Subsistence economy  

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"When existence is assured, then they know not what to do with it ; thus the second thing that sets them in motion is the effort to get free from the burden of existence, to make it cease to be felt, "to kill time," i.e., to escape from ennui. Accordingly we see that almost all men who are secure from want and care, now that at last they have thrown off all other burdens, become a burden to themselves, and regard as a gain every hour they succeed in getting through, and thus every diminution of the very life which, till then, they have employed all their powers to maintain as long as possible."--fourth book of The World as Will and Representation[1], Arthur Schopenhauer

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

A subsistence economy is an economy directed to basic subsistence (the provision of food, clothing, shelter) rather than to the market. Henceforth, "subsistence" is understood as supporting oneself at a minimum level. Often, the subsistence economy is moneyless and relies on natural resources to provide for basic needs through hunting, gathering, and agriculture. In a subsistence economy, economic surplus is minimal and only used to trade for basic goods, and there is no industrialization. In hunting and gathering societies, resources are often if not typically underused.

In human history, before the first cities, all humans lived in a subsistence economy. As urbanization, civilization, and division of labor spread, various societies moved to other economic systems at various times. Some remain relatively unchanged, ranging from uncontacted peoples, to marginalized areas of developing countries, to some cultures that choose to retain a traditional economy.

Capital can be generally defined as assets invested with the expectation that their value will increase, usually because there is the expectation of profit, rent, interest, royalties, capital gain or some other kind of return. However, this type of economy cannot usually become wealthy by virtue of the system, and instead requires further investments to stimulate economic growth. In other words, a subsistence economy only possesses enough goods to be used by a particular nation to maintain its existence and provides little to no surplus for other investments.

It is common for a surplus capital to be invested in social capital such as feasting.

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