By "Image of Limited Good" I mean that broad areas of peasant behavior are patterned in such fashion as to suggest that peasants view their social, economic, and natural universes -- their total environment -- as one in which all of the desired things in life such as land, wealth, health, friendship and love, manliness and honor, respect and status, power and influence, security and safety, exist in finite quantity and are always in short supply, as far as the peasant is concerned. Not only do these and all other "good things" exist in finite and limited quantities, but in addition there is no way directly within peasant power to increase the available quantities. It is as if the obvious fact of land shortage in a densely populated area applied to all other desired things: not enough to go around. "Good," like land, is seen as inherent in nature, there to be divided and redivided, if necessary, but not to be augmented.In short, Foster's paper adopts the lump-of-labor fallacy claim and extends it to non-economic spheres of life. Actually, I would rate Foster's explanation of his image of limited good as more scholarly than any explanation of the lump-of-labor fallacy I have encountered. It is more conscientiously qualified and observational data are presented as supporting evidence. Nevertheless, as Hinton's commentary suggested, the model has been controversial, to say the least. In a 1975 article offering an alternative explanation for Foster's field observations, James R. Gregory summarized the critical reaction to Foster's article to that date. I have previously posted Gregory's summary in "Trickster Makes This Lump". As I mentioned there, I can find absolutely no evidence of disciplinary 'cross-pollination' where economists recognize the image as their own fallacy claim or anthropologists note the fallacy claim as the image's progenitor.
Two solitudes. What does this total silence say about the compartmentalization of thought in academia over the last 47 years? What does the lively controversy in anthropology suggest about the teeth-gritting conformism and groupthink in economics? What does it say about the 'cognitive orientation' of economists? And who the fuck cares other than the unemployed 'peasants' that the economist-lords dismiss with a pseudo-mathematical shrug?