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Limited good

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Title: Limited good  
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Subject: Anthropology, Applied anthropology, Anthropology of development, Economic anthropology, Gift economy
Collection: Anthropology
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Limited good

In anthropology, limited good is the theory commonly held in traditional societies that there is a limited amount of "good" to go around. In other words, the amount of land, money, etc. available is held to be finite, so every time one person profits, another loses.

Societies that subscribe to this philosophy tend to display strong levels of equality among members and to be strongly resistant to social change.

The term was coined by culture of poverty. The Mexican peasants (in Tzintzuntzan, Michoacán) Foster studied were seen by him to lack interest in new opportunities because of their perception of the world as a "competitive game." This led to a high level of distrust and envy and fragile and constantly shifting patterns of alignment.[1]


  • Foster, George M. (1965) Peasant Society and the Image of Limited Good, American Anthropologist New Series, Vol. 67, No. 2, Apr., pp. 293–315
  • Kennedy, John G. (1966) Peasant Society and the Image of Limited Good": A Critique, American Anthropologist New Series, Vol. 68, No. 5, Oct., pp. 1212–1225


  1. ^ Allen, Tim (2000) Taking Culture Seriously — Chapter 21 in Poverty And Development, Second Edition, Edited by Tim Allen and Alan Thomas, The Open University and Oxford University Press
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