For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Work, Resources and Population in Foraging Societies"

by Winterhalder, Bruce (1993)


[Anthropological views on the labour effort required of hunter-gatherers have flip-flopped between stereotypic positions depicting either very limited subsistence work or long exertion. This is partly because the discipline has lacked an encompassing framework for the analysis of work, resources and population in foraging societies. A computer simulation using evolutionary and population ecology models shows that at equilibrium foraging efficiency is a declining function of work effort, whereas population density responds to work effort by first increasing and then decreasing. This and other foraging theory models provide a framework which a) can explain observations of routine sharing, modest effort and limited material accumulation in hunter-gatherer societies, b) leads us to expect diversity in the expression of these characteristics and, c) is consistent with neo-Darwinian and neoclassical economic theory. Evolutionary ecology theory thus obviates the need for a 'Zen' economics as proposed by Sahlins.]


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The Original Affluent Society, Economic Anthropology, Anthropology of Work

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