Affluence Without Abundance: What We Can Learn from the World's Most Successful Civilisation

Affluence Without Abundance: What We Can Learn from the World's Most Successful Civilisation

by James Suzman

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“Insightful and well-written . . . [Suzman chronicles] how much humankind can still learn from the disappearing way of life of the most marginalized communities on earth.”Yuval Noah Harari, author of SAPIENS: A BRIEF HISTORY OF HUMAN KIND and HOMO DEUS: A BRIEF HISTORY OF TOMORROW


A vibrant portrait of the “original affluent society”the Bushmen of southern Africaby the anthropologist who has spent much of the last twenty-five years documenting their encounter with modernity.

If the success of a civilization is measured by its endurance over time, then the Bushmen of the Kalahari are by far the most successful in human history. A hunting and gathering people who made a good living by working only as much as needed to exist in harmony with their hostile desert environment, the Bushmen have lived in southern Africa since the evolution of our species nearly two hundred thousand years ago.

In Affluence Without Abundance, anthropologist James Suzman vividly brings to life a proud and private people, introducing unforgettable members of their tribe, and telling the story of the collision between the modern global economy and the oldest hunting and gathering society on earth. In rendering an intimate picture of a people coping with radical change, it asks profound questions about how we now think about matters such as work, wealth, equality, contentment, and even time. Not since Elizabeth Marshall Thomas’s The Harmless People in 1959 has anyone provided a more intimate or insightful account of the Bushmen or of what we might learn about ourselves from our shared history as hunter-gatherers.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781632865724
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 07/11/2017
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 877,090
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

James Suzman, Ph.D., is an anthropologist specializing in the Khoisan peoples of southern Africa. A recipient of the Smuts Commonwealth Fellowship in African Studies at Cambridge University, he is now the director of Anthropos Ltd., a think tank that applies anthropological methods to solving contemporary social and economic problems. He lives in Cambridge, England.

Table of Contents

Author's Note vii

On Names and Clicks ix


1 Southern Africa and the Kalahari Basin xiii

2 Khoisan Peoples and Language Groups of Southern Africa xiv

3 Key Archaeological Sites in Khoisan History xv

4 Eastern and Central Namibia xvi

5 The Bantu Expansion xvii

Part 1 Old Times

1 The Rewards of Hard Work 3

2 The Mother Hill 21

3 A Beachside Brawl 34

4 The Settlers 43

5 Living in the Moment 64

6 Tsumkwe Road 77

Part 2 The Provident Environment

7 The Hollow Tree 97

8 Strong Food 109

9 An Elephant Hunt 117

10 Pinnacle Point 135

11 A Gift from God 145

12 Hunting and Empathy 161

13 Insulting the Meat 175

Part 3 New Times

14 When Lions Become Dangerous 193

15 Fear and Farming 204

16 Cattle Country 216

17 Crazy Gods 229

18 The Promised Land 245

Further Reading 261

Acknowledgments 275

Notes 277

Index 283

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