Consumption and Exchange Essay

Consumption and Exchange Essay

While the changes that take place in the contemporary societies are evident, for instance the change from hunting and gathering to the cash economy, production, exchange and consumption are inextricably integral elements that define the society. Native Americans of the Northwest have been a subject for scholarly inquiry in relation to where they fall. The economic anthropology of these people has attracted interest given that though the whole of humanity has at one time practiced foraging as a dominant economic activity, the Native Americans in the Northwest Coast were still able to go a mile further and engage in other lavish practices like gift-giving (Wood et al 2006).

In the concept of consumption, the society uses the up the goods or money. Production on the other hand involves the society accumulating goods or money. Lastly, exchange is where the goods or money accumulated are transferred amongst individuals or institutions. Foraging was predominant amongst the Native Americans of Northwest as a method of production. Nevertheless, the main focus of these people was to collect food for consumption and hence when the collected food was sufficient to meet their consumption needs, they had all the time devoted to leisure and merry-making like the potlatch ceremonies (Wendy et al 1998). Some scholars have felt that this is a reason enough to label the Kwakwaka’wakw, for instance, as consumers rather than classifying them as belonging to either production or exchange continuums.

The issue of pure gift in economics presents a tricky subject though generalized reciprocity is considered as pure gift. In a system of redistribution, gifts form the commodity allocation economy and therefore part of exchange. A pure gift would exist in a situation where there is a transaction which can be pinned to the allocation system but cannot be identified as part of an exchange (Ensminger 2002). For instance, where the society upholds the spirit of transferring commodities from parents to their children it becomes a pure transfer hence a pure gift. In the contemporary society, there are pressures that still create the pure gift. An example is where giving a gift to someone in hospital would signify affection or sympathy.

Reference List:

Wendy J., Marcel, M. and Allen, N. J. 1998 “Marcel Mauss” Berghahn Books: 105-122

Wood, B. D., Barbara D., Balkansky, A., Mercado, J. and Panger M. (2006) “Anthropology” Boston: Allyn & Bacon: 309-328

Ensminger, J. 2002 “Theory in economic anthropology” Rowman Altamira: 102-15

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