N. Ance – Week Five – Systems of Exchange

We learned a lot about how exchange works in different cultures and how it has developed over time. Cultural differences shape how people use their resources to make a living and how they will make a living. In the first lecture we had the example of how different food source were seen to different cultures, some will eat insects and some will choose certain food over others (buffalo over fish), the available resources one has can be determined by the culture you grow up in.

Over thousands and thousands of years, subsistence practices have changed, how people get food, which is a basic resource that all people need to survive. People we originally divided into hunters and gatherers, forced to collect all their food from the wild. Over time more people decided to practice farming methods such as horticulturalists, agriculturalists, and pastoralists. Each method is slightly different,  horticulturalists were more slash and burn type of gathering and would use everything for themselves, agriculturalists produced food on farms in excess and would sell the excess,  pastoralists use pastors of animals and live off of them. Each uses different technology and has different traits such as size of community and roles in the society. Hunters and gathers are either one or the other, agriculturalists either own the farm/land or are working on the land. Technology also plays a large role in each type of subsistence practice. The evolution of weapons allowed hunters to be able to better take down game, irrigation allowed agriculturalists to be better able to grow crops. Industrialism is entirely different than gathering food, it is about exchanging goods and services, having a specialization, and a lot of differentiation unlike gathering food or farming. Technology really made industrialism possible because it brought about machines to make work easier and faster, allowed mass production of goods instead of people making something one at a time.

I found some of the distribution methods to be very interesting. Reciprocal exchange is where the exchanging of goods is obligated and builds relationships and is a circular relation. Something must be given back, it cannot go one way. I thought the Kula Ring example of this was very interesting. Each island got a gift from the other and it went all around to each other, and the value was within the exchange itself. I had never heard of a system lie that which I found very interesting that the story was the entire value of the object. I also found the potlatch system unique because you could move up in society just by giving a lot of things to someone at a special occasion. Also someone has to accept the gift for you to move up the social ladder. If someone does not accept the gift however, do they move down the social ladder? I thought it was an interesting concept, and if you give you are expected to get one in return. The barter system I had heard of before, but did not know that former soviet countries resorted to the barter system in collapse of the market. The shadow economies was also interesting because I had not thought of that being an economy, but it is an interesting subject it is illegal but many people are forced to go into it.

One thought on “N. Ance – Week Five – Systems of Exchange

  1. This was an extremely well written piece and it is evident that you did your reading and listened to the lectures. I liked how you somehow managed to touch on basically every single thing mentioned in this lesson, from the horticulturists to the shadow economies, like the black market drug trade. In the last paragraph, I agreed with you on everything that you wrote about. For example, you asked the question in the potlatch system if a person moved down a rank in the society if someone does not accept the food that they are being given. I think it is so interesting how different cultures do different things. I feel like we, as Americans, are so used to the way we do things, it is almost hard for us to wrap our heads around living a different way than we do. Overall, I think this was a great piece and extremely informational, good job!

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