The Darker Side
“The Darker Side of the ‘Original Affluent Society’”, by David Kaplan…
In 1966 at a symposium entitled “Man the Hunter”, Marshall Sahlins articulated a theory postulating that hunter-gatherers were the original affluent society: that each adult hunter-gatherer only works three to five hours per day in food production and that their material wants are easily satisfied by virtue of being limited.
“The Darker Side of the ‘Original Affluent Society’”, by David Kaplan, is a rather vicious response, pointing out that the two original studies on which the theory was based were inadequate and that “affluence” is a good word for hunter-gatherers only if the definition includes high infant mortality, constant hunger and the threat of famine, and perennial squabbling with ones’ neighbors about how much of what they have should be given to one. Kaplan concludes with:
The original affluent society thesis then may be as much a commentary on our own society as it is a depiction of the life of hunter-gatherers. And that may be its powerful draw and lasting appeal.