Stone Age Economics
Stone Age Economics is a classic study of anthropological economics, first published in 1974. As Marshall Sahlins stated in the first edition, "It has been inspired by the possibility of 'anthropological economics,' a perspective indebted rather to the nature of the primitive economies than to the categories of a bourgeois science." Ambitiously tackling the nature of economic life and how to study it comparatively, the book includes six studies which reflect the author's ideas on revising traditional views of the hunter-gatherer and so-called primitive societies, revealing them to be the original affluent society. The book examines notions of production, distribution and exchange in early communities and examines the link between economics and cultural and social factors. It consists of a set of detailed and closely related studies of tribal economies, of domestic production for livelihood, and of the submission of domestic production to the material and political demands of society at large.
“Any anthropologist who has postponed reading this book should do so at once… This book is outstanding and enjoyable…. Though detailed and technical in places, it is always clear, succinct, and it flowers with memorable sentences.”
—Paul Stirling, Man
“Stone Age Economics is the most important book in the field of economic anthropology produced by an American cultural anthropologist since M. J. Herskovits published The Economic Life of Primitive Peoples in 1940.”
—Scott Cook, Comparative Studies in Society and History
“Sahlins’ forays into economic anthropology are full of interest.”
—Cyril S. Belshaw, American Anthropologist
“Stone Age Economics, while not a survey of the economic anthropology, is as of now the most sophisticated, extensive presentation, and argument in and about, the field.”
—Walter C. Neale, Science
"This book is subversive to so many of the fundamental assumptions of Western technological society that it is a wonder it was permitted to be published. Calling on extensive research among the planet's remaining stone-age societies—in Africa, Australia and South-East Asia as well as anecdotal reports from early explorers, Professor Sahlins directly challenges the idea that Western civilization has provided greater 'leisure' or 'affluence,' or even greater reliability, than 'primitive' hunter-gatherers."
—Whole Earth Review
"His book is rich in factual evidence and in ideas, so rich that a brief review cannot do it justice; only another book could do that."
—E. Evans-Pritchard, Times Literary Supplement
"Sahlin's concept of the 'domestic mode of production' starts to give economic anthropology its necessary comparative basis."