E. Porter -Week 5- Systems of Exchange

When most people here the word exchange, they generally think of a two people trading some sort of item that usually have around the same value. However, this is just one, out of many forms of exchange that exist within our societies. As it turns out, the concept of exchange is actually a very important part to many functioning societies, even if they have different meanings to each person. This form of exchange for example that was just described is known as bartering. In contrast, other forms may include currency, or some type of debt system. These “systems of exchange” have provide people a way in which their labor for products and goods can be included in that particular system. In return it has created another way of developing a culture for themselves through the trading, giving and receiving items to one another.

Now because this mostly has to deal with money or, it stands to reason that the idea of exchange has to have some sort of place in a society’s economy. When it comes down to it, most if not all of these forms rely on two basic economic principles, production and distribution of resources. On the production side of things, you see exchange happing in ways that allow a person to produce an item so that it can be traded. There are a few different tactics that populations would use in order to produce a product. Now before we go any further, it’s important to realize that a society may have one or more different types of tactics. Sometimes, in groups that have low populations and densities, they would practice a hunter/gather strategy in which they would get into small groups, and follow whatever prey they were chasing. Because of this, they were always moving, which allowed for a more egalitarian type community. Some other strategies that were a bit similar to the hunter/gather strategy were the horticulture and pastoral strategies. Horticulture is where people would go and clear a section in whatever type of land they have, a forest for example, so that they can plant and garden there. Pastoral is pretty much the same thing except for instead of plants, it would be for animals that they would be using for food and clothing. Generally these three strategies go hand in hand due to the fact that they were small communities usually. On the other side, there is a tactic that people in America practice every day known as the industrial strategy. This is where you have people who work on just one particular thing that they are good at, and then they produce just that product. In order for this to work though, you have to have a high enough of population so that enough people can make all the products people need.

When it comes to the way that things are actually getting exchange, that’s where distribution comes in. As stated above in the previous paragraphs, there are different ways in which things can get distributed to people. It can be in the form of gifting in which you give someone an item so that they one day, they can do the same to you. Some societies like the Kula ring, use this as a way of social ranking in their society. Another form is the market system in which people don’t necessary have any relationship with the buyer, which is allows the customer to change where they want to go. It also depends on the idea of currency, and usually supports societies like ours in where most population is industrialized and urban. Finally there are some societies that practice exchange in which products are made and a central force comes and collects so that it may be redistributed in whichever way. This is generally in communist societies and countries such as Cuba, Laos, and China.

8 thoughts on “E. Porter -Week 5- Systems of Exchange

  1. I enjoyed reading your post and it was very similar to what I wrote. I wrote about the five different subsistence strategies and I found them very interesting to learn about. I discussed how each of those differed and the importance of each one, which seemed similar to something you wrote. I agree with your comment at the beginning where you said that a lot of people just assume that they know what an exchange is, but systems of exchange are completely different. These involve different cultures and societies where different groups of people use different strategies to survive. Also as you mentioned in the last paragraph, different societies distribute differently, using the method of “gifting,” but other groups are buyers and there are different types of currency to use. I find it fascinating that so many different cultures vary and differ from each other in not one way, but numerous ways.

  2. I enjoyed reading your post and it was very similar to what I wrote. I wrote about the five different subsistence strategies and I found them very interesting to learn about. I discussed how each of those differed and the importance of each one, which seemed similar to something you wrote. I agree with your comment at the beginning where you said that a lot of people just assume that they know what an exchange is, but systems of exchange are completely different. These involve different cultures and societies where different groups of people use different strategies to survive. Also as you mentioned in the last paragraph, different societies distribute differently, using the method of “gifting,” but other groups are buyers and there are different types of currency to use. I find it fascinating that so many different cultures vary and differ from each other in not one way, but numerous ways.

  3. Dear Eben,
    I first wanted to start off by saying that you did a wonderful job on your blog post. You made it your blog post a lot more interesting than a lot that I read simply because of the fact you didn’t just talk about class definitions the whole time. The way you were able to write an interesting article on top of including the concepts and definitions of everything was well done. I wrote about mainly the economic side of the production and distribution, so when reading yours about the five different subsistence strategies it made it more worthwhile to me. I also like how you mentioned America as an industrial strategy society. I couldn’t agree more with that because of the fact it’s so true. Today our society is mainly told since their a young child to work hard in school so that we can get into a good college, and earn a degree in a specific field of work that you will love! Overall very well wrote blog!

  4. I thought your piece was great. I enjoyed how used examples of actual societies that fall into the different forms of systems of exchange. I thought it was interesting how in America, an industrial system, we are very much specialized and individuals usually only have one skill set. Where I think in other systems people are usually more well wounded and have multiple skills to bring to the table, like those depicted in the video and in the article. Now granted these systems usually are present in smaller communities, but I can not help but think if we were all more well rounded what system of exchange we would now fall into. It also intrigued me to again read about how the systems of exchanges view on distribution and its affect on the community. Descriptions of distribution in an industrial system, like America, are often dismal and neglect to acknowledge some form of a hierarchy. I think there is certainly one though it is much more discrete than other societies. I think anthropology could stand to uncover this a little more and its impact on people living within these systems of exchange.

  5. During this week, I found myself questioning the information I thought I had already known about systems of exchange. I had assumed that they all followed some sort of monetary model. This, however, is far from the case. As you stated, there are two principles of exchange; production and distribution. There is no element of money that is needed in order to act out some sort of exchange. That is simply how the United States typically does business, but not how business has always been done. I also find it very interesting that the tax laws in the United States are a form of exchange; having a central force that collects the currency and redistributes it where they deem it is necessary. I think it is also important to note that the strategies for survival which societies adopt affect their system of exchange. For example, a hunter/gatherer society could barter their animals in exchange for crops that an agriculturalist harvested, that they couldn’t have gotten otherwise.
    Thank you!

  6. While you broadly covered a vast amount of topics you I felt you lacked how things fit into different communities. Being from a capitalistic country I am felt a disconnect from the discussion to everyday life. You did discuss the 5 strategies and what they are in a nutshell very well. I liked how you told about which populations are bound to use each strategy. In our society we use money in exchange for goods and very rarely do we find the others. Farmers represent about 2% of our population in the United States of America and are commonly the ones we see that grow plants and raise animals for different purposes. While people do have small gardens, most do not live off the food they grow and need to rely on other sources of food. Now people mix strategies and most do not simply live off one such as hunting and gathering. Most people that still practice hunting for a main food source have learned to incorporate things like farming.

  7. Hi, Porter. You did a great job discussing the systems of exchange. I’ve totally agreed with many of your opinions. Exchange do is a very important function in our society with many various forms. I really like how you introduce audiences this system by splitting it into production and distribution. For strategies you talked in the production part, it is true that the scale of communities matter. Only small societies could support those tactics like horticulture. When it comes to distribution, you described some interesting exchanges systems such as Kula’s marriage-like trading partnership. I agree with you that the idea of currency is fundamental to industrialized society to exchange. By the way, one little thing I’d like to correct is that China is no longer a communist society. Also, it might be better if you mentioned more about labor force in your discussion. Anyway, good job and thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  8. I really enjoy what your post. You focus on five subsistence strategies, and describe the relationship between different subsistence strategies, the role they play in society. There are different ways of switching between different social groups, for example, farmers provide food for people, and soldiers safeguard national security. The goal of all activities is redistribution of resources. Different like you, my focus is different exchange forms. All exchange forms have different definition and also similar parts. These occur time were different, because different factors had decide this. The historical background, state system are important factors, for example, the United States is a typical industrial system of the State, so redistribution cannot be occur in America. In contact, China is a communist country, and at a special time period, redistribution had help country develop. You did a good job.

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