Modes of production are the various ways in which societies gather or produce the items they need in order to survive and prosper. The five most common modes of production are foraging, horticulture, pastoralism, agriculture, and industrialism. Although historically about 90% of human production was based on foraging, in the present day the number is less than 1%, due to globalization, industrialization, and population increase, and more intensive forms such as industrialized agriculture have taken its place. In some modes of production the environment is also put at risk to produce at such a high level.This section reviews the way these modes have been used in the past as well as the ways cultures around the world continue to use them to this day.
There are several correlates, or regular features, of foraging societies. They live in small groups called "bands," comprised of 30 to 50 people that are mobile according to seasonal rounds, moving from place to place to utilize different resources and assure their resources are not completely consumed. However, the largest foraging bands can reach around 120 people (Dunbar's Number). When hunting and gathering, groups make sure that they don't become too attached to a piece of land because that could prevent them from moving on after the season has passed. When they have gathered their resources they bring all of their goods together as a group to guarantee that the entire group is fed properly; if they held resources individually, not one person would get the nutrition needed to survive. Even though they tend to have all the resources they need, the ability to store goods is limited so they only take what they can eat; nothing is wasted. In most foraging societies, the large majority of their caloric intake comes from foraged plants, nuts, and seeds, rather than hunted animals. There are however exceptions, such as the Inuit people in Alaska and Northern Canada, who live in an extreme environment with little available plant life. A common factor in many of these societies is that they utilize egalitarian sharing; everyone in the community has a right to eat as long as contributions are being made by everyone that can perform work. When an individual fails to share or contribute in a meaningful way, the community uses shame and ostracization to promote the desired behaviors, and eventually, if the individual continues to act in a selfish manner they will be ejected from the society completely.
Within these groups, the political and social organization is very simple. Some bands have no political leader but instead look to elders who hold more prestige than others due to their age and experience. Such individuals do not have power over other members of the band. In other cases, a band may have a headman who leads by example rather than by force. There tends to be very little conflict between people because of the small group size and due to the fact that bands are kin-based units.
Pacific Northwest Native American history has shattered stereotypes that previously insisted on the necessity of farming and agricultural practices in order to develop complex, structured societies rich in culture. With over 39 different languages and 11 distinct language families, Northwestern coastal Natives were “the most socially complex hunting and gathering societies known to earth.” Prior to the arrival of European explorers 250 years ago and the practice of written documentation, they had no form of written language; history was recorded orally, and Native families were not dependent on a monetary system. Natives of the Pacific Northwest had a unique hierarchical system dependent on slavery and with hereditary chiefs. Their potlatch ceremonies served as a redistribution of wealth and unquestionably displayed their affluence and abundance of natural resources, art, and culture. Economies were based on generating heaps of processed and stored foods. Pacific Northwest Coast peoples' diets generally consisted of berries, bulbs, shoots, waterfowl, land mammals, shellfish, chitons, sea urchins, crabs, seaweeds and, most importantly, salmon. They hunted and gathered only what was available, with great respect to life and the interconnection of nature, believing that all living things possessed a spirit, presented themselves as food willingly and had to be honored accordingly. It was believed that “Bears, whales, thunderbirds, wolves, or salmon -and supernatural beings- had their own villages, chiefs, and structured societies.” When food was scarce, it was a result of disrespect or broken taboos.
Horticulture can be defined as the practice of garden cultivation (preparing land for farming) and maintaining, characterized by a crop or forest rotation with long fallow periods . Horticulturist societies generally have around 160 people per square kilometer . The main crops they produce are vegetables, grains and roots . The success of a society surviving on horticulture requires communal involvement in sharing the work load, and the work is distributed by sex and age group .Children have an important role in a horticultural society because they weed and plant seeds, and collect water and firewood.
Slash and burn agriculture, also known as "shifting cultivation," has been found in many parts of the globe, although it is nowadays mostly associated with horticultural cultivation in tropical rainforests. The process of slashing and burning involves two important components, the first being cutting down trees and right before the rainy season, burning them to produce a nutrient rich ash. Secondly, after the fields productivity has declined, it is abandoned and allowed to return to a natural state. Given enough time, fields that have been burnt can return to a "predisturbance" state, and can be used by humans for food and other resources. These fields typically retain a large amount of plant species useful for humans. This is done because so many of the fields are so overused to the point where all the nutrients are stripped and this helps restore a great amount of nutrients back into the soil.
Today slash and burn cultivation is practiced by 200 to 500 million or more people worldwide. When done improperly, slashing and burning can degrade large amounts of forests which will not recover. Because of this, it sparked a debate whether or not it should be continued or not. However, if done properly, slashing and burning can provide a small group of people with a secure food source and has been shown to be sustainable over time.
The Yanamamo are a population living in the Amazon Rainforest in the hills between Brazil and Venezuela. They are the largest population of native people in South America, and because of the remoteness of their location they managed to remain uncontacted by outsiders until the mid-20th century. The village stays within the shabono, which are oval shaped houses that are around 100 yards long. Everyone lives in the same Shabono, which they build out of materials found in the jungle. They primarily harvest bananas through slash and burn horticulture. They have one of the lowest levels of blood pressure of any human population due to diets extremely low in salt and saturated fats and high in fruit, vegetables and roots.
Pastoralism is defined as the herding of domesticated or partially domesticated animals. The basis for pastoralism is mobility. Some pastoralists move throughout the year, while others have a permanent or semi-permanent base camp where women and children remain throughout the year while men move herds to remote pastures. Their main concern is the care, tending, and use of livestock. Pastoral groups occupy large spaces of marginal lands which can be sustainable if the land is allowed to replenish itself. The animals in their herds are able to live off marginal lands which humans may not be able to utilize directly because of insufficient nutrients or rainfall. Living in tents, yurts or teepees allows pastoralists to have mobile homes so they can utilize seasonal sources of water and pasture. Pastoralists were the first to have signs of inheritance of land, and could achieve a population density up to 10 people per square kilometer in order to make room for their herds. Almost 50% of their diet came from meat from their own herd.
The Maasai tribes of East Africa are a modern example of a pastoralist society. They inhabit parts of Kenya and Northern Tanzania. They rely predominately on the herding of goats, sheep, and cattle as their main source of food. Cattle are held in high regards among the Maasai. In fact, the size of a man’s cattle is often considered a measure of his wealth. One example of this is from Richard Borshay Lee's article, "Eating Christmas in the Kalahari" when he states, " I determined to slaughter the largest, meatiest ox that money could buy." The Maasai people also consume food such as maize, rice, cabbage, and potatoes. The Maasai tribes still continue their culture and traditions today.
Agriculture is the production of food and goods by means of forestry, farming, utilizing machinery, irrigation systems, and fertilization. Its defining feature is land ownership (and if not ownership, then very detailed and socially enforced use rights) in addition to water rights. One significant result of agriculture is that it led to the development of large populations. Domesticated animals were kept and permanent crops were maintained; this, in turn, created food surpluses that paved the way to more stratified societies with larger populations. This created a need for a higher level rule enforcement through social institutions, private property, and stored wealth. Agricultural production created land ownership and lots of resources in a limited space.
There are three types of agriculture: family farms, collectivized agriculture, and industrialized agriculture. Each culture that employs agriculture uses one of these three types. The "family farm" run by a household has largely been replaced by industrialized farms. However, industrialized farms are not without controversy, due to their use of potentially dangerous chemicals, inhumane treatment of animals, monocropping, and increasing reliance on genetically modified organisms.
Family farming is the means of agricultural farming in which the operator and the operator's relatives (through blood, marriage, or adoption) own the majority of the farm. In both developed and developing countries family farming use to be the most common type of agriculture in food production. There are many factors into running a successful family farm. This includes variables such as ecological condition, access to natural resources and access to finances. Nearly 90% of the world's farms are small, run by families, and found in rural areas of developing nations. The United States is an exception; family farms range significantly in size and capital. Small family farms have a gross cash farm income (GCFI) less than $350,000; midsize family farms have GCFI between $350,000 to $999,999; and large family farms have a minimum GCFI of $1 million.
Collectivized agriculture includes a number of farm households or villages working together under state control. The government typically requires routine deliveries of certain crops at a fixed price and agrees to purchase all remaining produce, often at a higher price. The net income of the farm is then divided among the collective's members. There are many varieties of collective farming, which vary by location. Collective agriculture was never popular in the U.S. However many countries such as China, Vietnam, and Russia uses some form of collective agriculture. Reasons for collectivization include achieving greater production and sales through the use of large-scale farming, modernization of agriculture, and the government's ability to finance industrialization through the acquisition of crops at low prices.
Industrial agriculture, being the most extreme form of agriculture, aims to produce the highest quantity of yields on the smallest amount of land. Developed in the ages after World War 2 industrial agriculture is an intense form of farming meant to create a higher output than input. Many industrial farms consist of huge single production crop farms and animal production facility. At first industrial agriculture was seen as a great way to feed the increasing population but the long lasting impact on the environment and rural areas has made it become to be seen as unstable. One core principle of industrial agriculture lies in increased specialization. This often results in genetic modification - when genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating or natural recombination - of plants and soils by breeding selectively for the hardiest, resilient, high-yielding varieties. Corn, also known as maize, is a common genetically modified crop. Corn was derived from a plant called teosinte. This plant had an “ear” that was roughly an inch long. through careful cross-breeding and selection, scientists and farmers have been able to engineer the modern day corn that we see today. Modern day corn has been engineered to taste sweeter, grow faster, grow bigger, and produce more with less space. Consequently, these varieties of seed are infertile, which causes farmers to buy new seed annually. Industrial farmers commonly streamline their efforts and produce a mono-crop rather than a rotation of crops to optimize efficiency.Mono-crops can be bad for the environment. If the community only has the mono-crop to rely on as the main food source, then if a disease or adrought happens and kills the crop or makes it inedible then that community is left without there main food source. Industrial agriculture requires more inputs—land, labor, seeds, water, pesticides, fertilizers, fossil fuels, seen as commodities in this style of practice—than previous modes of production, which requires increased mechanization to keep up with increased productivity. The influxes in yields come at a cost; industrial farming has attributed to human and environmental threats. Recent advancements in technology, specifically computers, has resulted in fewer jobs for human workers. Environmental hazards stem from increases in synthetic pesticide and fertilizer use and declines in soil quality (decreases in nutrient and topsoil availability from increased soil aeration and erosion) and water quality and availability. Over the past century, industrialism has spread over the globe, replacing the more self-reliant and independent sources of production, like foraging and horticulture.
The Green Revolution
A crossroads between scientific research and industrial agriculture occurred after World War II and lead to a spike in crop yields. This is now referred to as the Green Revolution. The Green Revolution was an international campaign carried out by the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations that aimed to alleviate hunger by increasing food production.
The Indian state of Punjab is a prominent example of the Green Revolution. In 1950-60s, India relied on importing food grains, depleting its foreign reserves. By implementing industrialized practices, the objective was to help Punjab produce enough food to wean the state away from importing grain, leading to economic independence and food security. Prior to the Green Revolution, “41 varieties of wheat, 37 varieties of rice, four varieties of maize, three varieties of bajra, 16 varieties of sugarcane, 19 varieties of pulses, nine varieties of oil seeds and 10 varieties of cotton” were grown in Punjab. After the introduction of technology, the motley of crops was reduced to monocultures of wheat and rice.
The shift from indigenous varieties of seeds to the Green Revolution varieties involved a shift from a farming system controlled by peasants to one controlled by chemical and seed corporations and other farming infrastructure e.g. banks, utilities, etc. There became only two central bodies related to food production, procurement, and distribution: the Food Corporation of India and the Agricultural Price Commission (Shiva). The main bank was also centralized and nationalized. The government subsidized inputs, funded large infrastructure projects to provide water for irrigation, and promoted the purchase, planting, and growth of HYV wheat. This helped offset costs, but it further removed power from the farmers and allowed the government to control the allocation of inputs and thus farm economies.
In addition to the divide between the government and farmers, there also became a divide within the farming community. Larger harvests, made possible by HYV seed, drove down the prices for crops while the costs of inputs skyrocketed, narrowing profit margins. In 1974, small farmers had an annual per capita loss of Rs 125 while farmers with 5-10 acres of land had a per capita profit of Rs 50 and farmers with over 20 acres had per capita profits of Rs 1,200. Small-scale farmers also often found themselves competing for credit or irrigation facilities with agriculturists who have city houses and political connections and the local elite who make up the village committees that allocate the credit.
Violence and conflict emerged over river waters, societal class, pauperization of the lower peasantry, and the mechanization of labor. The small farming community was riddled with large debts incurred in buying into the Green Revolution, which often ended in unemployment. A combination of these problems led to increased amounts of conflict and violence. More than 15,000 people lost or claimed their own lives between 1985 and 1991. While the Green Revolution intended to create a peaceful and positive political and economic transformation in Punjab, it generated violence and bloodshed instead.
The term Post-Industrial economy refers to a period in which an already industrialized economy or nation begins to experience a decrease in relative importance of manufacturing and an increase in relative importance to service, research, and information-based aspects of the economy. The general shift away from blue-collar manufacturing jobs is coupled with the dominance in the service sectors. The largest of these service sectors include education, healthcare, research, and government services. Examples of Post-Industrial Societies include the United States, Canada, Japan, and most of Western Europe.
Common Characteristics of a Post-Industrial Economy:
- Decline in Manufacturing Sector of economy
- Reliance on overseas outsourcing of manufactured goods
- Increase in Service Sector of economy
- Increase in amount of information technology
The economic transition from Industrial to Post-industrial modes of production have had tremendous effects on people’s employment and lifestyles. As the United States began a transition toward fewer manufacturing jobs, especially in the steel and automotive industries, thousands of workers were left without jobs. There are few examples that illustrate this evolution better than the transition of the United States’ “Manufacturing-Belt”, to the United States’"Rust-Belt". The geographic location of this area encompasses Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and the industrial Midwest, and was once the source of a very large part of the manufactured goods in the United States. The region had a booming manufacturing based economy for much of the 19th and 20th centuries, but by the 1980s, it had become known as the “Rust-Belt”. Several factors, including overseas competition, made manufacturing steel and other goods unprofitable in the region. As a result, many jobs were outsourced, and unemployment grew rapidly. For many years cities such as Pittsburg and Cleveland faced outward migrations because it no longer made economic sense for these people to live in the region. These people often moved to areas still involved in manufacturing goods in other parts of the country, and many retrained for different employment. More recently, much of the region is experiencing growth in the service sectors and in technology intensive manufacturing. This migration and move away from manufacturing as a way of making a living had significant effects on the culture in the region as people had to adapt their way of life and thinking in order to cope with and adapt to the changing economic environment. Today, politicians visiting cities in the “Rust-Belt” often emphasize their belief in the importance of a strong economy because it is a value that many people in the region believe is important.