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Keywords:

  • Tristan da Cunha;
  • community;
  • development, economic;
  • values, conflict of

In the small, utopian community of Tristan da Cunha, the core values of equality, anarchy, and individual integrity find expression and reinforcement in an intricate system of selective reciprocity that takes the form of mutual aid, services, and gifts in a network of overlapping and interlocking personal relationships. This pattern of selective reciprocity is closely tied in with activities connected with the traditional subsistence economy.

After the war, South African interests established a commercial fishing industry on the island, introducing a cash economy that supplemented the traditional subsistence economy, resulting in “progress” and an increased material affluence for the community. This new value, however, was only obtainable by submitting to a contract relationship that was soon felt to be an infringement on traditional core values. A conflict of values ensued.

In this case, because of a particular awareness of traditional core values among the people of Tristan, the ethos of industrialism was rejected within the community, or accepted only in second place to independence, individual integrity, and selective reciprocity.