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How Societies Organize Their Production

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  • 0:01 Modes of Production
  • 0:58 Domestic Production
  • 1:48 Tributary Production
  • 2:22 Capitalist Production
  • 3:43 Postindustrialism
  • 4:40 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high History and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in Education.

This lesson will seek to explain the different ways in which societies organize their production. In doing so, it will define domestic, tributary, and capitalist production, as well as postindustrialism.

Modes of Production

The town in which I live is an odd mix of sorts. I say this because it's surrounded by farmlands, but it also has one of the largest aluminum factories in the nation. Like I said, it's an odd mix. I live next to people who have never worked off their family farms, yet I also live next to people who spend their days extruding metal. In other words, there's some pretty big variation in the types of production that go on within just a few miles of my home.

On a much grander scale than my hometown, there are different types of economic production that exist around our globe. Today's lesson will tackle this very topic as we explore the four different types of economic production that anthropologists usually like to cite; they are domestic production, tributary production, capitalist production, and postindustrial production.

Domestic Production

For our purposes, we'll start with domestic production. Sometimes also referred to as kinship production, domestic production is simply when people labor to produce goods or obtain food solely for themselves and their family group. It's not a man growing crops to sell to a large food company, nor is it a family raising a huge herd of cattle to sell at the market. It's simply a family gathering or producing enough food and goods to ensure their survival.

With this definition in mind, it's not surprising to note that anthropologists consider domestic production the world's oldest form of production. However, just because it's ancient does not mean it's not in existence today. For instance, it's still practiced by the Hadza people of Tanzania, who hunt and gather for their families.

Tributary Production

Another form of production seen outside the modernized world is tributary production. Tributary production is a form of production in which most people produce their own food, but a ruling elite controls production and has the right to the products of the people's labor. In other words, the common people do the work, but just like small tributary streams that flow into larger rivers, the goods end up flowing into the hands of the more powerful. A great example of this was the medieval feudal system of Europe in which powerful lords controlled the production and the products of the common people.

Capitalist Production

Moving into the more modernized world, our next form of production is capitalist production. Very, very common in our modern world, capitalist production occurs when money buys labor power. Really, really oversimplifying, it's when the wealthy own the means of production, like machinery and tools, and pay the common masses to work them.

Using something we touched on earlier, a great example of capitalist production is the large aluminum plant that takes up several blocks in my hometown. It's a very large mechanized factory, owned by private individuals, which pays about a third of our town's people to work there. With this in mind, it's not surprising to note that capitalist production usually occurs only in societies that practice industrialism, an economic system built on manufacturing industries.

However, please don't think that capitalist production only occurs in what we usually think of industry. It also occurs all over the world in the farming industry as large food corporations employ thousands of people to tend to and harvest their crops heading to the market. With the definition of capitalist production, in which the wealthy own the resources needed for production, it's important to note that some anthropologists would argue that this form of production is being a bit pushed out by our last mode of production, postindustrialism.

Postindustrialism

Loosely defined, and not agreed upon by everyone, postindustrialism is when the significance of manufacturing goods lessens, while the importance of offering services, information, and research grows. With this definition in mind, it's not surprising to note that many anthropologists assert postindustrialism has been made possible by the advent of the computer age, since in this mode of production, programmed machines, and not humans, do most of the labor.

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