AFFLUENCE WITHOUT ABUNDANCE: the Disappearing World of the Bushmen

  • Written by  Mick Herron
  • Published in Books
AFFLUENCE WITHOUT ABUNDANCE: the Disappearing World of the Bushmen
09 Nov
2017
by James Suzman • Bloomsbury • £18.99 (hardback)

Until recently, hunter-gatherer people were regarded as ‘living fossils’, who pursued their way of life only because they were prevented by environmental circumstance from developing beyond it

This view was challenged in the 1960s, when anthropologists began to argue that rather than enduring a precarious existence, peoples such as the Ju/’hoansi of the Kalahari actually lived well with relatively little effort – and certainly got more sleep than the average worker in the ‘developed’ world. Far from being at the base of the evolutionary tree, they pretty much had life sussed, and as such were a refutation of the problem foreseen by Maynard Keynes: that the human race’s evolutionary impulse towards working hard in order to create wealth would be difficult to discard once a general sufficiency had been achieved.

Suzman’s book, which investigates that possibility, is as much a study of a study – a history of anthropology’s attitudes towards the bushmen – as of the people themselves, but there’s plenty of first-hand experience on offer too: for more than 25 years, he’s been visiting and living among them, and alongside the broader history, he recounts the stories they have to tell. ‘After the farmer tied me to the gate,’ one begins, ‘he just left me there in the sun.’

While that’s as good an opening line as you’re likely to encounter, the brutal truth it encapsulates is depressingly familiar: the main threat to the bushmen’s way of life has always been other people. Suzman’s scope is wide, reaching back to first encounters in the 15th century, and covering much more recent, frequently well-meaning attempts to introduce the cash economy to a people fundamentally uninterested in it.

The notion that we might have more to learn than teach hasn’t yet gained traction, but Suzman seems optimistic that it’s an idea whose time is coming.

Click here to purchase Affluence Without Abundance by Thorkild Hansen via Amazon

red line

NEVER MISS A STORY

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox by signing up to our free weekly newsletter!

red line

Share this story...

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to Twitter

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe Today

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth UniversityUniversity of GreenwichThe University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • The Air That We Breathe
    Cities the world over are struggling to improve air quality as scandals surrounding diesel car emissions come to light and the huge health costs of po...
    Diabetes: The World at Risk
    Diabetes is often thought of as a ‘western’ problem, one linked to the developed world’s overindulgence in fatty foods and chronic lack of physi...
    National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    The Nuclear Power Struggle
    The UK appears to be embracing nuclear, a huge U-turn on government policy from just two years ago. Yet this seems to be going against the grain globa...
    REDD+ or Dead?
    The UN-backed REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) scheme, under which developing nations would be paid not to cut dow...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - follow Geographical

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in REVIEWS...

Films

An emotional and divisive documentary that explores the trophy hunting…

Books

by Paul Murton • Birlinn • £14.99 (softback)

Books

by Harry Hook • HIP Editions • £54 (hardback)

Books

by James Suzman • Bloomsbury • £18.99 (hardback)

Books

by Thorkild Hansen • New York Review Books • £11.99…

Books

by David Bellamy • Search Press • £25 (hardback)

Books

by Michael Bristow • Sandstone Press • £8.99 (paperback)

Reviews

Oslo makes complex geopolitics a living, breathing spectacle

Films

New blockbuster takes climate chaos to the extreme, where what…

Exhibitions

Prestigious Natural History Museum photography competition recognises Brent Stirton's capturing…

Books

An inveterate armchair traveller ever since my Soviet childhood, I…

Books

Bonnett’s previous book, Off the Map, was a thoroughly readable…

Books

When Wilkinson set off to become the Telegraph’s Islamabad correspondent…

Books

Dartmoor National Park might appear wild, but it’s the lines…

Books

Barry Smith is a self-confessed islomaniac and a fixation with…

Books

Neoliberalism. The word seems to have lost all meaning. According…

Films

Combining a treasure trove of unseen footage set to music…

Books

The dreadful pandemic of 1918, writes Laura Spinney, ‘engulfed the…

Books

Those of us who enjoy good travel writing know that…