Mary Vallance

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




D. R. Counts




Sahlins (1972) contends that, in the gift economy, food " ... has too much social value--ultimately because it has too much use value--to have exchange value" (1972: 218). This thesis critiques Sahlins' theory of primitive exchange and examines the effect of commoditization on the traditional mode of production. The application of the analytical concepts, gift and commodity, are shown to be ill-suited to the Papua New Guinea context. Goods within this exotic setting have a dual nature which is not eroded by the growth of a commodity market. Commoditization has not the power to supplant the gift mode and, indeed, exchange activities have effloresced in Papua New Guinea despite the growth of a capitalist sector. The traditional mode is reproduced and control over subsistence remains in the hands of the indigenous rural population. However, consumption expectations and the need to obtain cash have led to greater participation in cash cropping and wage labour and such participation creates new social stresses. Land has corne under increasing pressure. Traditional systems of inheritance, authority and value have become riddled with ambiguity. A growing number of landless migrants have settled in the urban areas and, to varying degrees, have become dependent on the capitalist mode.

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