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2016-02-04 20:49:04   •   ID: 1261

Man the Hunter, Leisure time in Hunter-Gatherers societies - Sans souci?

Figure 1
Man the Hunter This is an epi paleolithic arrow-point from the Western Sahara for the hunting of smaller game, certainly a highly effective projectile type in the hands of an experienced hunter. A hunting and gathering economy virtually prevents individuals from accumulating private property and basing social distinctions on wealth.

To survive, most hunters and gatherers must follow the animals that they stalk, and they must move with the seasons in search of edible plant life. Given their mobility, it is easy to see that, for them, the notion of private, landed property has no meaning at all.

Individuals possess only a few small items such as weapons and tools that they can carry easily as they move. In the absence of accumulated wealth, hunters and gathers of Paleolithic times, like their contemporary descendants, probably, lived a relatively egalitarian existence.

Social distinctions no doubt arose, and some individuals became influential because of their age, strength, courage, intelligence, fertility, force of personality, or some other trait. But personal of family wealth could not have served as a basis for permanent social differences.

At the 1966 "Man the Hunter" conference, anthropologists Richard Borshay Lee and Irven DeVore suggested that egalitarianism was one of several central characteristics of nomadic hunting and gathering societies because mobility requires minimization of material possessions throughout a population.

Therefore, no surplus of resources can be accumulated by any single member. Other characteristics Lee and DeVore proposed were flux in territorial boundaries as well as in demographic composition.

Leisure in Hunter-Gatherer Societies At the same conference, Marshall Sahlins presented a paper entitled, "Notes on the Original Affluent Society", in which he challenged the popular view of hunter-gatherers lives as "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short," as Thomas Hobbes had put it in 1651. According to Sahlins, ethnographic data indicated that hunter-gatherers worked far fewer hours and enjoyed more leisure than typical members of industrial society, and they still ate well.

Their "affluence" came from the idea that they were satisfied with very little in the material sense. Later, in 1996, Ross Sackett performed two distinct meta-analyses to empirically test Sahlin's view. The first of these studies looked at 102 time-allocation studies, and the second one analyzed 207 energy-expenditure studies.

Sackett found that adults in foraging and horticultural societies work, on average, about 6.5 hours a day, where as people in agricultural and industrial societies work on average 8.8 hours a day. The hunter- gatherer community:"without worry" / "sans souci" ?

Sans souci Mysteriously, the song "Sans Souci" receives the alternate title "Cyprus" in some sources, including ASCAP. A composition by Sonny Burke and Peggy Lee  for her 1952 album Lover. It's worth noting that the lyrics seem to allude to a specific story - to a character who is in exile, or maybe to an illegal refugee. Here is the ultimative interpretation by Françoiz Breut:

Suggested Reading:

Devore; I (Ed.),  Lee, RB (Ed.) Man the Hunter; Aldine Pub (1968).

Sackett, R. Time, energy, and the indolent savage. A quantitative cross-cultural test of the primitive affluence hypothesis; Ph.D. diss ( 1996), University of California.

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