Intensification, social production and the inscrutable ways of culture

Donald Gardner

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    This paper examines Harold Brookfield's crucial concept of social production in the debates about the development of, and differences between, agricultural systems in central New Guinea. Although it was first explicity elaborated by this eminent geographer, a striking feature of this concept is its appeal to a wide range of disciplinary specialists. No less striking is the degree to which it coheres with anthropological conceptions of culture as a realm of meaning marked by arbitrariness; consequently, culture is taken to possess an endogenous dynamic (or a 'logic') that gives it the role of an independent variable in the historical process. Social production, therefore, signals analytical concerns to avoid what are taken to reductionist accounts of agricultural transitions. I offer a deflationary account of social production that would make it more amenable to a naturalistic, interactionist perspective on culture and historical process; by reconstruing the cultural as the relatively micro-historical it is more easily reconciled with macro-historical narratives concerning intensification in central New Guinea.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)193-207
    JournalAsia Pacific Viewpoint
    Issue number2/3
    Publication statusPublished - 2001

    Cite this