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"Subsistence" redirects here. For the Catholic ecclesiological doctrine of Vatican II, see "Subsistit in".

A subsistence economy is a non-monetary economy which relies on natural resources to provide for basic needs, through hunting, gathering, and subsistence agriculture. "Subsistence" means supporting oneself at a minimum level; in a subsistence economy, economic surplus is minimal and only used to trade for basic goods, and there is no industrialization.[1][2]

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

Capital can be generally defined as assets invested with the expectation that their value will increase, usually because there is the expectation of profit, rent, interest, royalties, capital gain or some other kind of return. However, this type of economy cannot usually become wealthy by virtue of the system, and instead requires further investments to stimulate economic growth. In other words, a subsistence economy only possesses enough goods to be used by a particular nation to maintain its existence and provides little to no surplus for other investments.[citation needed]


  • Pastoralism, the raising of grazing animals:
    • Pastoral nomadism — all members of the pastoral society follow the herd throughout the year.
    • Transhumance or agro-pastoralism — part of the society follows the herd, while the other part maintains a home village.
    • Ranch agriculture — non-nomadic pastoralism with a defined territory.
  • Distribution and exchange:
    • Redistribution
    • Reciprocity — exchange between social equals.
    • Potlatching — a widely studied ritual in which sponsors (helped by their entourages) gave away resources and manufactured wealth while generating prestige for themselves.
    • LETS — Local Exchange Trading Systems.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/subsistence-economy.html
  2. ^ http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/edumat/sustecon/others/subsistence.htm Chief Seattle to President Pierce regarding sale of land

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subsistence_economy — Please support Wikipedia.
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366 news items

Huffington Post

Huffington Post
Fri, 04 Sep 2015 06:30:00 -0700

One in three of our planet's youth fall far short of achieving literacy levels necessary to complete primary education, progress to secondary education and rise above a subsistence economy. If children are indeed our future, then our future is at risk ...

The Guardian

The Guardian
Wed, 02 Sep 2015 12:20:17 -0700

Even those conditions are deteriorating, as buildings collapse into melting permafrost and sewage lagoons overflow because of coastal erosion and increasingly severe storms. The wildlife that is the basis of the subsistence economy is also growing ...

Alaska Public Radio Network

Alaska Public Radio Network
Thu, 03 Sep 2015 11:56:15 -0700

“That's part of the reason why the subsistence economy is so important and why fishing is so important. But it's also why folks like Ralph and some of the various tribal organizations are trying to do more economic development in the area in order to ...

The NarcoSphere

The NarcoSphere
Wed, 02 Sep 2015 08:19:17 -0700

"Salmon is the backbone our subsistence economy," says Ole Lake, Yupik advisor for Alaska's Big Village Network. "The high probability of an oil spill in the Chukchi Sea drilling operation by Shell Oil directly affects our salmon habitat. The salmon ...

Shawnee News Star

Shawnee News Star
Sat, 29 Aug 2015 22:03:45 -0700

American planes in WWII had translucent plexiglass 'bubbles' all over them to enclose airmen firing 50mm machine guns at enemy planes. In selecting men for this position they found the best shooters were those who as civilians were game bird hunters.

Peru this Week

Peru this Week
Thu, 27 Aug 2015 11:45:00 -0700

“Our goal is to get the communities to have their own llamas and with the income that they obtain by the tours we offer, they can leave their subsistence economy and not have to leave their families to be porters in other areas,” Alejandra told El ...

New Security Beat (blog)

New Security Beat (blog)
Thu, 20 Aug 2015 03:30:00 -0700

“Government overreach” on the federal and state levels, Fleener said, is threatening local people's ability to adapt to a changing Arctic. For example, hunting bans legislated by the State of Alaska are a major issue in a subsistence economy. In much ...

ArtsHub (subscription)

ArtsHub (subscription)
Wed, 26 Aug 2015 01:25:30 -0700

Starick travels across the globe trading his photography services for life's necessities in a New Age self-styled subsistence economy. He photographs restaurants, weddings and travel destinations for a place to sleep, food or a ride to his next ...

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