V. Raju – Week 5 – Systems of Exchange

The forms of exchange that exist between different societies all fall under the category of systems of exchange. In order for society to be a system of exchange there must be some form of labor. Culture, society, and environment all influence the way individuals live their lives. Society helps keep organizational structures in place even if the foundation of each structure is fundamentally different from one another. In this unit we learned about five societies that are considered to be part of the systems of exchange. These societies consist of Hunter/Gatherers, Industrialists, Horticulturalists, Pastoralists, and Agriculturalists. In all of these societies we notice that there is always some type labor in order to obtain goods or services. This economic system is defined by “the provision of goods and services to meet biological and social wants and needs” (Lecture 5.1).

In a hunter-gatherer society it’s especially common for the people to obtain food through foraging. This means in most circumstances the people living in this society would mainly collect indigenous plants and pursue wild animals. It’s common for everyone in this society to participate in the same activities, rather than having a division of labor. This results in the people reaping similar benefits depending on the type of work they are doing. It was common for both men and women to do different activities, but still have an egalitarian sense of power and influence.

Agricultural societies on the other had an economy that was based on producing and maintaining crops and farmland. This shows that production at this time was a huge importance that created and sustained a new form of exchange. There were other methods and means of work in this society, but agriculture and farming were still the most important. Horticulturalist societies were also important in society and they used the system of exchange in their own way as well. They were more similar to Pastoralists than any other type of society. Many individuals growing food was the significance of Horticulture. The problem that was common in this society was that it was very difficult to maintain and depend on solely growing food, because climate and weather has a big influence on the production of these plants. Without a sustainable environment it was impossible to solely rely on growing food. This meant that people living in this society had to constantly move in order for this to work. Pastoralist societies are comparable to Horticulturalist societies, except instead of plants these individuals relied solely on animals. So in the same way it was common for pastoralists to also migrate and move constantly in order to find resources in order to survive.

In our current society as we refer to as the Industrialist society, there is a more traditional market and capitalistic system. People learn different things and place emphasis on their interests and things that appeal to them individually. This type of society has created different institutions that incorporate religion, education, and politics all into one. In this society we tend to use money in exchange for basic goods and services. This helps everyone make decisions for themselves and gives them more freedom to do the things that they want, but this also causes a deeper level of inequality for many people as well.

It’s clear that the systems of exchange play an important role in all societies throughout the evolution of our species. In all five of these societies there was always a means of production and labor in order for them to function properly.

2 thoughts on “V. Raju – Week 5 – Systems of Exchange

  1. I had the pleasure of reading your blog post and took note of how well you explained the forms of exchange from your lenses. I liked how you individually described the societies and from your perspective spoke about our current society the “Industrialist society.” Though they have implemented very similar production methods, I think it would be nice to elaborate on just how different agricultural and industrialist societies are. They are both businesses, but the important difference between the two are the products in which they produce. The farming produces our raw materials for clothing, food etc., while industry produces cars, paint, etc. In terms of financial strength industrial products are a lot stronger. They have a better control over their market and the prices they receive for their products. Most can pass on expenses when they go up and/or increase or decrease production to control supply to stay with the demand. Agriculture, on the other hand, has very little control over their prices. They are at the whim of the market. The supply depends on the weather, something they have no control over.

  2. Overall, this is a very clear and concise post that demonstrates your understanding of the relationship of labor within systems of exchanges. In the beginning of the post you importantly identified that culture, society, and environment are the foundations for systems of exchange. Although your post diverges into the specifics of the categorization of subsistence societies, you do not spend any time making distinctions between natural and created environments, both of which are influential determining factors for the division of labor. For example, in industrialist societies like America’s there are things like public transportation which is a part of the created environment which completely changes the dynamic of labor when compared to societies who rely more heavily on the natural environment where labor is tailored to the necessity of the land. Ultimately, I think that your incorporation about the dynamic of power within the means of production in each of the five societies has helped me further understand the complex anthropological concept of systems of exchange.

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