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subsistence agriculture

  A subsistence agricultural system is a complex of functionally related resources and human practices through which a group (a household, a village, a society) secures food for its reproduction through its own effort, typically by the direct exploitation of the environment (Nietschmann, 1973). The primary objective is food, whether from hunting, fishing, horticulture or agriculture. Subsistence normally refers to production for use (i.e. use values) as opposed to production for exchange but food may circulate within social networks for ritual, ceremonial and reciprocal exchange purposes, and some food may be sold on the market (i.e. exchange values; see Marxian economics; neo-classical economics). Subsistence agriculture without market involvement of any sort is referred to as a tribal or \'primitive\' economy; household subsistence producers with some form of production for sale, and some degree of surplus production over needs, are peasants. Subsistence agriculture is often seen as a form of cultural adaptation by which social groups adapt to and regulate the ecosystems of which they are part (see cultural ecology). Self-sufficient, internally regulated subsistence systems are rare in the modern world as the expansion of the market and production for exchange erodes \'pure subsistence\' and what is seen by many as the ecological stability and rational utilization of complex tropical ecosystems. (MW)

Reference Nietschmann, B. 1973: Between land and water: the subsistence ecology of the Miskito Indians, Eastern Nicaragua. New York: Seminar Press.



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Other Terms : Eurocentrism | rank-size rule | production complex
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