A subsistence economy is an economy directed to basic subsistence, the provision of food, clothing, shelter rather than to the market.


"Subsistence" is understood as supporting oneself and family at a minimum level. Basic subsistence is the provision of food, clothing, shelter. A subsistence economy is an economy directed to one's subsistence rather than to the market.[1] Often, the subsistence economy is moneyless and relies on natural resources to provide for basic needs through hunting, gathering, and agriculture. In a subsistence economy, economic surplus is minimal and only used to trade for basic goods, and there is no industrialization.[2][3] In hunting and gathering societies, resources are often, if not typically underused.[4]

The subsistence system is maintained through sharing, feasting, ritual observance and associated norms.[5] Harvesting is an important indicator of social capital.[6] Subsistence embodies cultural perspectives of relationships to places, people and animals.[7]


In human history, before the first cities, all humans lived in a subsistence economy.[citation needed] As urbanization, civilization, and division of labor spread, various societies moved to other economic systems at various times.[citation needed] Some remain relatively unchanged, ranging from uncontacted peoples, to marginalized areas of developing countries, to some cultures that choose to retain a traditional economy.[citation needed]

List of strategies

See also


  1. ^ 'Subsistence agriculture' in: Alan Barnard and Jonathan Spencer, eds. (1996) Encyclopedia of Social and Cultural Anthropology, London and New York: Routledge, p.624.
  2. ^ "What is subsistence economy? definition and meaning". BusinessDictionary.com. Archived from the original on 1 November 2017. Retrieved 7 April 2018.
  3. ^ "Subsistence Economy". Archived from the original on 2008-10-07. Retrieved 2009-11-01. Chief Seattle to President Pierce regarding sale of land
  4. ^ Marshall Sahlins (1972) Stone Age Economics, Chicago and New York: Aldine-Atherton, passim e.g. pp.17,34,42,50.
  5. ^ Amanda D. Boyd, Cynthia G. Jardine,Christopher M. Furgal (2010). "A Social and Cultural Capital Approach to Understanding Traditional Activities on the Land in Two Northern Dene Communities" (PDF). The Canadian Journal of Native Studies. XXX (2): 267–287.((cite journal)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ Ready, Elspeth (2018-12-03). "Sharing-based social capital associated with harvest production and wealth in the Canadian Arctic". PLOS ONE. 13 (3): e0193759. Bibcode:2018PLoSO..1393759R. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0193759. ISSN 1932-6203. PMC 5846769. PMID 29529040.
  7. ^ F. Berkes , P. J. George, R. J. Preston, A. Hughes, J. Turner, B. D. Cummins; George, P. J.; Preston, R. J.; Hughes, A.; Turner, J.; Cummins, B. D. (1994). "Wildlife Harvesting and Sustainable Regional Native Economy in the Hudson and James Bay Lowland, Ontario". Arctic. 47 (4): 350–360. doi:10.14430/arctic1308. ISSN 0004-0843. JSTOR 40511596.((cite journal)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)