[Marxism] Marshall Sahlins resignation
lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Feb 25 15:34:14 MST 2013
On 2/25/13 5:18 PM, Daniel Koechlin wrote:
> Is this the same Marshall Sahlins that wrote Stone Age Economics?
It would be a mistake to view Blackfoot society as idyllic. There were
terrible hardships when the weather was severe and hunting was poor.
Starvation could ensue. Woman's work was hard also and much of the day
was spent in finishing rawhide, a highly valued but tough job. When the
colonizers decided that the Blackfoot would be better off as farmers or
ranchers, they found that no amount of logic could persuade the Indian.
Instead it took violence to change the Indian's mind. What explains the
devotion to hunting?
The best explanation is that all the goods of life could be procured in
a successful hunt. After a bison was transformed into food, shelter and
clothing, there was very little else that had to be done. Time could be
spent at leisure. This, of course, is the approach to life that is
strictly forbidden under capitalism, where work-and-spend is the order
of the day. The very best explanation of the ethos of the hunting
societies is given by Marshall Sahlins in the first chapter of "Stone
Age Economics," titled "The Original Affluent Society":
"The hunter, one is tempted to say, is 'uneconomic man.' At least as
concerns nonsubsistence goods, he is the reverse of that standard
caricature immortalized in any General Principles of Economics, page
one. His wants are scarce and his means (in relation) plentiful.
Consequently he is 'comparatively free of material pressures,' has 'no
sense of possession,' shows 'an undeveloped sense of property,' is
'completely indifferent to any material pressures,' manifests a 'lack of
interest' in developing his technological equipment.
"In this relation of hunters to worldly goods there is a neat and
important point. From the internal perspective of the economy, it seems
wrong to say that wants are 'restricted,' desires 'restrained,' or even
that the notion of wealth is 'limited.' Such phrasings imply in advance
an Economic Man and a struggle of the hunter against his own worse
nature, which is finally then subdued by a cultural vow of poverty. The
words imply the renunciation of an acquisitiveness that in reality was
never developed, a suppression of desires that were never broached.
Economic Man is a bourgeois construction-as Marcel Mauss said, 'not
behind us, but before, like the moral man.' It is not that hunters and
gatherers have curbed their materialistic 'impulses'; they simply never
made an institution of them. 'Moreover if it is a great blessing to be
free from a great evil, our [Montagnais] Savages are happy; for the two
tyrants who provide hell and torture for many of our Europeans, do not
reign in their great forests,--I mean ambition and avarice . . . as they
are contented with a mere living, not one of them gives himself to the
Devil to acquire wealth.'
"We are inclined to think of hunters and gatherers as poor because they
don't have anything; perhaps better to think of them for that reason as
free. 'Their extremely limited material possessions relieve them of all
cares with regard to daily necessities and permit them to enjoy life.'"
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