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Economic Life

Among many small-scale horticultural peoples, primitive communism in the strict sense ordinarily does not prevail. Instead, most simple horticulturalists have a mode of property ownership that can best be designated lineage ownership. Lineage ownership occurs when large-scale kinship groups, known as lineages (or sometimes as clans), hold property in common. Of course, in such societies the most important form of property is land. When lineages own land in common, individual members of the group participate in the use of lineage land only because they are lineage members. Their right to the use of this land is only granted by the lineage itself as a corporate body; the leaders of the lineage, acting as representatives of the lineage as a whole, bestow these rights.

Lineage ownership is similar to primitive communism in that it is not a private form of property holding. Property is still held and used communally. But there is an important difference between lineage ownership and primitive communism. Lineage ownership is more exclusive or more restrictive inasmuch as it makes ownership and use of valuable resources dependent on kinship group membership. In societies resting on lineage ownership, not all members of the society have equal access to the forces of production, even though all members of the same lineage do. Lineage ownership is thus a small step away from primitive communism and toward private ownership. Still, it is closer to primitive communism than to private ownership, since in true lineage ownership the lineages themselves have relatively equal access to resources.

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