Band Societies and Capitalism


Class Conscious
Jan 5, 2022
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4.2 Poor

By middle class standards, band life is materially poor. They produce very few material goods. But their life also has obvious advantages. Estimates of how hard they work vary considerably, but the controversy is whether they work about as much as or less than typical workers today. No ethnographers have found evidence of overworked hunter-gatherer band members constantly struggling to provide subsistence for their families. Probably the widest summary of studies is Clark (2007, 64). One of the more pessimistic studies found bandmembers working 49 hours per week including food preparation, childcare, and walking-five hours less than the most comparable gures we can nd for theaverage U.S. worker (Aguiar/Hurst 2007, 976; Hill/Kaplan/Hawkes/Hurtado1985). No bands work as hard or as long as industrial sweatshop laborers; none resort to child labor as so many families are forced to today (Sharif 2003).While most hunter-gatherers eat a varied diet high in protein and low in starch, many people in contemporary state societies struggle with various forms of malnutrition, and two-thirds of the people alive today are involuntary vegetarians (Harris 1977, x). Band societies even provide a higher and more reliable economic minimum than capitalist states. Today 963 million people across the world are hungry, and almost 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes every day (Black/Morris/Bryce 2003; Food-and-Agriculture-Organization-of-theUnited-Nations 2008). According to Woodburn (1968, 51), for a Hadza to die of hunger, or even to fail to satisfy his hunger for more than a day or two, is almost inconceivable.Unemployment and homelessness are inconceivable in band societies. People
are free to work for themselves; free to build an appropriate shelter; free to use the resources of the Earth to meet their needs.
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