The Original (Affluent) Cooperative: Property Rights and the Foraging Mode of Production

Author(s): George Crothers

Year: 2017


Property-rights require fundamental forms of cooperation. On a global scale, foragers maintained open-access property regimes, in which no one is excluded from using resources. In the most basic form, foragers cooperate simply by avoiding conflict—agreeing to share. These conditions will hold as long as the cost of excluding others from a resource exceeds the benefits derived from that resource and because cooperation increases reproductive success under conditions of low population density—in other words, when resources are plentiful or when foragers radiate into uninhabited environments. However, within variable environments and dynamic populations, common property regimes emerge when the benefit from exclusive access to resources exceeds the cost of defining, monitoring, and enforcing rights to those resources. On a local scale, foragers created qualitatively new property institutions that required collective responses to achieve common goals. Archaeologically, how do we identify changing property-rights regimes in prehistory? The Green River, Kentucky, archaeological record suggests several proxy measures that can be used to assess the timing, pace, and spread of exclusive, communal property rights, including anthropogenic land management, development of new technologies, and domestication of indigenous plants.

Cite this Record

The Original (Affluent) Cooperative: Property Rights and the Foraging Mode of Production. George Crothers. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430845)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -91.274; min lat: 24.847 ; max long: -72.642; max lat: 36.386 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15824