Connections Between Local Events & Global Dynamics

Origins of Social Complexity: Trade Chains explains how local events and environments are connected to larger global dynamics through the exchange of trade. By examining the interactions between California and the Southwest culture regions two aspects are important to ask, what are the implications of the suppliers role and what are the implications of the receiving actors. In other words, how is trade affecting all involved and how does it affect the larger global context.

Shell beads were the focused resource in exchange during this time period between Costal California and the Southwest. What is argued is that trade caused interdependence between the two parties involved. Over time this dependency deepens which can be seen in the development of craft specialization that leaves areas and their people with narrowing development focus while increasing the exploitation of the environment that they are in. As neighboring cultures make contact and develop further trade routes adding more links in the chain these materials are able to travel greater distances and are introduced to new environments in return the supplier becomes also a receiving actor from the materials they accept in the trade. This chain of exchange inadvertently connects people from cultural regions that maybe never have face to face contact but now are dependent upon one another in the items that are exchanged that their environment does not naturally produce. If a link in the chain is broken everyone in one way or another feels its affects. These items may not be used for the same purpose but they are depended on all the same.

Global dynamics of societal rise and collapse by way of trade can be seen in the supply and demand of these resources. By expanding trade routes the demand for an item can grow putting more demand on the supplier. If the supplier over exploits the resource they are subject to setting off a chain reaction, if the supplier is dependent upon that resource for its trade value they can no longer exchange for their needs this can and will lead to collapse for that supplying actor. In contrast, a newly discovered area that may not encompass all of the necessities to live may be inhabitable due to the possibility of trade relations. As dependency fluctuates and the supply and demand shifts possible power positions also are affected. “Market economy” and its formation is attributed to these shell exchanges; Jane Schneider explains that some items may seem luxurious or for the elite but are no less depended on by these people to function. Throughout these trades it is important to understand the human contact and cultural exchanges going on as well. Hunter-gatherers would have less use for trade due to seasonal migration but with its development traveling is less needed. Instead of an entire population traveling now, fewer individuals are traveling along trade routes in turn limiting who holds experience which translates to knowledge which translates to power. This can cause new ways to create social hierarchy in society.

Origins of Social Complexity- Trade Chains