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7.1: Subsistence Strategies

Economic Organization

All cultures need ways to produce goods and distribute them for consumption. This is the essence of an economic system. The forms these take vary across the globe and make involve interaction with family or non-family. It many involve work from the home or it may be with a corporation. Some economic systems support the independence of families, while others result in a greater, albeit oft unacknowledged, interdependence. In this section we start with the mode of production, including how people get their food.

Mode of Production

The ways in which food and other material items are collected is called a system of production. Specifically, the manner in which a group produces its food is referred to as a subsistence strategy. In a capitalist system, money is the key to production. From the farmer who must purchase land and seed in order to produce food to non-farmers who must have money in order to buy food and other goods, everybody needs money in order to meet their needs. In kin-based types of economic systems, social obligations fulfill the role of money.

The primary focus of this section will be subsistence strategies as they influence other types of behavior. Anthropologists frequently categorize groups by their subsistence strategy, or how they get their food. Through research, anthropologists discovered that the subsistence strategy oftentimes predicted other forms of behavior, e.g., population size, division of labor, and social structure.


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