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Economic organisation of Polynesian societies: wealth and work of the Maori

Firth, Raymond William (1927) Economic organisation of Polynesian societies: wealth and work of the Maori. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis is a study in economic anthropology. Opening with a critical estimate of the work previously done in the subject, it proceeds to an analysis of the economic life of the Maori, the method of functional observation and the correlation being followed. An account is first given of the environmental conditions of the native and the natural resources at his command. The social structure of the Maori community is then analysed and its relation to the economic organisation shown, special consideration being given to the problem of the position of the family in native life. By following the sequence of operation in a typical industry - bird snaring - it is shown how complex is the psychology of the Maori in his work, how motives of pleasure, pride, vanity and ambition round off the more purely utilitarian interests. Reference to other activities again proves that the native is capable of steady and industrious labour, when the proper stimuli are provided. The different forms of organisation in production are next described, with attention to the nature of leadership. The place of magic in economic life is reviewed at length, owing to its vital importance in assisting the stability and organisation of the work. A further set of problems is opened by consideration of the methods and principles of sharing out the product of labour as well as those of the ownership of the property, and the tenure of land. The nature of primitive economic values and of the system of exchange examined, while with the aid of maps the extensive nature of communication in oldern times is revealed. The radical alteration in the Maori economic structure consequent upon the coming of the European is analysed with its phases of initial impact, enthusiastic adoption of new culture forms, reaction, and renewed acceptance of the ways of white man. Finally it is emphasised how economic activity enlists forces of other social types to promote its own efficiency.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 1927 Raymond Firth
Library of Congress subject classification: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
Sets: Collections > LSE History of Thought theses
Supervisor: Malinowski, Bronislaw

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