Abstract

This paper presents a stylized bioeconomic model of hunter-gatherer foraging effort designed to study the process of intensification on open-access resources. A critical insight derived from the model is that the very success of an adaptation at the level of an individual forager group can create system-level vulnerabilities that subsequently feed back to cause emergent social change. The model illustrates how the intensification of harvest time by individuals within a habitat creates a forager-resource system that becomes vulnerable to perturbations. When the system is vulnerable, it is characterized by two resource harvest equilibria: a sustainable, low-effort equilibrium and a degraded, high-effort equilibrium. In this situation, the forager-resource system can be shocked back and forth between these different equilibria by perturbations, generating considerable risk for foragers. We use the model to isolate the ecological conditions under which the instability of the system generates the risk that foragers will experience a shortfall of resources, and we suggest a mechanism that might lead foragers to adopt social institutions that regulate who can access a habitat as an adaptive response. As an illustration of the potential utility of the insights drawn from the model, comparisons are made with a substantial ethnographic data set.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)419-446
Number of pages28
JournalHuman Nature
Volume23
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2012

Fingerprint

social change
resource
resources
habitat
bioeconomic models
perturbation
model comparison
hunter-gatherer
habitats
social institution
open access
foraging
vulnerability
Foragers
Resources
cause
experience
Group

Keywords

  • Bioeconomic model
  • Foraging
  • Hunter-gatherer
  • Resource intensification
  • Risk
  • Territoriality and land tenure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

Cite this

Intensification, Tipping Points, and Social Change in a Coupled Forager-Resource System. / Freeman, Jacob; Anderies, John.

In: Human Nature, Vol. 23, No. 4, 12.2012, p. 419-446.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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