The vague nature of this week’s prompt has incited me to do a general rundown of what we were taught in the systems of exchange lecture and then try to apply some of those concepts to the dynamic of labor organization across differently systematized societies.
In my understanding, systems of exchange is another term for economy that takes into account the patterns of flowing people and goods. It is interrelated with the organization of society and the natural and created environments of the society, but it does not directly determine either of those factors (Lecture 5.1). In other words, systems of exchange are the productive elements of society which are influenced, but are not determined by, socio-environmental forces.
Furthermore, the basic components of systems of exchange are the allocation of resources, technology, and the division of labor. The allocation of resources concerns itself with who controls and who has access to energy sources and raw materials. Technology refers to the cultural knowledge needed for making and using tools for the extraction of natural resource. And the division of labor is the determination of labor requirements for particular jobs (Lecture 5.1). As one might imagine, these factors all differ from society to society and for example, in the American context, the division of labor coincides with industrialist cultural norms where economic specialization happens to a high degree with people doing very specific jobs with small amounts of replication. Education, it follows, is the primary marker of qualification within the American division of labor, which is in contrast to other systems of exchange in different cultures like those who divide labor based on gender or generation.
Another key point about systems of exchange is that they conform to the cultural worldview of societies they operate within. For example, insects are not considered a food source in American culture despite their abundance and nutritious value, and mining in some cultures is not viewed as extracting valuable resource, but rather, as destroying the earth (Lecture 5.1). This notion of cultural worldview is important because often it is the determining factor about how a society interacts with its environment, and then subsequently organizes its labor.
Finally, systems of exchange and the dynamic of labor within it can be categorized by subsistence strategies. Hunters and Gatherers have egalitarian systems of exchange with equal access to resource and technology, and labor is organized by gender between those who hunt and those who collect. Horticulturalists and Pastoralists sometimes have centralized systems of exchange, and labor is integrated in the system without much stratification. Agriculturalists normally have centralized systems due to the existence of surplus and its necessity to be controlled, and labor is integrated with animals and machinery to increase productivity. Lastly, Industrialists experience systems of exchange dominated by the market system of trading goods and services, and labor is very highly specialized and categorized by things like education (Lecture 5.1).
Overall, it must be concluded that subsistence strategies play a large role in determining the systems of exchange within a given society, and therefore, the role of labor within each system of exchange differs based on the necessary division of labor within that society.