Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Week 4: Growing Money

Part 1: Hunter Gatherers and Agriculture

Both subsistence patterns have advantages and disadvantages. Hunter gatherers benefit in many ways. One of those is a shorter work day which allows them to focus on the social aspects of life as well as religion. Foragers are also less susceptible to famine since they live well within the means of the land. On the other hand using agriculture supports a greater sized population. Agriculture also enables a culture to live a sedentary lifestyle. Agriculture (most of the time) produces enough surplus food so that people are able to become specialized in areas other than hunting or gathering.
As a Hunter gatherer I feel the greatest disadvantage you would have is depending on Mother Nature for your food and water. The population has to be mobile and close to a water source. This limits your possessions to what you or your pack can transport. Agriculture “progress” has led to the modern day peasant where a ruling class has forced laws and taxes upon farmers that were once allowed to trade their surplus freely. Agriculture results in a greater population density. An increase in density can result in the spread of disease, food shortages, and increased social unrest.
Hunter gatherers had limited resources however, due to a lack of variation in food, cultures that have taken up agriculture may lack certain nutrients. This is evident in some African cultures where children have Kwashiorkor, a lack in protein that causes the stomach to become bloated.
I think populations gradually made the transition to agriculture for a number of reasons. Greed-as mentioned above farmers were turned to peasants. As technological “advances” were made and populations the reliance on agriculture also grew.

Part 2:  Economics and Trade:

Trade is known to be based on supply and demand. Trading “surplus” or something that has a lesser value because it is easily available may be traded for something that is not as easily available with a greater value, respectively.
People benefit from trade socially when in the traditional market place by experiencing the smells and colors of the market. They might see friends or neighbors all while purchasing needed goods supporting their local economy. These open air markets (farmers markets) where human interaction happens I feel are of great value to society. People may also benefit from trade by experiencing new things. Things that may have been invented or developed in far away places.  People may hear news or may find something that they themselves could not produce.
Negative results of trade include exploitation of indigenous people, small farm workers,  and others by corporations after large profits.
The development of agriculture created a surplus in food. Because farmers had a surplus they were able to then trade for commodities, services, or labors. The surplus in food also enabled people to become specialist. The specialist need food and the farmers having surplus made for a good trade.


  1. You gave a very imaginative description to the social gains of trade. And I definitely agree that human contact offered in the market place is very much need in society.

  2. So early hunter gatherer's were "greedy" and therefore developed food production techniques? I'm not sure if I buy that. Think in terms of early human populations some 10,000 years ago, not more modern populations.

    I understand what you are saying about the negatives to trade, but you are still thinking too modern. What about other downsides such as the spread of disease? Unequal distribution of resources? The development of trade centers, leading to city centers, leading to competition between cities leading to war and violence? :-) We are really talking about the rise of trade following the rise of agriculture and the costs and benefits these early human populations experienced as a result.

    Otherwise, very interesting post.