchange Value and the Diplomacy of Primitive Trade

[david ref’s most of these .. so may have separate pages for each? if so will link my notes above.. page numbers are first actual book page then in () pdf page]

xi (12)


I have written the several essays of this volume at various times over the past ten years. Some were written especially for the present publication. All were conceived and are here assembled in the hope of an anthropological economics, which is to say, in opposition to businesslike interpretations of primitive economies and societies.

xii (13)

The first essays concern production: “The Original Affluent Society” and “The Domestic Mode of Production.” (The latter has been divided for convenience into two sections, Chapters 2 and 3. but these make up one continuous argument.) The chapters following turn to distribution and exchange: “The Spirit of the Gift.” “On the Sociology of Primitive Exchange/’ “Exchange Value and the Diplomacy of Primitive Trade.” But as the exposition is at the same time an opposition, this sequence harbors also a more concealed strategy of debate. The lead chapter accepts battle on formalist terms. “The Original Affluent Society” does not challenge the common understanding of “economy” as a relation between means and ends; it ‘only denies that hunters find any great disparity between the two. The following essays, however, would definitively abandon this entrepreneurial and individualist conception of the economic object. “Economy” becomes a category of culture rather than behavior, in a class with politics or religion rather than rationality or prudence: not the need-serving activities of individuals, but the material life process of society. Then, the final chapter returns to economic orthodoxy, but to its problems, not to its problematique. The attempt in the end is to bring the anthropological perspective to bear on the traditional work of microeconomics, the explanation of exchange value.

In all this, the aim of the book remains modest: merely to perpetuate the possibility of an anthropological economics by a few concrete examples.

xiii (14)

And while many of the arguments seem models of good sense, the total effect has been to confirm everyone in his original prejudice. (“He who’s convinced against his will/Is of the same opinion still.”) Reason has proven a poor arbiter.. Officially, as a participant in a discipline that considers itself a science, I would rest the case on the essays themselves, and on the belief they explain matters better than the competing theoretical mode. Such is the traditional and the healthy procedure: let all the flowers bloom, and we shall see which bear real fruit.

1 (16)

1 – The Original Affluent Society

41 (56)

2 – The Domestic Mode of Production: The Structure of Underproduction

101 (116)

3 – The Domestic Mode of Production: Intensification of Production

149 (164)

4 – The Spirit of the Gift

185 (200)

5 – On the Sociology of Primitive Exchange

186 (201)

Yet the connection between material flow and social relations is reciprocal. A specific social relation may constrain a given movement of goods, but a specific transaction-“by the same token”-suggests a particular social relation. If friends make gifts, gifts make friends. A great proportion of primitive exchange, much more than our own traffic, has as its decisive function this latter, instrumental one: the material flow underwrites or initiates social relations. Thus do primitive peoples transcend the Hobbesian chaos. For the indicative condition of primitive society is the absence of a public and sovereign power: persons and (especially) groups confront each other not merely as distinct interests but with the possible inclination and certain right to physically prosecute these interests. Force is decentralized legitimately held in severalty, the social compact has yet to be drawn, the state nonexistent. So peacemaking is not a sporadic intersocietal event, it is a continuous process going on within society itself. Groups must “come to terms”-the phrase notably connotes a material exchange satisfactory on both sides.

to me.. oi oi oi marsh exchange law et al.. reciprocity et al.. oi

187 (202)

Even on its strictly practical side, *exchange in primitive communities has not the same role as the economic flow in modern industrial communities. The place of transaction in the total economy is different: under primitive conditions it is more detached from production, less firmly hinged to production in an organic way. Typically, it is less involved than modern exchange in the acquisition of means of production, more involved with the redistribution of finished goods through the community. The bias is that of an economy in which food holds a commanding position, and in which day-to-day output does not depend on a massive technological complex nor a complex division of labor. It is the bias also of a domestic mode of production: of household producing units, division of labor by sex and age dominant, production that looks to familial requirements, and direct access by
domestic groups to strategic resources. **It is the bias of a social order in which rights to control returns go along with rights to use resources of production, and in which there is very limited traffic in titles or income privileges in resources. It is the bias, finally, of societies ordered in the main by kinship. Such characteristics of primitive economies as these, so broadly stated, are of course subject to qualification in specific instances. They are offered only as a guide to the detailed analysis of distribution that follows. It is also advisable to repeat that “primitive” shall refer to cultures lacking a political state, and it applies only insofar as economy and social relations have ***not been modified by the historic penetration of state

*who knows.. maybe not same role.. but to me.. same song

**kevin on communal property ness et al

***but modified by any form of m\a\p..

190 (205)

Speaking more broadly, redistribution by powers-that-be serves two purposes, either of which may be dominant in a given instance. The practical, logistic function-redistribution sustains the community, or community effort, in a material sense. At
the same time, or alternatively, it has an instrumental function: as a ritual of communion and of subordination to central authority, redistribution sustains the corporate structure itself, that is in a social sense. The practical benefits may be critical, but, whatever the practical benefits, chiefly pooling generates the spirit of unity and centricity, codifies the structure, stipulates the centralized organization of social order and social action- ‘… every person who takes part in the aTJa [feast organized by a Tikopia chief] is *impelled to participate in forms of cooperation which for the time being go far beyond his personal interests and those of his family and reach the bounds of the whole community. Such a feast gathers together chiefs and their clans folk who at other times are rivals ready to criticize and slander each other, but who assemble here with an outward show of amity …. In addition, such purposive activity subserves certain wider social ends, which are common in the sense that every person or nearly every person knowingly or unknowingly promotes them. For instance, attendance at the aTJa and participation in the economic contributions does in fact help to support the Tikopia system of authority
(Firth, 1950, pp. 230-23 1).’

*oi oi oi oi oi

So we have at least the outline of a functional theory of redistribution. The central issues are now likely to be developmental ones, the specification by comparison or phylogenetic study of selective circumstances. The economic anthropology of reciprocity, however, is not at the same stage. One reason, perhaps, is a popular tendency to view reciprocity as balance, as unconditional one-for-one exchange. Considered as a material transfer, reciprocity is often not that at all. Indeed, it is precisely through scrutiny of departures from balanced exchange that one glimpses the interplay between reciprocity, social relations and material circumstances.

to me.. cancerous distraction..

191 (206)

Reciprocity is a whole class of exchanges, a continuum of forms. This is specially true in the narrow context of material transactionsas opposed to a broadly conceived social principle or moral norm of give-and-take. At one end of the spectrum stands the assistance freely given, the small currency of everyday kinship, friendship, and neighborly relations, the “pure gift” Malinowski called it, regarding which an open stipulation of return would be unthinkable and unsociable. At the other pole, self-interested seizure, appropriation by chicanery or force requited only by an equal and opposite effort on
the principle of lex talionis, “negative reciprocity” as Gouldner phrases it. The extremes are notably positive and negative in a moral sense. The intervals between them are not merely so many gradations of material balance in exchange, they are intervals of sociability. The distance between poles of reciprocity is, among other things, social distance :

194 (209)

The ideal type is Malinowski’s “pure gift.” Other indicative ethnographic formulas are “sharing,” “hospitality,” “free gift,” “help,” and “generosity.” Less sociable, but tending toward the same pole are “kinship dues,” “chiefly dues,” and “noblesse oblige. “Price (1962) refers to the genre as “weak reciprocity” by reason of the vagueness of the obligation to reciprocate.

to me.. all same song

This is not to say that handing over things in such form, even to “loved ones,” generates no counterobligation. But the counter is not stipulated by time, quantity, or quality: the expectation of reciprocity is indefinite. It usually works out that the time and worth of reciprocation are not alone conditional on what was given by the donor, but also upon what he will need and when, and likewise what the recipient can afford and when

yep.. same song.. oi

277 (292)

6 – Exchange Value and the Diplomacy of Primitive Trade

Anthropological economics can respectably claim one theory of value on its own, fashioned from empirical encounters in its own province of primitive and peasant economies. Here, in many of the societies, have been discovered “spheres of exchange” which stipulate for different categories of goods differential standing in a moral hierarchy of virtu. This is anything but a theory of exchange value. The diverse values put on things depend specifically on barriers to their interchange, on the inconvertibility of goods from different spheres; and as for the transactions (“conveyances”) within any one sphere, no determinants of the rates have yet been specified (cf. Firth, 1965; Bohannan and Dalton ,1962; Salisbury, 1962). So ours is a theory of value in nonexchange, or of nonexchange value, which may be as appropriate to an economy not run on sound business principles as it is paradoxical from a market standpoint. Still it is plain that anthropological economics will have to complete its theory of value with a theory of exchange value, or else abandon the field at this juncture to the forces of business as usual: supply, demand, and equilibrium price.

This essay constitutes a reconnaissance with a view toward defending the terrain as, anthropological territory. But it will be in every sense a venture in “Stone Age Economics” -and rather of the earlier phase than the later. Its intellectual weapons are the crudest choppers, capable only of indelicate blows at the objective, and likely soon to crumble against refactory empirical materials.

314 (329)

The conclusion to this aspect of Melanesian trade will serve ‘as well for the whole: a primitive theory of exchange value is also necessary, and perhaps possible-without saying it yet exists.




stone age econ

affluence w/o abundance

david on marshall

marshall on culture