Systems of exchange are primarily based on a triangle of culture, society, and the environment. All three influence how people live their lives. It is built on the base that all communities use and exploit different resources dependent on the triangle. For example, while both walleye and bison may be available to a community, they may only use bison because it is not culturally acceptable to use walleye. Economic systems develop to provide goods and services to meet social wants and biological needs of humans. The two biggest factors being production and distribution.
Production looks at the allocation of resources groups have available to them, who is able to use these resources, who controls the resources, and what rules guide who is able to use them. In some societies there are ownership rights to property and in others people are freely able to access a good. An example is the allocation of water. In many countries water is freely shared, in other countries there are rules for usage and the government is involved in allocation. Production looks at the technology available to exploit these resources, cultural knowledge for making and using tools, as well as how labor is divided to extract the resources and make them into goods. Labor can be divided by age, gender, generational, or by education.
One version of subsistence strategies is hunter gatherers. The lifestyle is based around hunting animals and gathering wild berries, plants, and seeds to provide basic food and supplies. Hunter gatherer societies have a complete absence of control over reproduction of resources. Therefore, they gather as much as available to compensate for not knowing how much will be available in the next location. They have no permanent settlement as they must follow the food. The migratory pattern creates a sparse, low density, and highly mobile population. Multiple family groups may gather in locations with large amounts of food available such as migratory caribou or spawning salmon. Religious festivals were often held during these times of gathering.
Another version of production is agriculturalists which represented a significtan transformation in society. People had more control over the environment for they controlled the reproduction of their food resources. They planted and grew large quantities of food that is eaten by the group but can also be sold or traded. There is a focus on crop rotation in agricultural societies and they use animals to work for them rather than for food. Irrigation systems also came into play. Permanent settlements led to a division of labor, such as owners versus laborers. With larger populations came a central government.
Industrialist society brought about a huge change, also considered a market society. This was dominated by a market where goods and services were exchanged for a currency. This allowed for a high degree of economic specialization and people had more time on their hands for there was a large division of labor. Institutions arose that were not based on basic necessity such as educational, political, and religious institutions. This also meant a larger government came into play with more rules. Industrial economies have a large focus on money determining a person’s worth.