How Hunter-Gatherers May Hold the Key to our Economic Future


Do we have more leisure compared to our ancestors? Are we happier at our workplaces compared to hunter-gatherers?

The most compelling thing about this research was that it suggested that “economic problem” was not, as Keyne’s believed “the primary problem of the human race from the beginnings of time”. For where the economic problem holds that we have unlimited wants and limited means, Ju/’hoansi hunter-gatherers had few wants that were easily satisfied. It was for this reason that Marshall Sahlins, arguably the most influential American social anthropologist of the 20th century, redubbed hunter-gatherers “the original affluent society”.

Unsurprisingly, this simple idea briefly captured the popular imagination: “Imagine a society in which the work week seldom exceeds 19 hours, material wealth is considered a burden, and no one is much richer than anyone else”, gushed Time Magazine in an editorial about the Bushmen in November 1969, “The people are comfortable, peaceable, happy and secure…This Elysian community actually exists.”

The complete article

James Suzman — Evonomics

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One thought on “How Hunter-Gatherers May Hold the Key to our Economic Future

  1. This article reminds me of a book I read called Ishmael, which talked about how many modern societies focus on securing and “locking up” as much food as possible, this idea of stockpiling as a kind of security blanket. “The longer we can last, the safer we are. Right now we are safe for 120 days; that’s how long we can continue if something goes wrong.”
    Of course in this time many have shifted from stockpiling food to stockpiling money, the race to “earn enough to last the rest of my life.” But in light of an uncertain future, how can anyone really “know” how much they need? And it’s interesting how, in light of that, many choose to run themselves ragged trying to “hoard” more and more, rather than accept the reality that no matter what you do, some things will always be beyond your control.
    I think the article is spot on when it cites that one of the biggest dangers is not the calamity itself, but the fact that in its wake, many other humans will grow desperate, and take what they need from those who have. But, again, many don’t see that as a reason to share and ensure that the gap is minimal. Instead they use their wealth to “castle”, fortifying themselves with physical and legal barriers to further separate themselves.
    It’s definitely a strange state, to consider ourselves “members of a community” and yet there’s a strong emphasis on being self sufficient.

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