A quantitative analysis of intensification in the ethnographic record

Nature Human Behaviour Vol/Iss. 2021 Springer Nature London Published In Pages: ??
By Sandeford, David S.


The author evaluates predictions from the standard model of intensification of food production and suggests it be rejected based on an analysis of 40 societies. The standard model proposes that food producers will increase their energy input until the maximum possible output is achieved, at which point output and labor productivity will fall and producers will invent or adopt new technologies. He then proposes a different model, which he terms the cultural niche construction model. The cultural niche construction model proposes that societies will minimize their energy input while maximizing their returns through continual technological adaptation and niche construction. After predictions from this second model are tested, the author suggests tentatively accepting the cultural niche construction model as a new framework to explain transitions to complex societies.

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