Society Essays

The Original Affluent Society

The article The Original Affluent Society that is written by Sahlins analyses hunter-gatherer society. The author underlines that this society achieves the state of affluence by getting few needed things only through available means. Sahlins provides two possible means of reaching affluence. The first way known as Galbraithean way presupposes “wants may be easily satisfied either by producing much or desiring little.” The second way called Zen road outlines that human material desires are considerably limited. Therefore, as a hunter-gatherer society is completely “free from market obsessions of scarcity”, it can easily predicate its economic changes.

In spite of the fact that gatherers and hunters experience in theory the condition of poverty, Kung Bushmen who lived in that society faced “a kind of material plenty”, where he enjoyed the abundance of common useful things. Such condition of “material plenty” can be achieved by simplifying technology and establishing democracy of property. Things referring to the “material plenty” include available for each individual materials: bone, wood, stone, skin-materials, and raw material. 

Moreover, the article argues that hunter-gatherer society spends approximately three to five hours per working person involved in a food production industry per day. Industrial workers, on the contrary, spend up to 21-35 hours per week while average Hanunoo working in swidden cultivation spends annually about 1,200 hours. Furthermore, time required for work gradually increases with the development of culture; whereas, time needed for leisure activities considerably decreases. For this reason, such type of society experiences “little leisure from tasks of sheer survival.” The very process of the importance of hunting and gathering varies according to different regions. For example, tropical residents value more gathering than hunting. Therefore, females who are responsible for the process of collecting work much more than males, and thus provide the greatest part of food supply. The article concludes that the phenomenon of poverty does not mean the amount of available products, but the very relationships between people.

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