Economic Systems Of Foragers

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Cross-Cultural Research


A variety of economic systems prevail among societies relying primarily on hunting, gathering, or fishing for subsistence. Using 10 characteristics of distribution and property ownership and a sample of 44 foraging societies, the author employs a cluster analysis to define five distinct types of economic systems. Environmental factors appear important determinants for only two of the five types of economic systems. The author also shows that these different economic systems do not correlate with many of the standard social-structural and political variables that many anthropologists believe to be the primary causal factors explaining the operation of the economy. Focusing greater attention on the economic system provides a new and important perspective for understanding the functioning of these foraging societies and to analyze property and distribution institutions and organizations in a more systematic fashion.

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