Since its first publication over forty years ago Marshall Sahlins's Stone Age Economics has established itself as a classic of modern anthropology and arguably one of the founding works of anthropological economics. Ambitiously tackling the nature of economic life and how to study it comparatively, Sahlins radically revises traditional views of the hunter-gatherer and so-called primitive societies, revealing them to be the original "affluent society."
Sahlins examines notions of production, distribution and exchange in early communities and examines the link between economics and cultural and social factors. A radical study of tribal economies, domestic production for livelihood, and of the submission of domestic production to the material and political demands of society at large, Stone Age Economics regards the economy as a category of culture rather than behaviour, in a class with politics and religion rather than rationality or prudence. Sahlins concludes, controversially, that the experiences of those living in subsistence economies may actually have been better, healthier and more fulfilled than the millions enjoying the affluence and luxury afforded by the economics of modern industrialisation and agriculture.
This Routledge Classics edition includes a new foreword by David Graeber, London School of Economics.
"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
Foreword to the Routledge Classics Edition (David Graeber)
1. The Original Affluent Society
2. The Domestic Mode of Production: The Structure of Underproduction
3. The Domestic Mode or Production: Intensification of Production
4. The Spirit of the Gift
5. On the Sociology of Primitive Exchange
6. Exchange Value and the Diplomacy of Primitive Trade