The passage below is accompanied by four questions. Based on the passage, choose the best answer for each question.

[Fifty] years after its publication in English [in 1972], and just a year since [Marshall] Sahlins himself died—we may ask: why did [his essay] “Original Affluent Society” have such an impact, and how has it fared since? . . . Sahlins’s principal argument was simple but counterintuitive: before being driven into marginal environments by colonial powers, hunter-gatherers, or foragers, were not engaged in a desperate struggle for meager survival. Quite the contrary, they satisfied their needs with far less work than people in agricultural and industrial societies, leaving them more time to use as they wished. Hunters, he quipped, keep bankers’ hours. Refusing to maximize, many were “more concerned with games of chance than with chances of game.” . . . The so-called Neolithic Revolution, rather than improving life, imposed a harsher work regime and set in motion the long history of growing inequality . . .

Moreover, foragers had other options. The contemporary Hadza of Tanzania, who had long been surrounded by farmers, knew they had alternatives and rejected them. To Sahlins, this showed that foragers are not simply examples of human diversity or victimhood but something more profound: they demonstrated that societies make real choices. Culture, a way of living oriented around a distinctive set of values, manifests a fundamental principle of collective self-determination. . . .

But the point [of the essay] is not so much the empirical validity of the data—the real interest for most readers, after all, is not in foragers either today or in the Paleolithic—but rather its conceptual challenge to contemporary economic life and bourgeois individualism. The empirical served a philosophical and political project, a thought experiment and stimulus to the imagination of possibilities.

With its title’s nod toward The Affluent Society (1958), economist John Kenneth Galbraith’s famously skeptical portrait of America’s postwar prosperity and inequality, and dripping with New Left contempt for consumerism, “The Original Affluent Society” brought this critical perspective to bear on the contemporary world. It did so through the classic anthropological move of showing that radical alternatives to the readers’ lives really exist. If the capitalist world seeks wealth through ever greater material production to meet infinitely expansive desires, foraging societies follow “the Zen road to affluence”: not by getting more, but by wanting less. If it seems that foragers have been left behind by “progress,” this is due only to the ethnocentric self-congratulation of the West. Rather than accumulate material goods, these societies are guided by other values: leisure, mobility, and above all, freedom. . . .

Viewed in today’s context, of course, not every aspect of the essay has aged well. While acknowledging the violence of colonialism, racism, and dispossession, it does not thematize them as heavily as we might today. Rebuking evolutionary anthropologists for treating present-day foragers as “left behind” by progress, it too can succumb to the temptation to use them as proxies for the Paleolithic. Yet these characteristics should not distract us from appreciating Sahlins’s effort to show that if we want to conjure new possibilities, we need to learn about actually inhabitable worlds.

Question 13

We can infer that Sahlins's main goal in writing his essay was to:


The passage emphasizes that Marshall Sahlins's main goal in writing his essay was to hold a mirror to an acquisitive society (contemporary economic life and bourgeois individualism). The essay accomplishes this by providing examples of foraging societies that made real choices to prioritize values such as leisure, mobility, and freedom over material accumulation. Sahlins contrasts the Zen road to affluence, where affluence is achieved by wanting less, with the capitalist pursuit of wealth through material production and consumerism. Therefore, Sahlins's goal, as portrayed in the passage, aligns with the idea of presenting examples of communities that have successfully chosen non-materialistic paths as a critique of acquisitive societies. So, Option C is the correct answer.

Option A: While Sahlins's essay acknowledges growing inequality and social hierarchies resulting from the Neolithic Revolution, it is more focused on contrasting foraging societies with contemporary economic life.

Option B: The primary emphasis is on showcasing foraging societies' choices and values rather than asserting a progressive degeneration of society.

Option D: Even though Sahlins's essay critiques aspects of contemporary economic views, its primary focus is not explicitly countering Galbraith's pessimistic view but rather presenting alternative possibilities through examples of non-materialistic societies.

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