Potlatch is a system of giving to obtain social status. It was a system
practiced by the Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest (and possibly
elsewhere, although I'm only familiar with it in the Pacific Northwest).
It's not the accumulation of wealth that conveys importance to a person
or family in a potlatch system, but distribution (or destruction in some
cases) of wealth that makes a person or family influential.
This was an actual survival mechanism, those who had the fortune to
obtain large amounts of tradable goods would give out to those that were not
so fortunate (say, due to flood, drought, or other natural disaster) with
the implication that when times turn bad for them, there will be some other
“big man” (to borrow a term) to give stuff out.
Note that this is an economic system based upon abundance or
overabundance and might be another way for people like musicians to make a
living: the more they give away, the more influence they gain.
Something to think about.
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