Socio-metabolic transitions in subsistence communities. Boserup Revisted

In the context of sustainable development, we investigatefour subsistence communities, one each from India, Bolivia,Laos and Thailand,to understand the systemic interrelationsbetween the food production systems and related environ-mental pressures. In doing so, we revisit Ester Boserup’s the-ory of increasing land productivity at the expense of declin-ing labour productivity as a consequence of agricultural in-tensification. Our data confirm Boserup’s assumptions with-in the reach of traditional agriculture, but find them not toapply to hunting & gathering communities and to agricultur-al systems now increasingly dependent on fossil fuels and in-dustrial fertilizers. Instead we propose a theory of “so-ciometabolic transitions” as being more appropriate to un-derstanding transitions in land and labour productivityacross a wider range of modes of subsistence.

Associated space

Trinket Island